Sorry we haven't updated in a while but we've been too busy lion around. Get it? Lion! ........sorry
First off, we're currently on a road trip through the African desert and up the coast of South Africa. I'm writing this as we're driving from our safari onto a town called Oudtshoorn (don't ask me how to pronounce it, I'll just mangle it and embarrass myself). Now you may be asking yourself "Mike, you're supposed to be a gentleman, why are you making Maja drive while you still there typing away on your iPhone?!" Well firstly, if you're asking that question, you don't know me very well since I'm ALWAYS on my iPhone ;)
And secondly, the driving here in South Africa is a little different from what I'm used to back in Ottawa as they drive on the left side of the road and the traffic is.. shall we say, interesting...
Anyway, Maja has more experience driving here since her dad taught her to drive on these roads so I'll tackle it a little later in our road trip.
Also, thanks to this road trip we have limited access to Internet so we probably won't be adding any pictures to these posts but you can always find them and vine videos on our personal facebook pages :)
Since we've missed a few days, we'll try to just focus on the highlights rather than breakdown our days like we've been doing.
The nice thing about traveling with Maja is that most of the time we get experiences that a typical tourist never has. For those of you who don't know, she's basically lived all over Africa during her younger years as her father worked for the UN. This means that not only does she know a ton of people living on the continent but also thanks to international schools and whatnot, she also has friends all over the planet. I like to call them "insiders." These insiders give us the real deal, not that watered down Travel Channel experience that most tourists get when they visit places based off books and pre-planned itineraries.
One such authentic experience was at the Barkai farm outside of Cape Town. This is Sanjin's best friend John's family farm where they grow apples, roses, pomegranates and figs as far as the eye can see.
|A fig from the Barkai farm. Figs are delicious fruit but look like terrifying alien creatures on the inside|
We had fun exploring through the apple orchard especially, the apples looked ripe and good enough to eat right off the tree, and I might have even grabbed a few bites when no one was looking (disclaimer: no I didn't). We sat with the family and learned about their history and the thirty years they've been running the farm, we even talked a little South African politics! It looks like no matter where you go on the planet people always seem to be pissed off at the government (nice to see we bureaucrats are well loved the world over!). Also, they had two dogs we could play with so that alone made the trip worthwhile. One was named Marmite and he was infinitely better than that awful tasting salty Vaseline paste...urgh..though probably just as smelly!
Next, off to the Kristenbosch botanical gardens to take in a show by a local Cape Town "Loop artist" (basically recording loops of guitar riffs, beat boxing and harmonica to create harmonies). Lets just say the view was the highlight of this event as the gardens are right beneath the Table Mountain and anytime you can have that huge, majestic chunk of rock as your backdrop, it's a treat :)
|"Maja, jus' loungin' by da pool" I was going to write "poo'" but Maja said you'd get the wrong idea|
The next day we were off in our rental car to the Aquila Safari Park about two hour drive out of Cape Town. It was a long drive in the heat but it was totally worth it! Outside of the fabulous two level room with an outdoor shower and spectacular infinity pool, we had not one but two safari trips through the African brush. Not all that shimmers is gold though as the second safari started a crisp hour of six in the morning and everyone knows that's Mike's absolute FAVORITE time of the day, especially when he's on vacation! ;)
Luckily there was plenty of coffee ready to recharge our batteries and help us get ready for the bumpy ride. Although once we saw the animals in their natural habitat there wasn't really anymore need for coffee. We both perked up after seeing the rare and endangered white rhino amongst a herd of zebras and giraffe. But Mike's new favorite, by far, were the springbok. He says that lions are "played out" as you can see them all the time in movies and on TV but the springbok were something completely new to him. They look like miniature antelopes but with a distinct striped design and they hop around in groups. They are also delicious. Mike had a springbok steak before we left for the safari and the timing was perfect because I think he'd have a hard time with it now, they were just too adorable. Mike is seriously considering sneaking one home. Maja's new job at Canada Border Services has got to be good for something right? Maja says he'll have to settle for a stuffed plush springbok though :(
Other animals we saw on the way were elephants, water buffalo, wildebeest, impalas, ostriches and, of course, a pride of lions. I think our lives flashed before our eyes when the head lioness stared down our bus for a few minutes only to start stalking it after it stood up. We were convinced it was trying to protect the pride. We were all extremely freaked out and the regularly calm tour guide even decided to start backing up the truck to get away from her. One of the ladies on our tour was a little too adventurous (read: stupid) and decided to stick her body out of the window to call it over to snap pictures. The lion growled and took a swipe at her. If you've ever travelled, you'll know her as that type of tourist you run into every now-and-again who probably deserves to get a lion's paw to the face. ;)
Our day at the safari park ended with a tour of the conservation area. The story behind this place is really tragic as our guide told us that all the animals found here were rescued from private interests who abused them. They had an additional pride of lions, a leopard, two cheetahs and some crocodiles. Apparently these animals were "hunted" repeatedly but were shot with rubber bullets... Awful stuff. Aquila safari has rescued them but unfortunately they cannot be released into the wild or the regular park because they do not have the skills necessary to survive.
These animals were quite amazing though and we actually learned quite a lot about them. Did you know that cheetahs have a bit of canine in their DNA? While big cats like lions and leopards are all feline, cheetahs have some dog in them which, when you think about it, actually explains a lot of their speed (Greyhounds are super speedy, remember). Also apparently cheetahs are known to be the only big cats that can actually be domesticated and the two they had in the conservation area were so friendly that you could reach out and pet them, AND WE DID! It was truly unbelievable and Mike pet it for as long as he could, picturing it as a small house cat. Unfortunately the realization that this creature could, in fact, eat his entire hand at any time quickly sank in and he had to stop relatively soon. It was crazy how these huge animals actually behaved exactly like our own cat, Bendis, back home. They would rub up against you, purring and roll on their back to get a belly rub. It's pretty adorable actually... Until you remember what it actually is :)
In the end, we fell in love with this park and it's been the highlight of the trip so far, hands down! Absolutely fantastic!