Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

A few months ago we decided that instead of taking the train to see Machu Picchu we would book a four day trek along the Inca Trail with plans to reach Machu Picchu at sunrise on the fourth day. When in Peru, right? Without much thought we went ahead and booked the tour - fast forward to two weeks ago when all of my good intentions to train would be realized as insufficient / mostly non-existent. A few jogs at sea level don't really count (so I've learned). Nevertheless, we were excited and flew to Cusco with headlamps and hiking shoes in tow. This is the map we were given at orientation the evening before the trek began: 

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I did a decent amount of research beforehand - I knew what to expect in terms of altitude sickness, which days were the hardest, what Trip Advisor reviews said about the food, etc. but nothing I read really prepared me for the physical and mental challenge of embarking on four days of consistent activity in mountainous conditions. Now, some people, especially those who have trekked before, might think the Inca Trail is on the easy to moderate scale. That's cool - I mean, it's not EVEREST but it certainly wasn't a breeze either.  

The group of sixteen trekkers that hailed from Canada to Montenegro to Belgium to Chile, Russia and beyond. Where's Waldo - can you spot me? 

The group of sixteen trekkers that hailed from Canada to Montenegro to Belgium to Chile, Russia and beyond. Where's Waldo - can you spot me? 

The first day, we were told, was the easy day. It wasn't incredibly difficult but I could definitely feel the effects of the altitude already as we stayed around 3,000m (more or less) for the whole day. It was comprised of mostly uphill and downhill terrain with the odd flat stretch. I found the most difficult part of this day to be the sun! But the views... We could see snowcaps from our first campsite. 

What I saw when I managed to stop and take a photo. 

What I saw when I managed to stop and take a photo. 

The second day was wild. We were warned that it would be the most challenging of the trek and told that if we weren't going to continue, we'd need to let them know by the first break spot so the porters could give us our bags. Motivating. I was pretty terrified. The trail was entirely uphill via stone stairs with a climb in 1,000m from our campsite to Dead Woman's Pass (4,200m). It would take us 5-6 hours to get there and then another 2-3 to descend to camp. You want to believe that the downhill part will be easy but with the stone steps it can actually be harder - and way more painful on the knees. You get to trade not being able to breathe for joint pain. This taught me that walking poles are LIFE. By the end of the day I didn't really know how to walk without them.

By the time we arrived at our campsite the sun was fading and our legs felt as though they were made of jello. Our guides had the well-intentioned idea to share a warm celebratory drink (made of rum, black tea, lime, and sugar) after dinner to commemorate our success in surviving the day's hike. However, I could barely make it through half the glass without falling asleep. 

Day three meant another steep ascent followed by a combination of stairs and relatively flat trail. This was a welcome reprieve from the day before. I resumed my usual place at the end of the group. This didn’t really bother me at all until the last day, but we’ll get to that. The trek on the third day was largely through jungle-like terrain complete with waterfalls and caves. It was pretty awesome, though I was promised orchids and they were no where to be found. The destination was even more beautiful than the journey itself and was easily the most incredible campsite I’ve ever seen. I’ll let the photos depict the rest. 

The most beautiful place I've ever slept. Panoramic taken with my iPhone (which magically still had some battery life)

The rare moment when Ben and I were in the same place on the trail. 

View from the campsite.

View from the campsite.

Group shot with our fabulous porter crew who literally ran down stairs in sandals while I heaved carrying a day-pack and water bottle. 

Group shot with our fabulous porter crew who literally ran down stairs in sandals while I heaved carrying a day-pack and water bottle. 

The final day meant a 2am wake up call to begin our descent in the dark to reach Machu Picchu by sunrise. We stood and marvelled at the stars before setting off down what seemed like a never-ending set of uneven stairs. I think most people on our trek loved this day for the novelty and excitement of hiking in the dark but I wasn't such a huge fan. I fell probably six or seven times and was lucky I didn't injure myself. Seeing as I was occupying the end of the group I often found myself alone on the trail. One can imagine how I felt about this in the dark (serious face). Our headlamps led the way until about 4:30am when the first light of day began to show. I managed to captured this pretty cool pic of my sister around that time. 

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After another few hours we finally reached the sun gate where it was still too foggy to see Machu Picchu. Upon arriving at the main site we were instantly overwhelmed by the number of tourists and selfie sticks after having been rather isolated for the past four days. Nevertheless, it was still a pretty magnificent site to behold.

This barely captures it. 

This barely captures it. 

I was absolutely delighted by the resident llamas (not as a great as alpacas but whatever). 

After a couple of hours of wandering around in the scorching sun we called it a day (at like, 10am) and took the bus into Aguas Calientes in hopes of finding a cold beer and a hot shower. We eventually found a hostel willing to rent us a room for a couple of hours and we all took turns rinsing the past four days off our exhausted bodies before sourcing a pretty epic "happy hour" (with no distinguishable start or end time) of 4 for 1 drinks. 

All in all, it was pretty spectacular to be totally off the grid in the middle of the mountains. It was easily the most physically demanding experience of my adult life (AND we hired porters to carry our bags). We hiked a total of 47km through the Andes in scorching heat, at high altitude, over rocky terrain, and all without creature comforts. It was a-w-e-s-o-m-e.

We trekked through fields, forest, and jungle. We woke to snow-capped glaciers in the distance and peered through mist at hidden valleys filled with ruins. We pat stray dogs and mingled with camp kitties. We survived the climb to dead woman’s pass at 13,800 ft (4,200m) after five straight hours of uphill climb with low oxygen. We woke up at 2am to hike for three hours in the dark to reach Machu Picchu at sunrise. Bucket list: ✓

 

The Cape Winelands - Franschhoek & Stellenbosch

It became very windy and dark as we approached the Franschhoek pass. Having spent a few days in the mountains the week before we were well accustomed to how rapidly and aggressively the weather would change. Having put our blind faith in Google Maps (not always a great idea, that we've learned) we trudged along against the wind until we met the righthand turn that would lead us to the pass necessary to reach Franschhoek. The wind was borderline insane and it was so dark that it felt like 8pm at 2pm. Once we passed the flats that led to the river dam, the wind calmed a bit and the sky brightened enough for us to feel relatively safe in our little Honda. Here's a time lapse of the less apocalyptic part of our drive. 

Driving through the mountains will never get old. We finally arrived at our guesthouse, which was a small lodge near the riverbanks behind several vineyards. It was the only budget option in Franschhoek but we were pleasantly surprised! They had a resident great dane named Ben! This was confusing for a few moments during check-in when the owner kept yelling at Ben to sit down but eventually we all reached the same level and went on with our lives. 

Fun fact: our accommodation was randomly across the street from Richard Branson's winery (why?) and all we could see was a lone white horse that occupied the field adjacent to our cabin. I didn't get a photo because I was too cold each time we passed him that my hands were either in my pockets or in my armpits. 

Once we checked in and freshened up, we set off (headlamp in tow) towards the town that was a 15 minute walk away. Franschhoek is known for it's world class restaurants, especially when it comes to French food. We didn't feel like spending world class dollars so we chose a mid-range Italian place instead. All of this is relatively unimportant because the exciting part has everything to do with the wine tram we had booked for the next day. Stole this photo below off Google because I forgot to take one BUT LOOK AT HOW AWESOME THIS IS:

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8am rolled around and it was time to get ready for wine tasting! I felt like I was in university again, getting up so early to drink - like it was St. Patrick's Day or Oktoberfest... but this time, I told myself, would be classier. It was WINE. Though, I don't think I'll ever be one of those people who is cool enough to swish and spit when it comes to wine tastings. It still feels very offensive to me to waste it. Anyway, it was so cold that morning that I got dressed under the covers like a child. We walked back into town to the ticket booth and claimed our passes for the yellow line on the wine tram. There are something like seven lines to choose from and they operate on an hourly schedule, allowing you to hop on and off as many as 5 or 6 times over the course of the day. We chose the yellow line BECAUSE it was the only line with passes left that day. 

Our first stop was Rickety Bridge on the tram and then from there we went to Eikehof, Leopard's Leap, Chamonix and ended at Dieu Donne. Each winery was distinct - some, like Eikehof, were small and rustic, and others, like Leopard's Leap, were big and commercial. We sampled wines at each place (obviously) and I had a list of the ones we tried but as the day progressed....... Here are a few snaps from the day. If you have the pleasure of following me on Instagram, you may have seen a rather haphazard story develop over the course of the day as well. 

It was MARVELLOUS. It didn't even matter that we ended up sharing the wine tram with a massive group of uni students from Stellenbosch who had matching bucket hats with a shared hashtag on them. Their singing was eventually drowned out by the bliss that is wine in the sunshine paired with getting off at different wineries when at all possible. We walked from the second to last winery to our final stop and ended our tour at Dieu Donne, which is home to this amazing view:

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Franschhoek is perfect. We loved every second of it. I was even able to embrace the hangover I had the following day because I knew it happened in such a beautiful place. 

After sourcing some breakfast, we hopped in our rental car for a quick 25 minute drive to Stellenbosch, where we would be spending the next night. We didn't have big plans for Stellenbosch, mostly to relax, shower and meet up with some friends of a friend of ours. The downtown was pretty cute - it had a nice balance of university town vibes and somewhere you could actually live as an adult. We liked it. 

I won't go into too much detail but we woke the next morning to find that our car had been broken into overnight. WE MADE IT 13 DAYS (out of 14) without a single incident involving the rental and here we go, the night before we were meant to drop it off. Luckily our rental company had a small office directly below the apartment we were staying at (thank you, universe) so we were able to get the ball rolling on filing a claim and getting a new vehicle to continue our journey to Simons Town. In the end it only took a few hours to file a claim with the company and the police and we were well on our way by lunchtime. I wished we had spent more time in Stellenbosch because now this is really our only memory of it - but it doesn't matter because Franschhoek stole my heart and I will always remember our time in the Cape Winelands fondly! Also, let's be honest, this is one corner of the universe that we are definitely returning to! 

On the road again: elephants, wildfires, laundry, & the place where two oceans meet

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, we made a slight change to our itinerary when leaving Colchester and decided to split up what would have been a six hour drive to Still Bay (or Still Baai, in Afrikaans). We did this for two reasons, 1) we were getting pretty tired from a non-stop schedule of stop-and-go sightseeing and 2) elephants! 

Colchester is home to Addo National Elephant Park, a beautiful reserve where you are - wait for it - free to self drive throughout the park and animal-spot at your leisure. This idea struck me as slightly terrifying - how is it possible that we are just free to casually drive amongst these massive creatures?! Well, it's true. And we did. 

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We bought our passes, got a map, and drove into the park in hopes of spotting at least a few elephants. Despite it being the middle of the day (too hot for most animals to be actively out) we were not disappointed by the animal sightings! We saw warthogs (a favourite of ours), zebra, buffalo, baboons (worst), monkeys, various antelope varieties, and, of course, elephants! 

After a couple of hours of driving around we decided to hit the road to reach Knysna before dark. However, we encountered a bit of delay upon exiting the park... 

We arrived in Knysna around 7pm and pretty much fell asleep as soon as we checked in and showered. I wish we could have spent more time in Knysna. It is a well known vacation spot for South Africans and tourists alike, despite being largely affected by a devastating forest fire this past summer. We could see a lot of the damage during our drive out the next day. We heard from locals that approximately 500 formal and 200 informal home were lost to the fires. 

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Since our stay in Knysna was so short, we didn't get a chance to see or do very much. We did stop by a lovely cafe in the morning to get some coffee before our drive. The owner was sitting at a nearby table and must have overheard our accents because he enthusiastically approached us asking which part of "America" we were from. This is pre-coffee so we didn't even bother to explain that we were both Canadian and American, etc. BUT he turned out to be one of the nicest humans alive. He warned us of the speed cameras along the next part of our drive and gave us his business card, asking us to call him if we had any questions about anything during our time in South Africa. Who does that? Safe to say he made our morning. If anyone reading this ever passes through Knysna please be sure to visit our friend James at Polvo Coffee. The coffee was delicious and the breakfast quiche was absurdly good. 


Still Bay was planned as a rest and recovery stop on our trip - and that it was. We stayed at the cottage of our friends from Pretoria and it was perfect. Quiet, sleepy, secluded. We washed some of our clothes, read, slept and relaxed on the patio. That's about it. But if you know me well, you know how much I love to do laundry and how happy this made me. #Recharged. 

The next day we left for the Cape winelands with our first destination being the small wine town of Franschhoek. This drive was meant to be exceptionally beautiful, so we left early to give ourselves enough time to stop and enjoy the views along the way. We decided to take a small detour to visit Cape Agulhas. By small, I mean 100km off the main highway. The cape is home to the southernmost point of Africa and we deemed this worthy of a couple of hours drive. It was pretty spectacular. 

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It is a bit of a misnomer amongst travellers in South Africa that the southernmost point is the Cape of Good Hope which is located closer to Cape Town. Cape Agulhas is also the official point (according to the International Hydographic Organization) where the Indian and the Atlantic ocean meet. There is a marker to identify it. Cue photo opportunity. 

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It's a pretty cool feeling to anchor your soul, if even for a moment, to places on this planet that are so remote and special (and windy). After as much time as we could budget to appreciate the amazingness of the fact that the next physical point of land was Antarctica, we got back into our little car and set off for the next chapter of our road trip: WINE COUNTRY. 

Through the Wild Coast from Coffee Bay to Colchester

Last Thursday we conquered the five and a half hour drive from Lesotho to Coffee Bay. The route took us through some of the most rural parts of the country and we were constantly on the lookout for the cows, goats and sheep who love to randomly cross the roads. We passed through the odd town but mostly saw rural settlements and communities. We decided to visit Coffee Bay because it is known for its surfing and Xhosa culture. The drive was mostly mountainous with a good deal of fog until we were about an hour or so from the coast. The views were spectacular. 

The beautiful Coffee Bay... 

The beautiful Coffee Bay... 

We arrived at our hostel at around 5pm and were absolutely delighted to learn that they had a resident golden retriever named Rusty. The hostel itself was worth the drive. It was split into two sites - our hut being across the river. Yep, we actually had to casually cross a river to get to the main building and bar area. The back garden of the hostel had numerous levels to it, including a camp site. 

The next day we went to the beach and took a surf lesson from a guy named Gabriel. Rusty came with us. For 60 rand (approx. $5-6) we got a two hour surf lesson (including board and wetsuit rental) AND two cheese and tomato toasties made via campfire on a hill. Absolutely stellar. This is me eating a toastie and trying not to expose myself to the sun. 

Ben killed it with the surfing - I only lasted for about an hour before I smashed my knee on a rock and swallowed a bunch of salt water. I managed to get up for a full 3 seconds before this though. Ben stayed out for another hour after the lesson finished with a couple of guys from the hostel. While he was surfing I saw a whale in the ocean and a group of dolphins by the shore. It was pretty amazing. After Ben finished up in the water we walked around the beach for a little while before heading back to the hostel for dinner. 

We could have easily spent 3-4 days in Coffee Bay. It was absolutely worth the drive but there were a couple of hikes that we didn’t have time for that we wish we had. I'd like to think I'll be able to make it back to this small corner of the universe, but who knows. 

Ironically, the day we left Coffee Bay we couldn’t find any coffee. This was a problem because we left at 7am and figured we’d find breakfast on the road, momentarily forgetting that we were in the middle of nowhere. A couple of hours went by without passing anything before we stopped at a gas station to refuel. The first gas station didn’t have any food other than a couple of bags of chips and red bull (I wasn’t desperate enough at this time to settle for that fine combination). The second gas station had a small food counter AND a coffee menu but sadly no water so no coffee. We persevered and eventually came across a grocery store - their food counter didn’t have coffee (devastatingly) and when we tried to order a pastry from them the girl behind the counter couldn’t find the price code and therefore would not sell us the pastry. Utterly defeated, I bought a yogurt and ate it in the parking lot, willing it to turn into a coffee bean. 

Two hours later we reached a place called King Williams Town and THEY HAD A MCDONALDS. We were so excited for coffee that it was embarrassing. So excited, in fact, that we forgot to refuel. About 45km out from our final destination of the day we realized that the gas light was on and the tank nearly empty. I was nearly finished mentally preparing for running out of gas and what that would entail when we arrived in Colchester.

Our accommodation for the night: 

Yes! The houseboat! It was absolutely brilliant. Her name was Maggie May. Happy hour started as soon as we’d checked in and we spent the rest of the day on the top deck soaking up the views of the Sundays River. All was well and good until we noticed water spraying from the wall in the bathroom. A few comical texts to the Airbnb host had him on the boat to inform us that the water pump must be leaking. We learned that all this meant was that we needed to shut off the water and thus couldn’t shower or anything. All good with us because we had wine and brushing your teeth on the dock with a bottle of water is good fun.

Speaking of wine - we’ve discovered a new thing that we both really enjoy called Pinot Noir Chardonnay. It’s lighter and drier than a rosé. Ben wanted me to add that in. 

After not sinking overnight we woke up and went sand boarding on the dunes down the river. This was a blast. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a snowboard but it all came back pretty quickly. The views from the top of the dunes were incredible - the Sundays River meets the Indian Ocean just past where we were boarding. We pretty much had the dunes to ourselves, too.

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At the time of writing, I am covered in sand, wearing the same clothing from three days ago, and cannot remember the last time we showered. We also haven’t had any WiFi, hence the lack of updates. We’re currently en route to a town called Knysna on the coast halfway to next destination on our list, which is Still Bay. Originally we were going to spend six hours in the car today and just get to Still Bay, but decided at the last minute to break up the drive and spend the afternoon with elephants instead. We now only have one more long haul ahead of us from Still Bay to Franschhoek, but it’s supposed to be beautiful... 

Durban to Lesotho

I’ve never heard a pilot call a city by it’s nickname before. During the one hour flight from Johannesburg, I think he came on the intercom 3 or 4 times to tell us something about “Durbs”. It was excellent.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t really in our favour during our two days in Durban. The beach promenade was beautiful, but the high winds and heavy rains made it pretty unbearable. We decided to focus on Indian food instead. It helps that Durban has the largest Indian diaspora in the world outside of India. Our first meal came recommended from a place called House of Curries. The chicken and white bean roti was the length of two full hands and absolutely delicious. Ben had the bunny chow, which is basically a hallowed out loaf of bread filled with curry. 

We did stay at a pretty neat hostel called Curiocity that operates out of a historic 1930 British-Colonial Style building called Ambassador House. I tried to get some photos but they don’t really do it justice. 

The drive from Durban to Underberg was fairly eventful for only being a couple of hours. We left early to give ourselves lots of time and it’s a good thing we did because once we were out of Durban we were hit with a ton of fog. If we didn’t have a transfer to catch at 11am we would have pulled off for a few hours to allow it to clear as the roads were pretty windy and visibility was low. Along the way, while dodging cows / goats / sheep, we also saw a dead horse with no face (inexplicable really) as well as a terrible accident involving a pick-up truck and an 18-wheeler along the mountain. Hungry and mildly stressed, we pulled off the highway to grab some breakfast at the first (only?) place that came up on Google maps. It turned out to be an adorable little place called Picklepot Cafe, where they made their own fruit preserves and spreads. A beautiful black great dane greeted us upon arrival and we ate breakfast by the fireplace. This was key because at this point we noticed that it was really cold (maybe 5 degrees) and that we were very undressed. Luckily, they also had one toque to sell for $2 and I happily added it to my wardrobe. 

After we finished our coffee we set off on the last hour of our route to an Inn in Underberg where we were scheduled to meet our transfer for the trip up the mountain pass. We wisely decided to organize this through our accommodation in Lesotho and I’m SO glad we did because there was no way that our little rental car would have stood a chance. After a couple of border posts and 1.5 hours of rocky, windy, mountain road, we reached the top of the Sani Pass and arrived at our backpackers on top of the mountain. For most of the way up, the fog was so thick that we couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of us. It was pretty wild (and bumpy). 

We dropped our bags and set out to explore the perimeters of the lodge, though we didn’t go too far due to the persistent fog that kept drifting in and out over the mouth of the cliffs where we were located. When the clouds drifted in we couldn’t see anything. For some reason my instinct was to get low to the ground when this happened. It was such a weird feeling. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent in front of the fire at the lodge, which is also home to the highest pub in Africa (situated on the edge of the pass at 2,874 m)! This was obviously the key selling feature (besides the Drakensberg mountains) when planning this stop on our road trip. It did not disappoint. The music was comically loud and top-40-ish but the beer was cold and we were happy. I can’t really describe our accommodation so I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves. 

Once the sun went down, it got really dark. You actually couldn’t see anything. The backpackers was powered by a generator and only offered electricity between 5-10pm, so around 8pm we set off from the main building to find our dorm. Our dorm was a 6 minute walk from the pub across a small village of local huts. Thankfully I brought my headlamp with me to dinner (#alwaysprepared) because otherwise we would have not found our way back. A single orange beacon was blinking from the porch of the building to help guide us home once we got closer. But the stars. The stars were absolute magic.

The next morning we set off on a 5hr hike to something called Hodson’s peak. It took about 2 hours to get over to the base. We passed about a million sheep and a few shepherds. One of whom was casually knitting a scarf whilst minding his herd of 200 sheep. We scaled the side of the peak for a solid 20 minutes before I looked down and realized how steep it was / how high we were. At this point, my heart went into my throat and my legs stopped working, so Ben and our guide, Joseph, went on without me to the summit. 

It took me a solid 15 minutes to calm myself down before I could start making my way down the side of the peak. After this, we tackled a smaller, more manageable peak (I think it was just called the South Peak?) before heading back along the cliffs to the lodge. All in all, it was an incredibly rewarding day. 

The mountains did not disappoint (do they ever?). With sunburns and another stamp in our passports, we head towards the Wild Coast, where we’ll be staying in Coffee Bay for two nights. Once we get back to our rental car at the bottom of the mountain pass the drive will take us approximately five hours throughout KwaZulu-Natal into the Eastern Cape province. Next stop: surf town! 

Victoria Falls

Last month we travelled to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg. It’s a destination that has been on our list for a while now, but really is kind of awkward to get to, so we decided to make it happen while living in SA. Vic Falls is a waterfall on the Zambezi River that is split by the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It’s also known by it’s indigenous Tonga name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translates to “The Smoke That Thunders”. For perspective, it’s roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls. There are a couple ways to approach a visit to falls and one of the main considerations is whether or not to fly into the Zambian side or the Zimbabwean side. Some people choose one over the other or choose to fly into one and out of the other. We wanted to see both countries so we flew into Zambia and out of Zimbabwe. 

In Zambia we stayed at an awesome backpackers called JollyBoys. They had a sweet pool and several resident cats. 

We arrived mid-afternoon on our first day and decided to sign up for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi for that evening. It’s basically three hours of cruising up and down the River while the bartenders encourage you to drink as many beers as possible. The highlight was definitely mid-cruise when a family of hippos swam up near the boat. 

The next day we ventured to the national park. Park entrance is $30 USD and it takes about two hours to wander the length of the trails and back. We showed up an hour before our activity that we had booked to do a bit of exploring. At some point, since we were mildly hungover from the sunset cruise, we decided to get a coke at the park entrance to rejuvenate ourselves. There are signs all over warning visitors about the resident baboons (which are terrifying AF) who will steal your food. I didn’t realize a bottle of coke qualified as baboon bait so when I left the restaurant I had it in my hand to finish before our activity started. Well, wasn’t it a full 15 seconds before the biggest baboon of life charged towards me and grabbed the coke bottle from me. A handful of park employees jumped to their feet with giant rocks ready to defend me. Cue tears and mini meltdown. A decent amount of swearing. I didn’t know whether to run or scream so instead I froze and started to cry. There was no way I was going to negotiate with him for a third of a bottle of coke. Proper nightmare material.

After the baboon trauma subsided we met up for the excursion we booked called “Under the Spray”. We didn’t really know what it would involve since the activity book only featured a one liner about something called “medium fitness level” and the possibility of getting wet. Once the guide pulled out the wetsuits and the life jackets I realized we would be getting on a raft. It started with a trail through the park then turned into a proper trek across rocks and boulders into the gorge that in high season would be underwater. Once we reached the first pool at the base of the gorge, called the boiling pot, we descended into a raft and paddled our way across the rapids into a pool where we climbed out and continued across another more challenging set of rocks. I often had to hoist myself up or hug the wall to move along the path. A few different times we had to swim across small (but deep) pools of water. I had my action cam on for some of this but since it was strapped to my chest I ended up accidentally filming the butt of the girl in front of me for most of it. Still debating whether or not to share in spite of this. After another 30 or so minutes of trekking we made it to the pool of water that met one of the active waterfalls. We swam across and were able to stand underneath it while our guide told us a story about how the falls were initially discovered. However, waterfalls are loud, and I think I missed 90% of what he said and was only able to join in on the random clapping at the end. We snapped a few pics and then we were on our way back! By the third hour of this excursion I was starting to feel pretty exhausted. The ascent back up to the top of the gorge was pretty gruesome in the midday sun - plus my being on high alert to the surrounding baboons which seemed to have multiplied while we were down in the gorge. We managed to stay awake until 7pm and then passed out for a solid twelve hours. 


Day three meant crossing the border by foot to Zimbabwe. Before we walked across the border officially we unofficially crossed into Zim during our hike to Devil’s Pool at Livingstone Island. During dry season (mid-Aug to mid-Jan) the pool can be reached by foot from the Zambian side of the falls. It is basically a natural infinity pool that has formed on the edge of the falls. It’s pretty wild.

After we finished up at the pool we set off for the border and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Zim national park. It was much more humid and rainforest-like compared to the Zambian side. We snapped some photos, drank a $6 USD smoothie, then went into town to find our hostel.

The worst thing about Zimbabwe is that a lot of things are in USD and it is expensive. Even when using the local currency prices are pretty steep in Victoria Falls. We paid $16 for a margarita pizza at the airport. I was so committed to eating the entire thing that I flew the leftovers back to Pretoria and ate the rest the next day. Depressing.

Our hostel in Zim was adorable, complete with a resident Maltese dog named Rosie. All in all, the trip was a massive success and we're super happy that we accidentally ended up there during the dry season so we could enjoy all of the activities. 

Road Trip: Durban to Cape Town

Tomorrow we set off on a 16 day road trip across the South African coastline! I've decided to document our trip in a couple of different ways. I'll be writing about it on here, as well as sharing some highlights on Facebook and Instagram. 

The Itinerary:

We start our journey in Durban and will eventually make our way down to Cape Town via rental car. Yes, both Ben and I will be driving. Yes, we're paying extra for an automatic car. No, we don't really know how to drive on the other side of the road. Stay tuned for how THAT goes.

Our trip will take us through three of South Africa's nine provinces, which are KwaZulu-Natal, as well as the Eastern Cape and Western Cape. We'll also be venturing into the country of Lesotho when we explore the Sani Pass of the Drakensberg Mountain range. Our plan is to travel along the coast as much as possible (where road conditions permit). We'll start on the South Coast before hitting the Wild Coast and the Sunshine Coast. After that, we'll change course and travel inland towards the Cape Winelands, where we'll spend a couple of days tasting some of South Africa's famed grapes! The route will then take us back to the coast on the Cape Peninsula, where we will spend a couple of days exploring before settling down for a final weekend in Cape Town. 

Here's a map with all of our specific destinations highlighted:

itinerary

That's roughly 27 hours in a car with yours truly. Can you imagine?

In order, we'll be visiting Durban, Sani Mountain, Coffee Bay, Colchester (Addo Elephant Park), Still Bay, Hermanus, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch, Simonstown, and Cape Town. Since we are currently based in Pretoria, we'll be flying from Johannesburg to Durban to save ourselves 6+ hours of driving on a highway. 

I don't want to spoil any of the updates to come but for those who are curious, our accommodation will involve a somewhat balanced combination of hostel dorm, camp site, house boat, cottage, apartment rental and bed & breakfast. 

There are SO many variations of this route. We've consulted everyone we know who has travelled here and read numerous guides online about each destination. It was so difficult to choose which locations to visit and which to leave out! I'm sure we'll only get to see a fraction of this beautiful country along our journey but we're looking forward to it nonetheless. 

Follow along if you'd like :) If anyone has any food / drink / adventure recommendations in any of the areas we're staying, please share! 

Cheers,
A