Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

South Africa - the final furlong

(Largest dune in the world)

The last week of the tour was a run from the Namibian border to Capetown where the truck would spend 3 days before moving on (minus 16 of us!, including me) to Jo'burg. This was always going to be emotional with so many people leaving the truck after such a long time (two months or more for most of us).

In between the border and capetown, we had a quick visit to the town of Springbok, which is most notable for its erm... lack of diversity in the local gene pool. Quite amusing really, though I was too shy to take photos!

Instead, here's some photos of the giant sand dunes at Sossuslevi and Fish River Canyon, both of which are just shy of the South African border. The giant dunes were very photogenic, but for some reason they didn't seem as 'big' as I'd expected. Must be getting tourist attraction fatigue or something. Fish River Canyone was spectacular, though if you've seen the Grand Canyon, it's a bit like a miniature version.

After that we visited the lovely town of Stellenbosch, where all the beautiful people live (ie polar opposite to Springbok). Its also famous for its vineyards... and wine tours.

Loved the wine tour. Haven't laughed so much before lunchtime in many many years. Though, for comedy value, nothing could top the moment when Debbie, Nikki and I leaned against a cabinet while having our photo taken and knocked bottles of wine everywhere. There was a comedy 'CRASH' and everyone looked round open-mouthed. And we were fairly sober (ish) at that point.

After the wine tour I now have the nickname 'special' (Kes is 'magic', Nikki is 'gorgeous'), perhaps because I couldn't remember more than 4 of the 7 dwarves (and i thought 'forgetful' was one of those). Along with having the word 'Calumed' invented on the trip, it's been quite a constructive experience really.

(Right: me and my dinner-buddy Sheena at the start of the wine tour.)
(Meant to try to make the 100th update on this website 'special' but instead managed to forget and this is the 102nd. The 100th update had a picture of me patting a Cheetah though, which is still pretty special.)

And then Capetown. (hankies ready)

On the first day a group of us took the cable-car up on to Table Mountain. Really spectacular up there and kinda peaceful as well, despite reports in the newspaper everyday of muggings on the mountain. (There was a constant background hint of danger in Capetown).

(Nikki, Cal, Debbie and Nikki near the end of the wine tour.)

The next two days I spent diving. After missing out on the Advanced Diving course in both Zanzibar and Malawi I was really made up when I found out that it wasn't any more expensive in Capetown. I had five great dives over two days with a great outfit called Scuba Shack. Three of the dives were fairly straightforward, but the other two were absolutely fantastic.

The first was a wreck dive on an 80m long minesweeper famous for having led out the fleet at Normandy on D-Day (ie pretty darned famous!). This was my first wreck dive and it was absolutely sweet. Did some great swim-throughs and had plenty of time to explore almost the entire wreck. spooky.

(Right: Cal gets it on to another one of those block-rockin beats on the emotion-packed last night of the trip.)

Emma joined me for the last dive, which was diving with seals. I'd been swimming with seals before and loved it, but this was even better. We were surrounded by seals and they were incredibly playful. I tried doing rolls and somersaults in the water and the seals were really excited by this and copied what I was doing. Beautiful animals. And amazing swimmers. Unlike me! We both loved the dive. Really lucky that I could do two such amazing dives and get my advanced PADI at the same time. Really looking forward to more wreck diving in Australia now...

Have to also mention that the second day of diving was after the last big night out. I really wasn't diving 'at my best'. Managed to bang my head really hard on the bottom of the boat and smashed an egg to smithereens when I was supposed to peel it slowly (exercise to test pressure at depth).

Otherwise, Capetown was all about saying goodbye. It was honestly and truly tearful and gutting to say goodbye to most people. I will miss so many of those guys so much - you were all so 'special' too! And also hope and expect to meet up with some of them again.

And that was the BigTrip. Time to go home now. Waaaaaaaaaahhhh...

(The very last photo of the bigtrip. 10 minutes later I was in a taxi on the way to the airport! Me, Brock, Ed, Clodagh, Lou, Cal, Nikki, Nick, Emma and Jane. I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!)