This country has been good to me as far as vacations go. Being low on funds and a dirty backpacker didn't prevent me from seeing much of South Africa and many parts of the rest of Southern Africa too. I cannot say whether other Peace Corps volunteers in other countries have such rich opportunities to explore on a volunteer stipend but I am thankful that I was able to travel as much as I did. Having seen and done so much here has made me ashamed of how little I have traveled in my own country which I will have to start remedying when I get back. Highlights and ahem official trips:
Wild Coast (Coffee Bay)
Cape Town and more and more and more and more/ WHS: Robben Island / WHS: Cape Floral Kingdom
Blyde River Canyon / Fanie Botha Hike
I never posted anything decent during World Cup. Here is a short one to make up for it.
That's my hooligan face. The face painting on the left cheek is of an American Bald Eagle flying with an English Palace Guard in its talons. If I were British I would describe it as cheeky. Incidentally, I got a chance to be an actual soccer hooligan, not my finest moment but I stand by my actions.
Top Five World Cup Moments
1. Winning in the final moments to beat Algeria. It was my Vuvuzela-ing that inspired Landon Donovan to score that goal. He told me so. Afterwards there were Americans and Algerians celebrating in the same areas without a skuffle. The Algerians I talked to were in good humor about everything and nice guys.
2. Traveling on a packed Khumbi to a watch a game in a fan park. Fervent nationalism is ok when it is put towards something innocuous like world sporting events. It was a lot of fun trying to sing songs we all knew (Most everyone was 3 sheets to the wind) which eventually got around to Bingo was his Name-o and other classics. I think all of the other soccer fans thought we had lost our minds.
3. Being in a taxi in downtown Pretoria during their win against France. Every radio and t.v. was tuned to the game and after each goal everything pretty much shut down for a 3 minute period to dance/blow vuvuzela/cheer. It was amazing.
4. Wallet returned to volunteer with everything from Taxi Rank. You could tell that most people were going out of their way to make sure everyone had a good time without problems. One of the more impressive stories was of a volunteer who left behind his wallet on a taxi which is usually a situation where you can kiss that wallet goodbye. But in this instance it was returned to the volunteer intact. The driver took the wallet out in an empty taxi to meet him 15 minutes away. Maybe that last part doesn't sound like much but it is quite remarkable based on normal taxi behavior.
5. Returning to my site and talking with people in the neighboring village. With wide grins, they welcomed me and asked if I was visiting for World Cup. For context it is important to remember that I lived in a village hundreds of kilometers form the nearest stadium and this was after I had already been at site for a year. These guys were a few beers deep but it was a nice change for people's default reaction to strangers to be hospitable and welcoming. World Cup often brought out the best in people.
This is a pretty accurate picture of what it was like being there: blurry!
This is another one that I failed to document at all. Here are some highlights featuring moments from: Kimberely / Mountain Zebra and Addo Elephant Parks / The Garden Route / West Coast
The Kimberly mine is the largest hand dug hole in the world. It is a bittersweet accomplishment because of course it was all for shiny gems and was essentially done with slave labor but it is still an amazing feat. This was at at the Mountain Zebra National Park. I want to say this a Hartebeast so I will. It didn't have much of the Big 5 but the scenery was amazing and we saw many ungulates. This is an impala which is a common sighting in game parks. Tour guides often say they are the McDonald's of the wild because they are "fast food". They also happen to have a white "M" on their butts. This is undeniable proof of Intelligent Design. Addo Elephant Park. There was a hide you could sit in and watch elephant at this watering hole. It has be reaffirmed that they don't snort the water up their trunks for a drink. Well, they do but then they squirt it in to their mouths. This is directed at anybody learned in the ways of elephant ear, nose and throat passages, can they just snort it all they way through the trunk if they had to? This is important. We spotted this elephant walking in the trees and followed it as it came out to the street. It then proceeded to walk right down the car path and walk straight at the tiny car behind us and just about crushed it. The lesson to be learned there is that elephants always have the right of way. My parents and I went to the most Southern Point of Africa in Cape Agulhas. At that point is the official line separating the Indian and Pacific oceans. I bet it was really hard finding that line. PENGUINS! They smell terrible but watching them waddle around is amusing. This is actually from when my sister came to visit and we saw penguins but now is the time to talk about penguins so you must excuse the trip mixing. I have never been closer to stealing a penguin egg than at this moment. College did not prepare me for the decision. Ultimately I decided I wouldn't be able to properly raise a penguin in the desert so I left it be. I know, I made the wrong decision. The greatest man I know. I will give you one guess what his name is and what his relation to me is. Southern Right Wales playing. I was able to see a whale breech only once but it was incredible. Post Office Tree in Mossel Bay. The Portuguese used it to post messages back and forth to each other on voyages. Who says post office history can't be fascinating? The hike out to see these cave paintings (Pictographs) in Clanwilliam just about killed my parents. For our effort, I discovered that I draw slightly worse than these early human ancestors or relatives. Who says prehistoric human art can't be fascinating? Augrabies Waterfall during the low season. There were pictures of the falls during floods and it is much more intense. They don't let people in during those times because they would probably die. Who says waterfalls in the Northwest Province of South Africa can't be fascinating? I'll stop that now. There were hundreds of these brightly colored lizards at the falls. This one would have made a great companion for my pet penguin.
Namibia : Fish River Canyon (WHS: Richterveld- Ais Ai Transfronteir Park- I am just slipping this in here because technically I only went to Namibia side but I am counting that as my visit to the park because it was hard to get out there.) / Sossusvlei
And the Rest of Nambia in:
Lost Blogs Post Volume III: Nambia Part II - Episode 2 Dune King
That big white part in the middle of the picture puts the vlei in Sossusvlei. I am sure its creation is complicated but it was explained to me that the geography and wind make it so the it is a hot windless dead zone. In my experience this was true. We raced out of the camp as early as we could to sit on the dunes and watch the sunrise. It was a moment to realize how lucky I was to be able to do what I was doing. My name is Noah. I climbed a dune and I own a puffy blue coat. We sort of leached onto another tour group and the guide was telling us that the trees in the vlie (salt flat) are 900 years old. Apparently there was also a Playboy photo shoot next to these trees. Yes I also posed next to the trees. I am saving that picture for my collection of pictures where I am standing like a oddball next to trees, I already have quite a few.
WHS: St. Lucia / ImFolozi-Hluluwe
When I was in St. Lucia I met a couple of French people who were going to the nearby game parks and they let me come along. It was especially fun because all their exclamations were as French as T.V. and movies have led me to believe. "Oooh lalalala, Magnifique!"
Road snake. The rarest of all pathway snakes. Just once I'd like to see a rhino do something violent with that horn. Is that too much to ask? If you think this is a giraffe then you are correct. Would a cowboy look silly or even cooler riding on a zebra? I bet Marlboro has already done extensive research on this very question. This warthog was right at the gate with many humans milling about (including me) and no one was particularly worried. I feel he is just acclimatizing us all until he springs his trap. The only lion, or large cat, I have seen in a game park. I slightly got out of the car to take a better picture and the lion stood up and looked straight at me with those yellow eyes (my god he had yellow eyes). I don't know if I have ever been that immediately terrified before. Baboons are pretty much everyone in South Africa and this was on the way back to St. Lucia. This one makes the cut because it is carrying a bouncing baboon baby boy (I don't know if it is a boy but "girl" ruins the alliteration, it's not bouncing either).
WHS: Drakensurg / Lesotho
I did in fact complete my WHS Quest and the rest of the sites are coming soon: WHS: Cradle of Humankind / WHS: Vredefort Dome/ WHS: Mapungubwe