The Africa Diaries Entry #2: May 20, 2010

First day in Cape Town, South Africa!! I’m so happy to be here. It’s really cool. Today I went on a day tour of a township called Langa. It is a really poor area in the Cape Flats. It was an eye opening experience. A lot of people live in squalor and garbage and there are animals everywhere. The government does provide fresh water, so that is good. I saw a pre-school there and got to meet some children. They were so happy and they loved having visitors. Even though I’m generally not fond of children, the kids were so happy that they made me smile and they made me happy too. They liked to pose and to get their picture taken and then look at it on the camera screen afterward. I gave a tiny girl my sunglasses.

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After visiting the township I went to an apartheid museum and it was quite sobering and interesting. Then I went to visit Robben Island, which was also very interesting. People were isolated on the island for having diseases like leprosy and prisoners were also kept there. Nelson Mandela was a prisoner on Robben Island for 18 years. I got to see Mandela’s prison cell. The tour of the island was led by ex-prisoners and it was a really interesting tour.

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Mandella's prison cell

Mandela’s prison cell

Inside Mandella's Prison Cell

Inside Mandela’s Prison Cell

 

I met a girl named Alex who did the same overland tour as I am about to do, only starting in Nairobi and ending in Cape Town, she loved it, and told me it was amazing. I’m excited.

I’ve been trying to determine if water truly does circle the drain clockwise instead of counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere. I can’t tell so far. The toilet water doesn’t really circle the drain so much as go straight down in my hotel room. Yesterday I took a bath and tried to watch the water go down, I still couldn’t tell. Again, it just seemed to go straight down. The water that comes out of the tap here is yellowish. It felt a little strange laying in a tub of yellow water, but the temperature was nice and I just ignored it. Before I let the water out I peed just to see if I could even tell there was urine in the water. I couldn’t tell. It was fun.

Tomorrow I will go on a hike and bike tour and I signed up for cage diving with sharks the day after that – yikes!!

The weather is really good and I like it here.

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The Africa Diaries Entry #1: May 19, 2010

During 2010 I toured through Africa.  I kept a detailed journal.  I plan to share it, this was my first entry.

May 19, 2010

I’m in a hotel room in Cape Town, South Africa.  It’s taken over a day and approximately 23 hours of actual flight time to get here.  The flight from Phoenix to Minneapolis was fine.  From Minneapolis to Amsterdam was torture- crying baby, old guy telling war stories, young guy next to me invading my personal space and no leg room.  Flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town was surprisingly enjoyable.  I sat next to a young man named Will who is staying in Cape Town for 6 weeks to help arrange micro-loans for women.  Also next to a young woman named Desiree who is volunteering with horses, children and rhino tracking in Namibia.

As the plane landed my heart began to beat faster.  I have long wanted to travel to Africa, and now I’m finally here.  I was so happy as I got off the plane and my feet touched African soil for the first time.

I was picked up by a guy from the gap adventures tour company and brought to the Saasveld Lodge on Kloof Street in Cape Town.  It’s night so I haven’t seen much yet.  The city seems cool.  People drive on the left.  The city is extremely excited about the world cup this summer.  I won’t be here for it.  I’m taking a tour of Robben Island tomorrow.  I’m so excited.  I need to sleep now.

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(at the hotel after incredibly long travel time)

I Vomited on a Shark!

Shark diving in South Africa – I gave my breakfast to a shark, and now I’ve got nothing to eat.   

Not far from Cape Town, South Africa, exists a place called “Shark Alley” it’s one of the few places that I know where tourists can get onto a boat and see great white sharks in the wild and it is also to get into a dive tank alongside the boat and see them from underwater.  In the summer of 2010 I decided to do this.  

My goal for the day started out: see a shark, maybe see one underwater. My new goal (after achieving the first two), was to puke on a great white shark. This goal was also achieved. 

Ok, ok, so I know I get sea sick. I KNOW this. I knew this ahead of time.  I also knew I really wanted to see sharks.  I also knew that Dramamine has helped in the past.  However, the key word here is in the past. Holy shit!  

I took two Dramamine before getting on the boat to head into the ocean. I felt pretty good, did fine for the entire ride out toward “shark alley,” but after arriving there, the boat was just sitting at seam rocking and lurching, then I started feeling green. 

While I focused on trying not to vomit, I was forced to ignore all instructions on how to get on the wet suit and how to jump into the shark cage.  Instead, I stared at the land, sucked on a lollipop (which is supposed to help with sea sickness but does not), and I had to sit for several minutes. 

The crew on the ship was a bunch of macho young men and they were very happy and throwing chum everywhere to attract sharks to the area. Within only a few minutes sharks appeared. It was really cool. I got to see them come near the boat and people were getting all suited up to dive into the cage and see them up close. I managed to take one picture of a shark fin protruding from the water and then had to sit down again. A really nice volunteer helper lady from England and another one from California basically dressed me in a wet suit, because I told them that I really wanted to see the sharks underwater even though I could barely stand up and function.  I laid on a bench like a small child and let them pull a wet suit over my body.  I handed them arms and legs as needed to achieve this.  I really thought that if I could just get into the tank in the water that I would not be as sea sick. 

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After being dressed by nice ladies, I had to spend several minutes deep breathing and fighting nausea.  I then managed to get into the cage and went down for a few moments at a time, the cage is near the surface of the water and one has to simply dive under the surface of the water with a mask on and look at sharks as they swim by.  Ok cool.  However I immediately realized that the sea sickness actually got worse in the cage.  I had a hard time breathing and felt as though I may drown.  Pumping adrenaline enabled me to manage to go under a few times and see some sharks.  It was really amazing.  One came right up near me and I looked into his huge black eye as he swam by. I felt safe in the cage and thought to myself that he looked just like sharks do on TV. He was very beautiful and amazing to see. But, after a few minutes I had to ask the crew to let me out; I was about to vomit in my mask.  It was a little nerve-wracking and scary to come out of the top of the tank right at the surface of the water with two very large great white sharks circling the cage. But I made it out, probably largely due to the fact that the crew pulled me out, I think.

Then, I had to suffer in my own personal hell for the next two hours.  It was  some of the longest hours of my life.   Ug, horrible horrible sea sickness that had no end. The lurching of the boat and the smell of chum and the young macho crew guys all screaming and shouting made me so sick.  I sat with my wet suit on, sitting in a pitching boat in the Atlantic ocean, freezing.  I managed to get my wetsuit halfway off and sat shivering and staring out at sea attempting to fight down the nausea.  It’s probably the first time in my life that I didn’t mind feeling as though I was freezing.  It didn’t bother me at all compared to the horrible nausea and waves of sickness.  In fact I wished I could only be freezing and not nauseated, freezing was so much better. 

Then the puking started.  I vomited over the edge of the boat, and all along side of the boat.  I’m pretty sure the macho crew men thought I was gross; I was gross.  I thought I would feel better puking, and I did, for about 5 minutes….  Then more puking.  Lots and lots of puking.  I saw a great white shark swim right under me.  I puked on him too.  Behind me I could hear the other passengers of the boat, they were so happy, they were so thrilled, they went on and on about how this was one of the most mind-blowing and amazing experiences of their lives…  It was one of the most gut-blowing experiences of mine.  The skipper handed me another lollipop, which I took one look and and vomited some more.  Then I tried to open it, oh why was it so god damned difficult to open, oohhhh, so frustrating.. more vomiting.  I managed to peel off my wet suit which was really bothering me at this time and I stood lurched over the deck of the boat in my bikini in the freezing Atlantic ocean barfing on sharks.  Small fish were eating my vomited breakfast.  Then I had nothing more to puke and was simply making disgusting retching noises and basically crying.  The lady volunteers were really nice.  The macho crew men sometimes stared at me in disgust and pity.  The nice English lady and the California lady tried to comfort me and they both told me that I wasn’t the only one to ever do this on the boat.  I didn’t really care or find that very comforting. I just wanted to get a few more pictures of the sharks or look at them a little more, but could not find the strength to get my camera or walk to the area where they were “chumming.”  I never made it back there before the end of the trip and never got another picture.  

I was happy that I at least did get to see the sharks, and that I was able to go in the dive take for even a short time and see the sharks near me underwater.  I was however and still am sad that I didn’t get to see them more or spend more time in the shark tank.  I think I would have really loved it if my stomach could handle it.  I think it would be great fun to do if I didn’t barf the whole time.  Good news is that I was given free ginger beer afterward to help settle my stomach.  I love ginger beer, so that was a bonus.

So, how many people can say they vomited on a shark? I suppose it was a good thing to check off a life’s list of goals!