Happy birthday Mama!
You may or may not have noticed that my last entry ended on Thursday as the “end of our work week”. The quick explanation is that the game lodge was hosting an exclusive wedding this weekend (don’t get excited, nobody famous) and so if we did not get out of town, we’d practically be stuck in our tents with nothing to do and nowhere to go all weekend. Elsie and Jim had previously offered to bring us along with them to the surfing mecca that is Jeffrey’s Bay (long time site of one of the surfing tour top 11 world events until it lost its Billabong sponsorship this year), about 4 hours up the coast for a long weekend. We’d refused at the time because it would mean missing Friday and Monday work (probably more guilt than a pure work ethic), but once Hein and Kim found out we had options they encouraged us to go or else be bored out of our minds. With the guilt factor out of the way, we called Jim and Elsie at the last minute and begged our way back into their romantic weekend. Sweet as they are, of course they obliged, and so Friday morning we arranged a “staff transfer” to Mossel Bay for a very reasonable amount (less than $30 for both of us, and it’s about an hour drive), which actually just means poor Liezel had to take us.
So, we met Elsie at their (gorgeous) house, picked up Jim from his weekly commute at the George airport, and were on our way. As it turns out they had two other friends driving the opposite direction and so we had lunch at a seaside harbour when we crossed paths. I ordered the very last serving of salmon they had and learned a valuable lesson. American salmon and South African salmon don’t appear to have anything in common except possibly the ocean (although we’re now on the Indian Ocean side of SA so maybe that’s where the mutation occurs). South African salmon is another white fish with a pretty bland taste. Good to know! We arrived in Jeffrey’s Bay around 5 to a nice 2 bedroom timeshare with a fantastic view of the ocean and surfers whose only issue was a complete lack of hot water. We hung around the place for quite a while waiting for the handyman who determined the source was broken and he was going to have to call in some favors to get someone to open back up and sell him one. Have I mentioned yet that nothing is ever open in this country? Especially on the weekends. Elsie volunteered to stay behind so that Jim, Dave, and I could go for a walk on the beach before it was completely dark out, and then we finished up the night with a couple of drinks on the deck and the new element warming up for our morning showers.
Saturday we were headed to Addo Elephant Park, another hour away from Jeffrey’s Bay. Dave and I knew very few details about this place, despite having been advised by multiple people that we had to see it-it’s about 180,000 hectares (so about 480,000 acres) of free roaming animals and thus about 100 times the size of our current game reserve. Before this trip we figured that between our game reserve and Kruger, Addo wasn’t a necessity but we’re really glad we had this opportunity with Elsie and Jim. The only problem is that it was pushing 100 degrees when we got there around 11, and animals and humans have at least one thing in common-they want to be anywhere but out in the sun on a day like that. So, after an hour or more of driving, we’d only seen a few zebra, warthogs, and a couple of other antelope. Still very cool, but not quite what one goes all the way to Addo for! We weren’t voicing our disappointment too strongly, mostly making jokes about it, when we come around one curve and lo and behold-there must be 100 elephants in the waterhole! No, we start counting-closer to 200! It was the coolest sight. They were EVERYWHERE. Including within feet of cars-we weren’t quite as adventurous (stupid?) as some of the people, but we were still able to get really close, and spent at least a half hour taking far too many pictures and enjoying the animals play. They throw mud on themselves to cool off and insulate so there was a lot of mud flying about!
After that excitement, we were pretty content with our trip. We had a fantastic picnic lunch of rotisserie chicken and potato salad-something I’d oddly only discovered, or decided to eat for the first time, just before leaving the states. Delish. As we made our way through the rest of the park, we caught sight of even more elephants (at least 50 more) and a lot of the same animals I’d listed above-sadly no lion sightings for us. Getting back to Jeffrey’s Bay at about 6, we grabbed a couple of beers together with Jim and Elsie and then they headed back to the apartment with the extremely nice promise that Jim would come pick us up when we called. We ended up playing a few games of pool at a bar where we were warned to get out before 9 as the bartender made a stabbing gesture with her hand-she wasn’t threatening us (I don’t think!) just telling us it got a little rough in there on a Saturday night. Oh, and side note-all of the pool tables we’ve played on cost approximately 25-75 cents American dollar, and all of the beers cost approximately $1.50-$2.50. We’re talking large drafts here. It’s a great savings for Dave and I! We headed to a Mexican restaurant we saw a block away where we ordered the 4x4 platter-since it was about $20 American we thought it would be a good appetizer sampler, but as it turns out it was literally 4 enchiladas, 4 burritos, 4 flautas and, thankfully 4 slices of quesadilla (as opposed to 4 whole quesadillas). Man did we feel ridiculous. The waitress was laughing at us of course, and of course she couldn’t have just told us when we ordered right? But, I kid you not, each and every piece was the best food I’ve ever had in a Mexican restaurant anywhere. I almost wish I’d never gone since I knew I would never be back. We ended up asking if there was anyone in the kitchen who might want our leftovers, and the waitress said definitely. And, as promised, we called somebody else’s dad to come pick us up after our night out and he happily obliged. We stayed up for awhile with them talking and laughing-at one point about how differently colored Dave and I are now-they forced us to take a picture which is posted above. Although I certainly appreciate the contrast, I do think Dave’s face is about as “tan” as I’ve ever seen it!
Sunday was…my mom’s birthday! Happy birthday mom! I tried to wait until 1:00pm our time (6am East Coast) to call her but didn’t quite make it. So, at 12:45 I discovered for the first time that my cell phone actually CAN call the US! It’s pricey, but good to know-so far we’ve been using Skype which has a bit of a delay (but amazing prices). We celebrated her birthday by shopping at every surf outlet you could imagine (Billabong, Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Roxy) despite not being cool enough to get away with wearing these clothes, making an attempt to lay on the beach that lasted approximately 7 minutes (cold, wind, ominous sky – should have gone the day before when it was in the 90’s!), playing some more pool (I need to work on my sober game, I lost 3-1), eating two delicious donuts (impossible to find so far in SA), and then introducing Jim and Elsie to Corona before we headed back home for dinner and games. Elsie had made a large serving of chicken ala king for us which has become one of my absolute favorite dishes over the past couple of months. Dave introduced it to our house just before leaving for SA, Kim at the game reserve made it last week, and Elsie’s was two large servings delicious. Side note: I HAVE to get my eating under control but it’s so hard when people are cooking for you every night! You can’t turn it down, right? And why would you… We spent the rest of the night teaching them how to play Euchre, a somewhat obscure game solely played in the middle of the US (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio) as far as I can tell. Once in the teaching role for the first time I realized it has the most ridiculous rules but they managed to grasp it and we successfully played into the night. Given my parent’s affinity for this game, I thought it was an appropriate way to celebrate Mom’s big day!