Jeffrey’s Bay

We had heard great things about Jeffrey’s Bay. A surfers town on the southern coast with a fun backpacker vibe: what more could you want? When we drove through, we knew we were hooked. The place was larger than I had imagined, but had a very laid back, friendly feel to it.
We pulled up at a hostel called Island Vibes at the far end of town. It was paradise. The hostel sat on a small hilltop, right on the beach. It looked across the entire bay, with its white beaches and perfect surfing breakers. The hostel was cheap, clean, had an incredible bar and such wonderful staff. We had a very tight schedule for the next week. Too many things to see to get stuck in one place; but after we saw Jeffrey’s Bay, we pushed back our itinerary and signed up for 2 nights.
Our first afternoon we spent shopping. The town of J-Bay has some incredible deals on surfer ware. Billabong, Rip Curl, Quicksilver and a few local brands all have their outlet stores at one end of town. We spent a couple hours walking the streets, trying to find some cute beach ware.
Afterwards we stopped at a little Sushi joint for some lunch. The place had long wooden picnic tables and was mostly outside. Just the laid back kind of place we love to eat at. That’s where we met Dean, our server. He and his buddy Ash were two South Africans that fell in love with J-Bay’s lifestyle and decided to stay. They work til 3, then surf and dive and party until bed, then get up and do it all again. Dean was keen to give us all sorts of local places to see: the waterfalls, the horseback riding, the places to party, he knew it all. Meeting Dean was just the beginning of our experiences with South Africans. The further along we got with our road trip, the friendlier people were. Just when we thought we’d found the nicest person in the country, the next person would surprise us by being even more helpful.
When we’d gotten some ideas on things to see, we wandered back to the hostel to relax. It was hard not to fit in relaxing in such a laid back town. The view was spectacular, the hostel offered all sorts of comfy couches to lounge on, and after a long drive, it was exactly what we needed.
Sooner than we wished, the bartender from the lower bar found us. “What are you girls doing?! Come down and have a drink with me! It’s lonely down there, come hang out at the bar.”
Oh okay, if we have to.
When we arrived the lower bar was full of just staff members. Michael Jackson (as he liked to be called) was the bartender who had dragged us downstairs. He was a hilarious guy from Malawi who spent most of the night howling with laughter about something. Then there was Ben, the organizer of daily activities for the hostel, and Richard, the upstairs bartender who was trying to fit in as many drinks as he could before his shift started. We had a great time telling stories and sipping on Windhoeks until more people finally started to join in the party.
At one point Michael Jackson got distracted by some friends, so I got behind the bar to pour drinks for everyone. I held my own behind the bar until the cooler full of beer ran out. Apparently the guys thought I did an okay job, because they asked Kelsi and I to come work for them full time. Turns out they need some female bartenders around the place. It was a tempting offer, but with a flight to India in a week, we had to politely decline.
When the beers were completely gone, we shut down the lower bar and moved everyone upstairs to the main bar. From there we spent the night meeting all the different travelers. Dean and Ash even showed up for a while to have some drinks with us before heading to a party in town. Even for a Tuesday, the hostel was pretty full of people looking to have fun.
This time it was my turn to head to bed early while Kelsi partied on into the night. And in the morning, we once again wanted to do nothing…
Unfortunately, there were too many things to see and do, so we dragged our asses out of the hostel and went to see the waterfalls.
The waterfalls were about 20 minutes or so away from our hostel. They were on a local property, just outside of town. All you had to do was pay a dollar or two to enter on to their property then it was yours for the day!
We were given excellent directions to the property. We found it, no problem whatsoever. The issue, we realized quickly, was getting from the main house, to the waterfalls. There were about 20 different routes you could take once you drove through the back yard. Dirt and gravel roads headed out in all directions: great, what now.
We followed the paths that looked the most worn, and tried our best not to bottom out our little car on the way. Finally the road just stopped. So we got out, walked to the edge of the cliff, and looked over into the gully. At the bottom, there was a little blue-green pond with a flying fox running over it. The place was gorgeous; it had some rocks to climb on, and both small and large cliffs to jump off. And as a bonus: no one was there!
Kelsi and I grabbed our things and climbed down into the gully. What a spot! We lay out on the rocks with some music and soaked up the sun. Then it was swimming time. I climbed down the rocks to see how deep the pool was, and Kelsi swung off the flying fox. We swam around for a while, then tried to climb up the rocks on the far side of the pool.
The rocks were fairly flat, but they were covered with moss and were extremely slippery. Every time we started to climb out we would slip back into the water with a splash. This started to become so funny to us that eventually we couldn’t climb out at all we were laughing so hard. We looked like two seals trying to wriggle our way up on the shore. Finally Kelsi tried a new move.
“I’m going to salmon up!” She announced.
So she wriggled her body upwards, with no arms, while I tried the same. It didn’t work. But we were killing ourselves laughing as we were half stuck up on the rocks.
“Oh my god, I wish someone could see us right now” I said.
Kelsi paused, “They can” she said.
“What?!” I looked back and upwards at the top of the cliff. Sam, an Aussie guy that we had met the night before was shaking his head and staring down at us.
“Of all the people in the world” he said “of course it would be you two I find down here”
How embarrassing. We all just laughed, as he, his brother, and a random family all came down into the gully to join us. We had a wonderful afternoon swimming and hanging out with everyone, then finally Kelsi and I decided to head back into town.
We sat on the beach watching the waves for a while, then to a restaurant called Nina’s where we stuffed our faces with nearly every seafood item on the menu.
We had a quiet evening back at the hostel. We watched the sun set over the beach, and called it a night early. Jeffrey’s bay was an incredible place to relax for a couple days along our otherwise busy road trip. The next day we were up early for more activities and another day on the road!

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Victoria Falls

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We made it to the town of Vic Falls by late morning and pulled right into the adventure booking office. For many people in our group, including our woo girls, this was the last day of the trip. So we all sat together and got a quick overview of each activity available. There was an endless number of wallet emptying things to do: elephant riding, lion walks, helicopter trips, bungee jumping, zip lining, flying foxes, the gorge swing, and white water rafting, among many other things.
We signed up for the combo package of white water rafting and the gorge swing, both of which were giving me heart palpitations even as I handed over my credit card to pay. Luckily, we booked for the following day, which gave me a full 24 hours to mull over my impending doom.
For that afternoon’s activities, Kelsi, the boys and I decided to take it easy and head over to the falls to take some photos. It was only a quick five minute drive to the entrance to the park, and from there we got to explore the lookout areas on our own.
Our first glimpse of the falls was spectacular! It was a cloudless afternoon, with a rainbow in the background and tonnes of white water crashing into the gorge below. We were now standing in the Zimbabwean side of the falls, looking towards the Zambian part we had swam in just two days earlier. The pools we swam in looked even more dangerous from this side, and we could even see a small group of people on Livingstone Island about to start their tour.
There were 12 lookout points from the Zimbabwean side of the park. Each one had an even better view and a different section of the falls to look at. At one lookout point you could stand right on the edge of the cliff looking out towards the falls. You hardly even realize that the rocks just abruptly end and fall straight down to the bottom of the gorge. There were no ropes, and no park staff members to watch people; anyone was free to just walk right up to the edge and look over. Makes me wonder how many people have just fallen over the edge, never to be seen again.
The last part of the falls started to get pretty misty. We all had to cover our cameras so the water wouldn’t get in, and we were all drenched by the time we hit the final lookout. Two of our three cameras stopped working, and even though we would have loved to hang out on the rocks, looking over the falls forever, it was time to salvage the last of our electronics and head to the bar for milkshakes.
The outing was definitely worth the $30 US dollars that it cost. Unlike my experience at Iguazu Falls, Victoria Falls was almost completely void of tourists. Apart from four other Germans we ran into, the four of us were the only people at the falls that afternoon. It was amazing!
When we’d had our fill of the falls, we made our way back to the campsite to shower and relax.
For dinner that night, we had reservations for 13 at a fancy restaurant down the road called “The Palms”. Originally a romantic dinner for two for Robbo and Emily, the other 11 of us decided to crash and have a big meal all together.
We all dressed up (for the first time this trip) and sat down to a wonderful meal. The restaurant served traditional African dishes with unique types of meat. We tried ostrich, crocodile and warthog as our strange new animals, and then a few classic dishes that were out if this world. Kelsi and I started with a mouthwatering prawn, coconut and ginger soup and a chicken ratatouille type dish. For our main we tried the warthog and the most incredible beef medallions I’ve ever eaten. Between 13 of us we tried pretty much everything on the menu; everyone got to taste a little bit of each and by the end if the meal I could hardly move I’d eaten so much.
When dinner was over, a few of us moved along to the casino across the street. The place was empty, even in a Friday night, but we had a great time playing slots, black jack, and dancing at the little nightclub. Afterwards, we went back to the campsite for drinks at our chalet and a middle of the night swim in the pool. A pretty great way to spend our last night with Mel, Cara and Sarah. Miss you ladies already!

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The Devil’s Pool

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From Malawi, we drove into Zambia. Zambia is a scarcely populated, and a much poorer country than the others we have come across. 40% of the country is unemployed, and 35% are infected with AIDS. The lack of wealth is hugely evident as you drive through the countryside. Homes are small, and built of mud and scraps. Although this kind of lifestyle was found in other places, normally mud huts would mean a Masai village. In Zambia, everyone lives like this.
Most of our time in Zambia was spent driving. We drove all day, stopped at a campsite, had dinner, a drink at the bar or a swim in the pool, head to bed, then wake up and do it again. Our second evening we watched the qualifying game for the African Cup quarter finals, but sadly Zambia lost in a game with no score. Then we played some locals at a few games of pool, and finally off to bed again.
It was our third day that we finally got back into activities. Our final night in Zambia was in a town called Livingstone. Livingstone was named after David Livingstone, the man that discovered Victoria Falls (or Mosi Au Tunya in the native tongue). The falls border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and are the longest in the world. Even from our campsite, we could hear the crashing of the falls just a short 5 minutes away.
When we arrived at the campsite just after lunch, we went to see about tours to the Devil’s Pool.
The Devil’s Pool is insane. It is where tourists get to go and swim right at the edge of the falls. Nothing but a small rope divides the edge of the falls and us swimming. We were not about to pass up this opportunity.
Unfortunately we had some problems booking the tour. The Devil’s pool and Livingstone island is owned by one company and one company only. They have a monopoly on the area, and can charge whatever and bring whomever they’d like to the falls. There are no competing tours or prices. The company has decided to limit the number of tours to four or five a day, and have a 16 person limit on each tour. This is PERFECT if you are just a couple people. The falls are quiet, it feels very un-touristy and you get more one-on-one time with the guide. It’s also probably a hell of a lot safer. I can’t imagine trying to keep my eyes on a couple hundred tourists teetering on the edge of a precipice. For our group, however, it was cutthroat. There were only 8 spaces left on the tour when we arrived; 14 of us were hoping to go. After a few backed out, we had 10 people who were 100% set on going. The lady at the booking office said there was no way two extra people could join the tour. We had to chose among ourselves who was going, and the last tour of the day left in 3 minutes. It was heartbreaking, but we fairly chose two names out of a hat to make our decision. Kelsi and Sandy’s names were pulled. The rest of us had to load up into the van immediately and head out. It really put a damper on the beginning of the tour.
It was a quick five minute drive to the starting point: a five star resort right on the river’s edge. From the hotel you could see the spray from the falls just a little ways away. From the resort we hopped into a little speed boat and made our way to Livingstone Island.
From Livingstone you are practically on the edge of the falls. It is just a small, forested island just a few steps away from the cliff edge. At this time of year, the waters are high. That means the falls are flowing fast and hard; right now, the actual Devil’s Pool is closed for swimming (and once we saw the tonnes of water rushing over the edge we could see why. No one could survive that). Luckily, there are equally as exciting ponds right next to the Devil’s Pool that are swimmable.
When we all had changed into our swim suits, we started walking towards the first pool. Our guide walked us out into the pool, one at a time, until we were all inside. We were literally on the edge of the world. A thin rope, sitting in the water, was the ONLY thing that separated us from certain death.
I was surprised at how strong the current was going over the edge. (Less surprised than I was shocked that anyone would let tourists swim in such a strong current). I found myself having to hold on to rocks beside me so that I wouldn’t be swept over the edge; a couple of us girls nearly lost our bikini bottoms as well. But as unnerving as it was, it was incredible to sit on top of the falls. The falls let off such a spray that there is a rainbow that can be seen to your left at all times in the water (could this get any more picturesque?).
From that pool we all moved into the next pond aptly named “The Washing Machine”. The current whirled around so strong that there were bubbles in the water. We could only go into this pool one person at a time, and pretty much had to hold onto the guide the entire time. Then finally, our last pool was a short walk towards Devil’s Pool. From here you could easily see the tumultuous waters flowing over the devil’s pond. Nick and I looked at each other and both agreed that we were happy they closed the pool during this time of year. Instead, we swam in the one just a few dozen meters away.
There was no rope at this pool. Just the edge. We got to take some photos standing on the very edge of the falls, looking over. It was nerve racking and so much fun all at the same time.
When we’d had our full of the waterfall, we went back to Livingstone Island for high tea. The staff had laid out a wonderful meal of mini roast beef sliders, chicken curry and vegetable pastries and brownies for dessert. Also available was a free bar! We had a beer each and took some wine home with us as an “I feel guilty, but here is some delicious wine we stole” for Kels and Sandy.
Tea was served under a white canopy with linen table cloths and several too many forks and knives at each place setting. I felt very five star sitting there in my wet bikini. We met two hilarious old ladies from the States who left their husbands at home to travel around Africa together. They were our entertainment for the evening for sure. After chatting with them for a while, it was time to head home. We packed up our gear and moved from five star resort to camp grounds in a matter of minutes.
When we arrived we found out that there was an opportunity to do the early morning breakfast tour for those that had missed out on high tea. I was so excited to hear that Kelsi got to visit the falls as well! (And she had an equally amazing time). So far, Victoria falls has not disappointed!

(Thank you Nick, for the photos)

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Iguaçu Falls: An Incredible Wonder of the World

The day after our long overnight bus trip was gorgeous: possibly the hottest day of our trip so far, although I never actually saw what the temperature was. Adam and I walked through town and down to the river so that we could get our first glimpse of Brazil (everything on the other side of the water). It was fairly uneventful, we just snapped a photo and then trudged our way back up a steep hill in the scalding heat, but, we were excited at the prospect of having a 3rd country on our list. Our hostel had a really nice pool with hammocks and lawn chairs around it, so we took it easy for the rest of the evening.

The next morning we were pumped up for the falls! I woke up, showered (carefully, since it appears ALL the showers this far north are suicide showers) and headed outside to breakfast… As I got outside, I realized it was not just raining, but pouring down in a torrential monsoon only possible in tropical rainforests. Thunder boomed and the heavy-duty waterspouts on our building were having trouble holding in all the rain. 
However, the weather was not about to deter either of us from enjoying this wonder of the world, so we grabbed our raincoats and headed for the bus stop!

As we arrived at the falls, the rain calmed down a bit. We were still soaked within minutes, but the rain was warm and it wasn’t very foggy, so pictures were not a problem.
 I wish I could describe the falls and surrounding area properly, but I suppose wonders of the world are called that simply because they are too great for words: and Iguaçu Falls is precisely that. 
 On the Argentinean side of the falls, there are several waking trails (each around a km in length) that lead to different parts of the falls. We started on the Superior Trail, and found our first view of the falls to be directly on top of them! We stood above some of the smaller falls, and looked towards San Martin Island (a small island at the foot of the falls that we explored later in the day) and were totally taken aback. Both of us at the same time thought “Jurassic Park”. The place looked exactly like some giant T-Rex should pop out of the thick jungle and terrorize both the people and the boats around the base of the falls. Of course, to our relief, this didn’t happen, but it gives you an impression of what we were overlooking. Another thing we were surprised about, was how GREEN the falls were. The water was still a sparkling white, but green grasses and exotic plants clung to the rocks of the falls, making an even more beautiful panorama.

We continued through all the other trails (and San Martin Island) for the rest of the afternoon. I think we managed to see the falls from every angle possible by the end of the day. It was absolutely mind-blowing how much water rushed over the rocks and down into the river. Iguaçu Falls is the largest waterfall in the world in terms of water volume. There are a total of 275 waterfalls and each one bigger than the next!

For our last stop, we took the train up to the “Gargantua del Diablo” or “The Devil’s Throat”. This waterfall was by far the most impressive. It is one giant, semicircular waterfall that is absolutely unbelievable. We stood right on top, in the deafening roar, and looked down over the edge. From the top, you can’t even see where the water ends, due to the amount of steam and spray it gives off when it hits the river below.

The day at Iguaçu was epic to say the least. We managed to stand on top of the falls, look up from the bottom and even take a boat ride right through them (Which soaked us to the core completely as our boat crashed through the spray and right under the rushing water). In the end the weather was refreshing, and it made for a quiet day at the park: no lines, perfect views! 
The next day, the sun was up and we headed over to Brazil. We checked in at a hostel and headed back to the falls to see them from the Brazilian side! The Brazilian side was much less interactive than the Argentinean side. There were no path to walk through the falls, and it was impossible to get up close and personal; however, it did offer amazing chances for photos from a wider perspective. The weather was perfect and the falls were just as beautiful! It is definitely a two day event and a must see wonder from both countries. Unfortunately, the only way to really understand how amazing the falls are, is to make it down yourself. Because no amount of photos or words compare…