First Weekend of Fun

I am going to save the work-related entry for a bit later. What I will tell you now is that I am working on a rape case of a convicted man. He was convicted of a double rape which carries with it a minimum life sentence. I did a bunch of research and reporting and it looks like we are going to appeal. The appeal process is tomorrow so I will just write about my experience with the whole case after that.

As for the fun stuff, we went on our first adventure this weekend. Ande picked out an area from the Lonely Planet called the Oribi Gorge. It is about 2 hours away, west of here. Ande rented a van, which is in itself a story, I picked out a hostel, which turned into its own story, and we did a bunch of activities at the Gorge, which were fantastic. All and all I thought it was a successful weekend.

Ande picked up the van on Friday after work. She had explained to the rental people that there were 9 of us, and apparently that is a bad number for renting cars. Now I haven’t explained kombis to you yet, so this is as good of a time as any. We take kombis to work. There are these large van-type things that can fit around 17 people. They go in one direction or the other (either to city center or out to an area like North Beach, which is where we live). There is a driver and a doorman. The doorman whistles and yells out the window trying to solicit passengers, whether they look like they want a ride or not. They have certain hand signals that say where they are going and the just constantly stick their heads and hands out the window. Last night was the first experience I had of a doorman trying to get us to come into another kombi and being scolded by the doorman of the one we were getting into- apparently these guys should not mess with each other. In the kombi you are piled atop one another, the outside likely has some ridiculous name and slogan (our particular favorite name is “Solja” and slogan, “A good name is better than riches”). They blast music, sometimes to an offensive level, usually hiphop. One even had a music video running on their DVD player, although that was the fanciest one we have seen. Some are really clean and new, some have the character of an old school bus I used to ride in 2nd grade. They are one of my favorite parts of the character of this city and a ride anywhere costs R35 which is less than $.50.

So anyway, Ande comes back with the car and it is a kombi. HUGE! It seats 15. We all have a laugh about how far away the person in the back seat is from the driver. We hear the story about how Ande scraped the top in a parking garage, and we revel in the thought of picking up passengers to pay off the rental. But we are off.

We make great time, and we get to see the countryside a lot. Hillside towns with makeshift shacks neighboring a nice 2 bedroom stucco house. Fires strewn about the countryside as people burn their crops. People standing on the side of the road waiting for a kombi to take them however many miles it is into town to buy groceries. Women carrying large bags of rice among other things on their heads and casually walking and swinging their arms as they talk to their friends and family. Men carrying bundles of sticks and sheets of aluminum, obviously bringing it back to add to their shanty.

We got hailed a lot from people who thought we were a normal kombi. I laughed thinking that the large “Budget” written across the top of our van was what people thought our name was. But then when we didn’t stop, people would look disappointed. Then they would realize the car was full of white girls and laugh. Oh how they laughed.

After a stop for lunch and some poor navigating by me, we got to the hostel. We pull up into their tiny parking lot with our giant vehicle and are greeted by one of the employees, Keegan. I got out to ask him about the parking situation. “Could we be any more American than this?” I asked. He thought that was pretty funny. “No, this is about right,” he said. We got the parking thing down and went in to get the tour. The place is absolutely beautiful. If you are ever in or around the Port Shepstone, South Africa area, you should stay in the Mantis and Moon hostel. It truly is a jungle oasis as the ad says. I got to sleep in a teepee!

We immediately went to the gorge where we went hiking for the day after a scary drive in a large vehicle, very fast around scary cliff-side curves. I was not a huge fan. But once we got there it was beautiful. We saw some monkeys on the side of the road. Then we went hiking to a waterfall and were on the lookout for animals but did not see any. After a tiring day we returned to the hostel for dinner and a dip in the hot tub. A few of us split a bottle of wine and Susan and I hung out at the bar talking to some of the other guests. Keegan and another guy who was staying there and Keegan’s girlfriend, a nice girl from England were a lot of fun to talk to. The friend is a Muslim and a political philosopher so we had a lot of interesting conversations. He also ended up being my pool partner and we won by a slim margin (Susan sunk the cue and the 8 together for a technical win for us). We also got roped into an hour-long conversation with a racists, drunk South African who just talked about how much he hates America and how our economy is going to crumble. Susan and I humored him a bit, and tried to argue with him. I think he learned nothing from us. He also kept asking us how Richard Nixon got elected and we tried repeatedly to explain that that was well before our time and not really something we study in history class. Interestingly enough, he was the second person we’ve heard say that America is more racist than South Africa. I am going to do some more research on this and write a whole entry on racism I think. But this guy’s story will be in the back of my head. There were some late-night shenanigans, that are probably better conveyed over a few beers so I will save those, but overall it was a fun night.

The next day we returned to the gorge. We did some adventure stuff and some sight-seeing after a gorge-side breakfast that was incredibly delicious and beautiful. I did a gorge slide that was like a slow zipline that hovered you out in the middle of the gorge, about 240 meters above the ground. It was incredible. Susan and I have decided we are taking the boys there when they visit so I am excited to go back.

Great weekend and not bad for less than $100. I am really loving this exchange rate.

No work today- the office is getting audited for their public funding which means the office is really hectic and TP doesn’t have time to find work for us. Doing the journal all day and then tomorrow to court!

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