A bit of an extended stay

Trip Start Jan 03, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Monday, October 31, 2011

The Baz bus.  That's right, a bus named Baz...the big, bad, Baz machine...  It would be my transportation for a few weeks down the eastern coast of Africa...  Essentially it's just a large shuttle bus that takes you to and from your hostels of choice...a good idea for travelers who want safety and less stress of planning how to get to the next place.
I was picked up early in the morning from Umkomaas to begin my long bus ride to Port St. Johns.  I left that morning reluctantly as I wished to have one more day to spend in town; but the feeling to continue onwards usually takes over...usually.  I threw my bags on the bus, took a seat in the back and slept...and slept until 5 some hours of driving were behind us and we arrived at a fuel station for a toilet break.  With my brain working 30% I wasn't in the chatty mode but the German gal next to me was.  Oh but was she sweet...Annette.  We discussed recommendations of places to stay along the coast and with that I was back to dreaming...
Some hours later we arrived at another fuel station.  This time in Umtata, my stop.  It looked like a chaotic party happening in the streets of Umtata.  Yes, I gripped my bag a bit with the scene before me.  Was I back in Asia?  The driving turned horrendous.  Surely we would run someone over with the free-for-all happening in the streets.  We didn't but visions flashed before me.  I was dropped at the station where I was met by a young guy, Ashley...AKA Bob Marley.  He was Bob Marley x3 in size.
"Jungle Monkey?" he said to me.
"I guess so..." I replied with a smirk.
Jungles Monkey was the name of the hostel I booked with.  And it was a jungle let me tell you.
He walked me to the jeep where I was met by Mike, the hostel owner.  I was a bit confused as to who was who, why Bob Marley was escorting me to the truck and then who was this baby?  Little Molly showed up...a darling little baby with her mom...I thought I was getting picked up by another bus to take me into the town of Pt. St. Johns, but instead a random bunch of people and a baby?
I found myself with Molly on my lap within minutes of taking off in the stuffy, non AC jeep...of course right?  I figured out the situation with a few initial questions.  The owners of the hostel, Mike and Hanni (who I can now say is absoulutely a wonderful young woman) arranged to pick up their friends visiting from Amsterdam in Umtata; so instead of having me take another bus they picked me up as well and headed back with them.  This worked out well.  I got to play with Molly during the several hour drive...I needed my baby fix surely.  I have a nephew at home whom I haven't met yet; he's waiting to be smothered by me!
We made a few stops before actually getting out of town...at McDonalds of course (I resisted the urge), the grocery store with lines making anyone break a sweat and a toilet break.  And then I was back to my preferred state of sleeping for the remainder of the drive.  Yes, despite curvy roads, around the mountains, up and down...I slept.
Within hours we had arrived.  I was shown around the hostel, taken to my dorm and encouraged to join the others for drinks.  With a smile I nodded my head but everything in me said no.  I wanted a quiet evening.  An evening to myself...no talking, just me...alone. 
There was a room nearby my dorm with couches, a fireplace and dining area.  I plopped myself down with my random assortments of papers stuffed in my backpack and organized for a bit before laying my head down.  I had come a long ways...I would not so much have leaned back on some of the hostel couches I've been around and now...well now my head face down, and I was drooling on it.
I woke up apparently a bit later than everyone else the following morning.  There's nothing like wiping the crusties from your eyes as you walk outside for a free cup of hostel coffee and see everyone looking awake, alert, ready for the day.  Not me.  I was still in my 'leave me alone please' mood.  Yeah, feel bad about that sometimes but then not.  One drawback to hostels...sometimes it's hard to be alone.  I noticed the random animals around the hostel.  There was a chicken...simply named...well, Chicken of course who was finding himself a nice place on the couch.  There was a cat.  No name for the cat.  A huge St. Bernard named Skilos who I could not leave alone and three other random dogs who weren't nearly as interesting to me as the others. I suggested getting a goat.
Well, my being alone changed quickly.  I wasn't able to seperate myself from the others too long.  Let's just say my original plan of staying one and a half days in Pt. St. Johns turned into almost a week.  I fell in love...
Oh this is fun.  I know what you're all thinking but no...I fell in love with this part of Africa, Pt. St. Johns.  The scenery was stunning...some of the best.  The sea was just breathtaking...the views from the tops of the mountains...unbelievable.  What more could I ask for?  The small town several minutes walking from the hostel was authentic, full of life, energy, people, culture.  I loved it.  The small, one and only coffee shop was just perfect set in the background of the towns chaos.  I envisioned much as I sat there and sipped...
Two young guys, 20 and 21...Luyanda and Pitzo quickly became my favorite people at the hostel.  These guys grew up in the area and had been working at the hostel for nearly a year.  The first encounter I had with them was a hike through the jungle.  And boy was it a hike.  I'm talking straight up jungle. 
"Are we in the jungle...really, are we in the jungle?"  Of course it was me asking this obvious quiestion.
Unreal.  The jungle of Africa.  And to think the boys told us girls we could wear flip flops for the hike..flip flops!  They went barefeet...I was in my hiking gear and still had issues.  But these were the real African jungle boys!  Such sweet guys who I thouroughly enjoyed spending time with for nearly a week.  I asked them questions...and questions, we talked and talked...  Luyanda quiet, Pitzo a chatter-box.  They took me to the markets, we had dinners, hikes, the beach...I felt like the mother of these boys...in a fun 'mother' way though.
Music.  Every evening there was live music at the hostel.  Several very, very talented musicians, singer-songwriters live at the hostel and play music...they have been for quite some time and let me tell you this young woman Tabbs (if I'm spelling that right) is American Idol star all the way (but of course it would be African Idol)  Stunning.  She will make everything in your soul stir...  I'm not kidding.  Her music will be world-wide once she decides to move forward with it.  And I have her on video!  I just can't download it at the moment.  And we ate chocolate cake together!!  I got a kick out of her, and she...well she seemed to enjoy my nieve self.  She has a voice that penetrates, that is addictive in every way, that speaks to the innermost part of your soul...truly.  I was in another bit of heaven...
In the evenings Hanni and Mike (the owners) would often take everyone up to the top of the mountain for sunset in the jeep.  The ride a bit bumpy and crazy of course but much fun.  To see that kind of beauty at the end of the day, day after day was something...I was overwhelmed with the 'why me?' thoughts...
One of the greatest 2 hours in Pt. St. Johns was spent whale and dolphin watching.  A group of girls and I got on the boat and went out in search of something moving, jumping, twirling...anything, in the water.  And wow, we sure saw it.  Not one, three or five whales...whales here, there and everywhere.  They came so close to the boat if I had Inspector Gadget arms I could've made it happen for myself.  I couldn't stop smiling.  And couldn't stop mumbling not so nice things to my camera as it was OUT OF BATTERY and MEMORY.  Who does that...the worst timing ever!
A day to not forget.  And the dolphins...we must have seen one hundred in total out at sea.  Wow.  No other words.  I loved being back on the water...becoming a favorite place of mine.
One afternoon while relaxing in the hammock, I saw a man from a distance approaching the hostel with his backpack on...who was the new guest at the hostel...  Ah.  It was a Latino man.  I had to laugh.  And then I told myself to stay away Shana...
That evening I had dinner with Luyanda and Pitzo, salmon as a matter a fact...and Mr Latino man, Gibran, was interested in travel chat.  I was polite with my responses but short with extensive answers.  The following day I found myself in town at the market, picking out food to make that evening with Mr Gibran.  A funny guy...he had a way of making grocery shopping interesting, and somehow embarassing for me as well.
That day he and I took a hike with vague directions, a destination in mind and somehow a random dog to join us.  Not sure where this dog came from but he hiked with us for hours.  A sweet dog with a seeming need for adventure.  So we adopted him for the day.
Talk about a bush hike through the jungle...if that wasn't it I don't know what is.  Gibran lead the way as there was no path to be had...they always say make your own path in life right?  With blood, cuts and an itchy body I made it through.  And of course a little complaining to emphasize it all.  Even the poor dog was reluctant as we made our way through the bush...
We came across a village at the top of the mountain where we met these beautiful children who initially were skeptical of 'the three of us,' but within minutes they were following us down the dirt road.  Great kids.  And that's what I love.  That's what it's all about.  Meeting random people in random places...finding a new place to explore, not having full knowing of what's to come...have to love it.
What was to be a short stay in Pt. St. Johns became an extended stay...a wonderful stay with many memories.  I am left with a desire to go back...to return...one day.

Quote of the day: If you spend your energy trying to control your life, you'll never use your energy to create a life.

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Rae on

Shana! I've been trying to get ahold of you on Facebook. I have some friends I met in Korea (I taught with them and they are now back home in SA) who live in Durban who would like to meet up with you. They are awesome, and i know they would show you a good time. Check your FB wall so we can hopefully coordinate something. But I will warn you, I will be super jealously if you do see them because it's been over a year and I miss them terribly. Let me know! :-)

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