Friday, 12 August 2011

Literally! A SHARK in the water!!

 Finally!  The title of this blog makes sense, other than it being my favorite song and the only line I sing of it.  This Tuesday (a national holiday celebrating women) I went . . . SHARK CAGE DIVING!!

It was absolutely amazing.  So so so fun!  First off we had to get up before 5am and be ready to go by 5:15 to get to the sea town of Gans Baai.  I slept most of the way but woke up during the second half of the journey as the sun was coming up.  Everyone else in my car was still asleep (we got drivers to take us- livin’ large!) which was a good thing b/c there were a few hills with horses on them and without fail I would say, “look horses!” nobody heard me luckily- thanks family.
Our vessel that kept us out of the mouths of sharks

There were sea gulls everywhere- we were all "lucky" because birds pooped on you left and right.  I saw an albatross which is pretty rare, apparently.

When we got to the town they had shark themes everywhere.  Every café, libraray, shoe store all had some pun about sharks as advertisements.  It smelt like the sea as soon as we got out of the car and I could barely stand my excitement.  They put us in life jackets that looked like they would help us sink more than float and giant orange fisherman jackets which were a life saver b/c it was pretty windy on the high seas!  Our first minute away from the dock and the boat got air going over giant rolling waves.  I would have yelled for them to go faster but they were going pretty fast and the waves really were massive so I was pretty content. 
 Everyone looking at the Beautiful shore-- it was cloud at first but the day turned and the beaches were beautiful in the sun

All the women on the Shark Diving Trip!

Once we got out into the bay we had to change into wet suits.  I previously had no fear about sea sickness- until then.  Trying to shimmy my body into a suit that made me look all too much like a seal on a rocking boat will make anyone a little uneasy.  After we got our wet suits on we looked really similar to the seal cut out they would throw into the water to tantalize some nice great whites to come and chomp on. 
I KNOW that this shark thought the cut out was human

After about 2-3 hours there were still no sharks.  By this time I had given up trying to suck in while being squished by my wet suit and was sitting on top of the boat with a basket ball for a belly and intermittently biting into my sandwich and throwing bits of it into the water to get anything to swim by.  Finally we moved to a new spot b/c another boat was leaving and they had seen at least 3 sharks swimming about.

After we moved the real fun started.  I was still on top deck and next to a man who had been standing there the whole time.  After 2 minutes he gave a shout and pointed out into the waters where there was a HUGE shadow of a shark!  Who knew that guy was the look out?  Anyways after that two more sharks came by and it was crazy how big they were!  You could see them swimming by and they were almost, if not, as big as the boat!  The crew would throw a bait line that was about 10 fish heads attached to a rope to guide the sharks closer.  There was also that seal cut out which they would throw but I did not approve of it- it looked nothing like a seal and very much like a squat human in a wet suit.

The sharks would throw their heads out of the water with their mouths gaping going after the baits and then would turn on a dime and swing around in another direction.  Every time I would see a shark I would squeal in delight and practically hurl my body over the railing to try and get closer- I think there is something off about my survival instincts.
The Chum that was literally poured on our heads

the shark cage

a shark

So I was the third group to go into the actual cage to be NEXT to the great white sharks that were bigger than the cage itself!  I was the first one in and I did get really scared once I was actually in the water.  It was pretty cold and the water was really choppy so the cage would sometimes swing a little bit and hit the side of the boat- all adding up to a terrifying situation.  Since I was in first I was at the end so two sides of me were next to open ocean while the other two were next to the boat and another girl from my group- who was more scared than I was so I could pretend like I was cool, calm, and collected- I was none of these things.  While I was in the cage a shark swam right by the side of it!  I ducked down to see (the water was pretty murky so you couldn’t see too much, but I did see this!) a giant shark swimming right by me!  Its head was right next to the cage so I was screaming my heart out underwater and had to come up for air only to see its fins inches away from the cage swimming by- AMAZING!!  The cage didn’t get any easier b/c the fins would go right by you and the cage would smash up and down and against the boat so you were flung all around and water in your face.  We didn’t have any underwater equipment other than goggles so to go underwater you had to hold your breath and grab onto the bars of the cage to dive under- you also had a weight attached to you but sometimes it would get stuck onto the cage which was more scary than the beast swimming inches from you. I have two bruises on my shin from ducking under and pushing my legs against the cage to get as far away from the open water as possible.  The crew thought it was hilarious when they asked us if we wanted them closer and we all cried a jolly “yes!!” so they pour some chum (fish guts) onto our heads inside the cage. I have never screamed so hard in my life. They also would swing the fish heads at us to get the sharks to come closer.  The water was really murky so realizing that sharks could be swimming right by you and not being able to see them is a notion I wish I did not take away from the experience. 

Getting the wet suit off and onto dry land was bittersweet but necessary after having guts poured onto your body.  We took the scenic route home, which was beautiful, but got my pretty confused about the whole geographical lay out of the western cape.  I’m very excited to see some more harbor towns because they all looked pretty darn cute!  We finally got home around 6 to have our neighbor come over (he was in the house the I proclaimed myself braai (aka grill) master of) to tell us about our spring break trip which he is running.  So after seeing sharks all day I set up my trip to Botswana to see elephants and waterfalls!  I LOVE animals!!

Still have all my fingers and toes, arms and legs.

This is not the best vid, but it took me forever to upload and so i'm leaving it

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Some Notes

 So I've been here about a month and these are some important things I've noticed so far:

                                            This pigeon was particularly gross looking
Pigeons here think they are ants.  They love to walk around thinking they are tiny and inconspicuous.  They are neither of these things.  They crawl around underfoot and are shocked when you kick at them to get away.  Every time you shoo them they look at you like “hey!  How do you see me?  I’m just this stupid pigeon crawling around our ankles in the middle of a café- what the!”  They are so weird.  All I can think when I see them is: Don't Let the Pigeon Ride The Bus!!

Girls with their temples shaved off are found here a plenty.  But the weird thing is non of them are South African!  It’s like a weird pull for these types of ladies to both shave a patch off their head and then journey to the southern hemisphere- some could even say cultish.  I don’t have faith in these girls.  I feel like they are outwardly broadcasting their two-face nature.  Anyone who so proudly shares their inner flows like that on their sleeves are not to be trusted!  That being said I met one and she seemed ok.

South Africans hate weather.  Now this could be my thinking because I come from a land where being able to tolerate extreme weathers is held in high regard but South Africans are a little silly.  The temperatures have been a bit cold but nothing a hoodie and a jacket can’t fight.  Instead I see numerous people walking around in parkas and looking like the might fall over frozen any second.  I do love how when it rains everyone will run full out to avoid it.  I always feel a bit wimpy doing this but here its everyman for himself and if you don’t move quickly you’ll be shoved into a puddle.  

 The Dog's here are so cute, but wicked rare.  Upsetting b/c it was my big plan to steal a dog and keep it at my apartment for protection.  Fortunately you get used to the city sounds fairly quickly so a guard dog is not a necessity for a sound sleep. 

South Africans, they love their mayonnaise.  On every single menu they put at the bottom extra mayonnaise for the side in every flavor.  It’s hard pressed to find a place that brags about their mayonnaise.  They put it on everything.  Brutal. 

They have this chain restuarnt here called “Spurs”  that is a stake house-rancheros style food- but basically it’s a burgers and fry place.  Just guess what their symbol/masquot is! It’s a . . . Native American!  Because Native Americans are famous for their burger and fries and know a good way to grill.  Obviously. 

Their taxis are really buses that reminded me so much of the Knight Bus from “Harry Potter.”  You walk along any main road an stick out your hand and a van pulls up almost immediately. You pay 5 rand (less than a dollar) and crawl in this van that holds 12+ people.  Everything will jump out of the way of these vans- telephone poles, people, other cars, buildings—the only thing that won’t leap out of the way is other buses.  You zig zag along the roads thinking you’ll definitely hit something but you never do, they’re pretty skilled.  After you finally get to your destination, usually a small walk away from it, you get out feeling slightly sick and very happy to be on solid ground.  Despite this feeling you always get into the bus again- maybe for the thrill?

Finally: Penguins.
They are ac cute as they look!  I think they know they’re cute b/c they can hold eye contact and you can just tell they know you want to scoop them up in a hug.  They live along the beaches here but if you walk around beach towns you can spot them walking along the streets with you- usually these penguins are quite brave but they always appear lost.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


  FOOD: probably my favorite thing in the world and something that is almost always on my mind.  Lucky for me South Africa has amazing food.  And I have bee eating it all!  

       Every Saturday there is a market set up at “Old Biscuit Mill” with foods from all over the world.  I literally thought I was in heaven when I first walked in.  Shark eyes (where your pupils dilate all the way and predator instinct kicks in) were in full effect and I was white knuckling my wallet just dieing to give all my precious rands away to the nearest person with an apron on.  The have beautiful tables set up all around the walls of an old mill with sturdy tents adjacent to the building filled with more tables and more food.   Out side there are benches made of hay and low tables to sit around. 

 So as if the sights weren’t enough to put me into a frenzy, as you made your way to the back of the tents eyeing every type of pastry and quiche and cookie and jars filled with beautiful honey, figs, tapenade (gross), hummus- basically everything, the further you went back the more the smells over powered you.  In the back is where they make food ready to order.  They had huge, HUGE, wok type things filled with red soup and filled with shrimp, or you could get flat breads, waffles, paninis, burgers (including ostrich burgers), and lots more.  I ended up getting a potato pancake with a poached egg, gruyere cheese, chopped scallions, bacon, and smoked salmon on top- sooooo good

         So Old Biscuit Mill is more of a high end place to eat and definitely a place where you carry around drinks that are too expensive and it’s too early to be drinking besides—I obviously don’t believe in telling people the right time too drink, I’m more organic in alcohol consumption, i.e. whenever you want it or need it is the right time to drink!  That being said- getting wasted in a township (aka ghetto) and gorging on meet is definitely one of the highlights of South Africa so far!

I’m referring to Mzoli’s, a famous “restaurant.”  This place is a combonation of a butcher shop/ restaurant.  You sit at big plastic tables under a permanent tent structure.  Its BYOB so if you didn’t bring any alcohol you have to walk down the road a little ways, over glass incrusted sand filled side walks, to a “store” where a person behing a caged window takes your order/money and a person in the back brings it out to you through cast iron doors.  Once your all settled with your 6 pack, then you leave the tent and go order meat (that’s all they serve) in this little deli like store. They’re just slabs of meet and you tell them how much money you want to use for each cut. They dip it in this spice and slap it onto a plate with a ticket and sauce. You then have to walk into the back where there are wood fire grills and drop the plate off for them to cook for a while.  There is so much meet burning on the grills and there are so many grills. They just keep putting wood logs onto the fire and the smell is so good. You have to walk back to the kitchen every once in a while to see if its ready- they just put the meet back onto the plate and hand it to you (no silverwear or napkins or anything). I got a steak and a cow rib. The stake was unbelievable! We bought bred at this tiny store at the beginning of the day and I was very happy b/c I ate like three slices of it just mopping up the leftover sauce on the plate. I also used the bread as a napkin—it did not work very well.  The meet really was so good.  Like sooooo good.

But not all the good food in South Africa is restaurant food.  They have fig jam here that makes a killer peanut butter and jelly sandwhich and their avocados are devine.   Also wicked good chocolate.  But I must say, people, including myself and fellow abroaders, can throw a pretty good cookout.  Our neighbors (actual locals!) invited all of us over for a braai (brrr-I), aka cookout, where I was dubbed “the MF Braai Master!”  Now I’m not sure if I dubbed myself the “braaii mastah” or if someone else did, but I do know that the chicken I helped cook was un-b.  

there is a pic of me grilling. . . but i forgot to upload it- i look awful so i'm a little happy i forgot but i figure- whateves i'll post is soon.

I’m going to have to be rolled off the plane coming home or at least be forced to buy an extra seat.  So brutal but whateves.  I’m in Africa!