Today is December 30, 2019. It’s the end of a month! It’s the end of a year! It’s the end of a decade!
I turned thirty-six this month, and to me, that’s a CRAZY birthday because it marks the point in my life where the amount of time I’ve been a legal adult now equals the amount of time I was a child.
What do I have to show for eighteen years of adulthood? A lot of passport stamps.
I am in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, and I’m heading to Montevideo this afternoon.
Places Visited Since Last Update:
- Mahe, Seychelles (again)
- Durban, South Africa
- Aliwal Shoal, South Africa
- Port Shepstone, South Africa
- East London, South Africa
- Addo National Park, South Africa
- George, South Africa
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
The Good, The Bad and the Bizarre
I’m bringing you all of the updates on the best, the worst and the weirdest experiences on the road since I last checked in.
The Best Destination I’ve Visited
Addo National Park in South Africa was an amazing experience for me. The third-largest national park in South Africa is home to more than 600 elephants, 400 cape buffalo, zebras, warthogs, hartebeest and yes… lions! As a self-drive national park, we were able to explore the park in our own rental vehicle, driving at our own pace and stopping to view whatever animals piqued our interest during viewing hours. I could not believe the amount of biodiversity that we saw firsthand, and will never forget slowly driving down a dusty road behind a herd of beautiful elephants wandering at their own leisurely pace.
The Best Thing I’ve Eaten
This month the prize goes to a drink: Argentinian red wine! It’s so good! And so cheap! And half the time that I order a glass, I could swear they pour me an entire bottle…
The Most Amazing Experience I’ve Had
On our last morning in Addo National Park, when I was behind the wheel, our car approached the crest of a hill and came face-to-face with a huge hyena. It didn’t seem too bothered by us, so I backed the car up a little bit and pulled over at the side of the road to get a better view while giving it some space. Looking to our right, we saw another hyena that had killed a baby elephant, and was coming up to visit its friend with the two little elephant legs dangling from his mouth. The two hyenas munched on an elephant foot for a bit, probably only three meters away from our car (and the open windows!). It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure.
Something Else That Made Me Smile
The coastline in South Africa is dotted with swimming pools cut into the natural tidal pools. Coming from the warm, tranquil waters of the Seychelles, I had a blast joining the locals for a chilly swim in these oceanic pools, and even joined them as they jumped off diving platforms into the waters below. It reminded me of how much I love spending time in the water… and inspired me to book an Airbnb in Buenos Aires with a swimming pool!
The Worst Place I’ve Visited
I was not impressed with the scuba diving at Aliwal Shoal in South Africa, and wouldn’t necessarily say it was worth the huge detour that we did to go there. In my opinion, there are many places in the world where you can do a baited shark dive (and, in retrospect, I’m not sold on the ethics of any kind of baited dives…), but where the underwater scenery is much more beautiful and the diving is just a little bit more comfortable. Yes, getting into the water by physically pushing our huge zodiac off the beach and then riding hard over the ten-foot waves was a cool experience, but I would rather be in Roatan.
The Most Questionable Thing I’ve Eaten
I’m going to cheat this month, and I’m going to call out my travel companion in South Africa. As you may know, I have been a vegetarian for fifteen years and I often write about vegetarian travel. So, I found it pretty weird when the guy I was traveling with would fawn over the cute animals we were seeing on safaris during the day… and then eat them, in steak format, later that evening. Seriously, there was one meal where he ate eland, kudu and ostrich… and I think he would have had the zebra if he hadn’t been full! I honestly don’t understand the appeal of eating the same animals that seemed so cool when viewed in the wild a few hours earlier.
The Most Frustrating Experience I’ve Had
On that note, I won’t lie that traveling with another person, after five months of solo travel, was difficult. I was traveling with a friend from my home country, but who I hadn’t seen in four years (actually, since the time we met, when we were both backpacking in Spain). We’d stayed in touch over the past four years, but in that time our travel styles and interests had really diverged, so we struggled to reach consensus during the trip, and even just to have stuff to talk about for eleven days. Still, I’m glad he called me up and invited me along, as I wouldn’t have thought of going to South Africa solo and I will always remember the elephants (and hyenas… and zebras… and lions… and warthogs… and kudu… oh, and the secretary bird!).
Something Else That Was Really Unpleasant
I think I’ve developed tendonitis in my feet from walking 20,000+ steps pretty much every day for six months. I’m trying so hard to be good to my feet, sticking to wearing Birkenstocks or Nike trainers when I’m going to be walking for more than half an hour or so… but my feet are hurting in places I didn’t know feet could hurt. I’m going to be staying in my next Airbnb for sixteen days, so I’m hoping to get into a routine of icing my feet every day, and hopefully getting two or three foot massages.
The Strangest Thing I’ve Eaten (Or Seen on a Menu, Or Been Served…)
I still think zebra steak is the most bizarre, and I’m so glad my friend didn’t eat it! WHO EATS ZEBRA?
The Most Confusing Experience So Far
This is not an experience at all, and it’s probably something that is inappropriate to be condensed into a couple lines in a trip report, but I have to say that I was really confused, and disappointed, by what I observed of race relations in South Africa. I didn’t look into post-Apartheid issues very much before I came, and I was completely blown away by how segregated society still seemed to me, as an outsider. I spoke to white South Africans who openly talked about not knowing any black people… that confused me, as we were literally surrounded by black people all around us. Similarly, I took the guided tour of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela had been held prisoner, and I felt like I walked away with more questions than answers. When I get home I will definitely be checking out some books from my local public library so that I can read more about South Africa then and now (and if you’ve got any book recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments!).
Something Else That’s Totally Unexpected
These advertisements for an “abortion” provider in South Africa. Abortion is free and legal in South Africa, so it was quite disappointing to think that some women might try to access abortion services from someone offering “4 in 1 Penis Formula” and “Love Powder”… and quite bizarre to think that there’s enough demand, and so little oversight, that it could be lucrative to put up these signs.
In case this post happens to come up in an unrelated Google search, the Western Cape Government has information about how to access a safe and legal abortion here.
Here’s what came first:
And here’s what came next: