For those who didn’t know, there was a typhoon here a few days ago and I’m glad to say, I made it yal. I survived a super typhoon before the age of 30. Bucket list check. I planned to hit publish on this one yesterday, my actual birthday but I ended up being busy all day so here I am at 6 am on Sunday putting on the final touches to this post. Anyway, last time I shared the first 8 places from my 30 for 30 list. Today I’ll be giving you the next 8. Most of these have been memories from my late teens and early twenties so please enjoy part two of my:
30 best travel memories from a wandering soul!
Jumping right in with another first here. Having grown up as a church kid, and later a pastors kid, I have spent most of my life watching my parents dedicate their lives to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Church has taken them across the country and even across borders with my siblings and I tagging along as part of their carry on luggage most of the time. When it was finally time to make my own commitments to the faith, I too chose to go where God would lead me, and that’s how I ended up in Bloemfontein. The church I attended during varsity and also before I moved to Japan, usually organises these small mission outreach trips to local and international churches within their network. Locally the main mission is to re-energise the church being visited and help them with some community outreach. Anyway, when I signed up for this trip, I was fairly new to the church and didn’t know many of the other people going on the trip. I was slightly apprehensive about it but I had to remind myself that it wasn’t about me.
I ended up enjoying the trip so much that it goes down as one of my favourite memories from my time in that church. I also managed to find new best friends (this sounds wrong to me because these two are so much more). Anyway, Bloem was great. Much like Parys, which is around an hour away, the night sky is breathtaking. The city was big and sprawling just like I had imagined and the University campus made me wish I had considered the University of the Free State as an option back when I was looking for a place to study.
10) East London
A few months after my trip to Bloem, I managed to snag some R1 flights during the first Flysafair sale and decided to take a girls trip with my new friends from church. Our return flights allowed for exactly 24 hours to explore the city of East London so we booked accommodation, packed our bags, and got ready for a new adventure together. Perhaps the craziest thing I’ve done to date, travel halfway across the country with people I’d barely known for 5 months. This also happened to be my first ever local flight as up to this point, regardless of the time required, I have always driven to my holiday destinations (an activity that I believe gets the travel squad adjusted to each other long before they reach their destination, which I love).
As far as East London goes, we spent a very short time there but that’s okay because unless you book your own activities to keep you busy during your stay, there’s not much to see or explore in the small river and seaport town. I remember after spending the morning relaxing at our farmhouse accommodation, we checked out, booked a taxi and headed out to explore the city. We wanted to go to the beach since we were near the sea. After having a chat with our taxi driver about this, the man suggested a beach and off we went. Man oh man do I wish we had asked more questions. We knew immediately that this man had misjudged us when our taxi approached the dodgiest dirtiest beach braai (bbq) area that I had ever seen in my life. The ground barely had grass yet people were laying strewn all around with multiple green beer bottles and cooler boxes with them. The driver announced: “We’re here! Where would you like me to drop you off?” My friends and I exchanged looks. We all looked outside. I looked at myself and then looked outside again. Man, this man really did not see us!
When we finally recovered from our collective shock, I noticed that the driver had realised that he had gotten our vibe wrong. He drove on till we reached the beachfront, which wasn’t that much better mind you since it was a few meters from the dirty braai spot, and we jumped out despite his pleas for us to tell him where else we wanted to go. We decided to just walk on the shoreline for a bit as we laughed about the fact that the taxi driver had brought us to such a place. After running our feet through the sand, taking a few snaps of the nice rocks and getting mildly sunburnt, we decided to sit down at one of the restaurants on the beachfront. My friend had a friend working in town who had promised to take us around after work so we ordered drinks and sat watching over the sea as we sat on the veranda. We talked about God, we talked about our trip and we talked about our hopes for the future. It was one of the most honest talks I’ve had with my friends. This is one of my favourite memories from my travels because as unplanned as it was, it felt like the universe aligned just right so that we could have that talk that day.
11) Cape town (part 1)
Just as some of us feel like you are not truly South African if you have never been to Durban, some would say the same about Cape Town. Somehow I managed to go most of my life without visiting the furthest coastal town from Joburg (absolutely no, the distance had nothing to do with it!). My dad has this picture of himself standing on top of Table Mountain from when he was young and still travelling a lot for work. To me, while growing up, he looked so cool on that mountain top in khaki coloured chinos, brown jersey and blue tie. The gear was for work (There’s a picture of him and his team all dressed the same, holding up completion certificates to prove it), but I still thought it was cool. My mother would also always tell us about the time she went to Cape Town in her teens for a choir trip. They both enjoyed their time there but with a house full of kids, it wasn’t a priority to go back. So when my church announced another trip, and this time to Cape Town, I was like, where do I put my name? I didn’t get to explore as a tourist this first time but thanks to the kindness of a church friend I did get a rough feel of how it would be to live in the Mother City. Perhaps a more enlightening experience than being there just as a tourist.
12) Richards Bay
Moving on, number 12 goes to Richards Bay! My family and I have been to the golden coast (Durban area) so many times it’s a miracle we’ve never wondered to the surrounding beach towns. Richards Bay is about an hour and a half’s drive from Durban and is home to Africa’s deepest harbour. Richards Bay was the second leg of our trip, having taken a few days in Hluhluwe (I probably should have moved this one up on the list so you know what I’m talking about but yolo) first to hunt some big game (with our eyes). Even though it doesn’t seem like it, driving around for days around the same area trying to spot your bucket list of animals is extremely draining. That’s how Richards Bay turned into a luxury relaxation stay. I had found us a lovely bread and breakfast with beautiful Victorian styled bedrooms and a delicious breakfast to boot. We planned to go out swimming and exploring but we were so tired all we wanted to do was sleep and laze around in our beautiful rooms, which is exactly what we ended up doing for most of the trip. The rest of the time was spent hunting for places to eat when the braai meat finished. Richards Bay was quaint and I kind of liked it. Especially since I also got to enjoy my favourite activity of sitting and sipping a cup of tea at sunrise on a balcony.
13) Kenya – Nairobi
At some point in my life, I signed up to do a stint as a Google Ambassador for my varsity. It was cool because for the training Google flew us out to Nairobi in Kenya. Now, this was my first official trip abroad – I don’t count the trips I took as an infant to Swaziland because those don’t reflect on my passport. Anyway, shwoop, I hopped on a plane with 10 or so other strangers from SA and headed to Kenya. It was amazing. This trip is on my list because it opened my eyes about so many things about my beautiful continent. I finally understood what foreigners meant after they visited Africa and the one take away they always had was how “friendly” people are. Kenyans are so friendly! And all the other Sub-Saharan Africans too. I met so many inspiring young people over that few days that I genuinely for the first time could imagine a better tomorrow for our continent. I can’t wait for all the radical children that this generation of free thinkers will raise.
We did a whole bunch of stuff in our few days in Kenya, explored the malls, played on some playgrounds, got lost in the night. It was fun. I learnt that Nairobi has 24hr malls, something that I think should exist everywhere in the world. I learnt that Swahili sounds so similar to the Nguni languages that it should be added to my list of languages to learn (soon). Nairobi was a jam, I’m overdue for a return trip.
Next on my list is my next international trip: Wales. Back in 2005 my best friend and her family packed their bags and went back to their motherland in Europe. It was a very distressing event for us as kids back then but we decided to write each other letters and drop a phone call once in a while when we could afford it to make the distance feel less daunting. Fast forward to 10 years later and she asked me to be her bridesmaid, and so began my journey to the little village of Ebbw vale.
So I jumped on my first flight off of the continent on my own and headed to Wales. I might have said this about another place before but THIS was the scariest thing I had ever done. I had never travelled completely alone before this and it took all I had not to scream and jump every time people mistakenly bumped into me or looked at me the wrong way. I was like a deer in headlights. At some point, I almost didn’t get off at the right bus stop when I needed to change buses. I’ll always remember the bus conductor asking me: “You wanna end up in Swansea?”
It was exciting though and I remember being stoked by the fact that I would go past the Forest of Dean (if you know, you know) on my way to my friend’s house. I stayed a week and a half and between last-minute wedding preparations, like fitting my dress – something I was stressed about for the months leading up to the wedding, my friend gave me both the local and tourist perspective of her new home. We visited a few castles, took a day trip to explore the capital and even squeezed in some shopping. Even though it was the last month of winter, with snow still on the ground, I have only warm memories of my time there.
I already knew that I loved travelling but my trips abroad really cemented that feeling for me. So when I started earning my own money, it became my topmost priority to travel travel travel. Nelspruit was the beginning of such trips. I don’t remember who recruited who but in my first year of working, a few of my work buddies and I got together and took a trip to Nelspruit, in the province of Mpumalanga. I’d never really been on holiday for that long with people who were not my family members, so I didn’t know what to expect from the holiday. Turns out there’s so much to do in Mpumalanga that the number of activities will outnumber the amount of time you have to complete them, and as a bonus, the amount of time you have to beef amongst yourselves too.
Last but not least for this week I’ll wrap it up with my most favourite place in the whole world: Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game reserve. At some point having visited Kruger national park with numerous disappointments when it came to trying to spot the big 5, we decided to venture to other game parks around the country. My dad did some research on one of the years we would still visit my sister in PMB and he found this place. So we decided to visit the game reserve on a day trip first instead of going to the beach and we have been hooked since.
I have this story that I love to tell about the time we visited Hluhluwe and almost got attacked by hyenas. Most people who know me have heard it by now but I’ll share it here again because it encompasses the reason why I love love love this place, even more than my Satara rest camp in Kruger National Park. So in Hluhluwe, the electricity is generator generated and they switch off the lights after 10 pm. For this reason, you are usually advised to get most of your ish done early so that you are not caught off by the lack of electricity. Anyway, they also advise that you don’t braai after dark as there is only an Elephant barrier around the camp so other smaller animals, even the meat-eaters like lions and hyenas will sometimes pass through the park at night. We didn’t take this warning seriously and at 8 pm we found ourselves at the braai stand braaing some meat up for dinner. Incidentally, my mom was in the middle of telling us about how she could easily fight off a lion with her superhuman strength when we heard some rustling in the bushes behind us. The rustling was enough to send my mom flying. I have never seen this woman run so fast in my entire life yal. My dad and I had a good chuckle when the source of the rustling turned out to be a deer wandering around alone. Our fun was short-lived though because a minute later a hyena came lumbering out from the same bush. When I say my heart stopped yal.
The deer did the right thing and saved itself, my dad and I? So where other people might have a fight or flight response to dangerous situations, I have a freeze response and that freeze took a hold of me that night too. It seemed like the hyena was contemplating what to do about us. My mom was yelling for us to run at this point and I couldn’t for the life of me move. I finally managed to open my mouth and ask my dad what I should do and I swear you guys, this man is going to get us killed! He responded so confidently that we should do nothing! He was like “We are the boss over the animals of this Earth, this hyena must listen to us.” And with those words, he clanged his two knives together and told the hyena to get lost.
To this day, I am shocked at the confidence and bravado but mostly at the fact that the hyena ran away as soon as my dad did this. I was so uncomfortable after it left though and I kept telling my dad that we should abandon our task of making food and just go inside. It was only when one of the cars coming back from a night time drive shone its lights near our house as it passed that we realised how bad the danger was. There was like a pack yal. I think I counted 6 or so hyena slowly moving around the other side of our house. Man, I packed that meat so fast back into the containers and ran for it. Luckily my dad decided to not try to be brave this time around and he helped me get everything back inside. A few minutes passed and the hyenas filled our back yard area at the spot where we were just braaing. Till that point, I’d never seen them so close before. They were huge! I’m very sure the leader of the pack was easily as tall as my shoulder height! Anyway, so this makes Hluhluwe my favourite. It’s a relatively small park but the adventures and stories you will hear from people who have visited here will keep you coming back and looking for a new adventure.
Thank you for reading this far. Today’s post felt like a longy to me but I hope you enjoyed the read and maybe even added a few places on my list to your own bucket list. Anyway, I enjoyed my birthday yesterday doing the thing I love: Travelling. Here’s to more trips and more adventures.