Day 3 (February 26th)
We woke up bright and early at 5 a.m. today. First we had a “backpackers breakfast” of coffee and rusks. Rusks are these hard bread-like, biscotti things that look like chunks of really stale, hard bread and you dip them in your coffee. I had a muesli rusk, which kind of made it taste like I was eating cereal with coffee. Shortly after, we began our drive to the Elephant Back safari lodge. We drove our big coach bus up the winding cliffs and it was so terrifying looking over the edge and not be able to see the ground because we were so close to the edge. No guardrails, of course, and our driver was a speedy one, so it was quite a ride. After about an hour, we arrived at a hotel in the mountains and transferred from the bus to open-air jeeps for another hour-long ride to the elephant area. We arrived and split into groups, with my group going first and the other group heading down the hill to the lodge for breakfast. The “ellies” arrived for the rides and it was so cool to watch them lumber up to the stairs so we could swing our legs over their backs and just climb right on, bareback of course. The elephant pretty much felt like sandpaper and it had extremely coarse hair so it was a little rough. We also were sitting right on the elephant’s spine, as it swayed back and forth for our 20-minute ride, so my backside was quite bruised for a few days. Ouch! I was on the last ride of the group, and we rode 2 at a time, in addition to the guide who was with us, so carrying over 300 pounds of weight limited our ride time, otherwise I would have loved to stay on for hours, as long as I had a soft cushion or something to sit on. After the ride we followed them on a short walk to see how they interact with each other. A third elephant came to join us and it was so cute to watch the other two greet him and almost “shake hands” but with their trunks. Then we got to feed the elephants at their feeding post and the trainers told us to make sure to keep the food going or else they would try to steal the other elephants’ food. And that’s exactly what happened with ours except we fed him all his food and everyone else was going too slow so he thought we had jipped him and bumped his trunk in the way of the food going into the trunk of the elephant next to him. Then we moved along and the elephants kneeled down on all fours and we got to take pictures sitting on their legs. I was the last one to get a picture and my elephant got impatient and just stood up as I was sitting on his knee. Finally the other half of our group arrived and it was time to head down to breakfast at the lodge. The food was so delicious! There were yogurts, cereals, juices, breads, jams, tea, rooibos and coffee, all to enjoy before the main dish even arrived, which was sausage, eggs and a sort of spicy bean dish. Then we had time to tour the grounds of the lodge, which was just a covered outdoor dining room with a sitting room. There was a lawn and a pool and the chalets were spread out around the main area. The chalets overlooked the valley we were in and were so cute. The only thing I didn’t like about this are was the SPIDERS. Oh boy! Were they gross and EVERYWHERE! They not only looked creepy with extra long legs, they were in every nook and cranny you could see and spread out between branches and trees. Once I almost walked right into a web but ducked at the last second. EW! My friend, Sahana, and I were exploring one of the chalets but we were both freaking out about the spiders and finally turned back to the dining area. We hung out in the shade for a while and the second group finally came back. We picked up our sack lunches from our nice hosts at the lodge and hopped back in the jeeps for the ride back to our bus and a five-hour bus ride to our next stop, the TsiTsikamma (the s in that word is silent) National Park. When we arrived at the park, which was right on the coast, we had a beautiful hike up through the forest and traveled to a suspension bridge that crossed a river right where it met with the ocean. On the other side were a bridge and a small beach with a steep and rocky incline. It was funny though because the beach was filled with large round rocks about the size of a baby head that would roll and make this weird sound as the waves hit them and rolled back down. We headed back toward the visitors center and though we only had a short time left but the tour guide had told us the wrong time so a few girls got their bathing suits on and hopped in the water. I was glad I didn’t put my suit on because not only was the water cold, there were some weird, creepy guys who were watching the girls, and a few of them even came and hit on the girls. It was finally time to leave and go check in at our next backpackers. The next Backpackers was much nicer then the first one, although the first one had more character. But one thing I liked about this place is that there were outdoor tents some people slept in. I got put in one of the indoor rooms with bunk beds, or I totally would have snagged one of the tents. They were sort of army-style larger tents, built for two, but they had cots in them with a comfy mattress on them. After a delicious dinner of chicken, rice and some good veggies, we had time to just hang out, and of course most of us utilized the wifi. I took in the amazingly bright stars we could see just sitting on the porch. I also took a shower in the actual showers they had, and I didn’t need to heat my own water. We all headed to bed on the earlier side since we had to wake up early again the next morning.