Superlatives

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This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, March 16, 2004 was originally posted on March 22, 2004.

DAY 150:  An electronic alarm clock went off at 6:30 in the morning.  I knew I didn’t set mine and just lay in the dorm room along with Chris, Andy, Sonja and two other English guys.  (The four other girls paid extra for private rooms.)  The alarm wouldn’t stop.  I heard Chris rustling through his bag and I thought to myself, ‘Hey, Chris has the same alarm clock as me!’ but the incessant beeping continued and I realized that it was coming from my bag.  I leaped off the top bunk and shut it off — I had forgotten to turn the alarm setting off from the day before.  I hopped back into bed.

Half an hour later, Andy’s alarm went off.

WITH EVERYONE AWAKE, we had two options for the morning excursion:  go canoing up the nearby Touw River, or take the scenic train ride on the historical Choo-Tjoe steam train along the coast.  After long durations in the Bok Bus with hardly any time to exercise, Sarah, Kate, Sonja and I opted for the canoes — besides, the train had derailed some weeks before.

Tom dropped the four canoers at Eden Adventures near the mouth of the Touw River, where he rented two two-man canoes for us.  He told us we only had two hours to canoe before having to pick up the others at the end of the Choo-Tjoe line, so we shouldn’t go farther than an hour away before returning back to base.  On the map was the icon of a waterfall that the four of us wanted to check out, even if it was “45 minutes to an hour by canoe, and then 30-40 minutes on foot” according to Tom. 

“If we go really fast, we can make it,” I told the others.  We decided to go for it.

The two canoes went upstream on the black waters of the River Touw.  Although the black and dark brown water looked like something out of a sludge processing plant, it was actually clean and drinkable — the color was just due to plant oxides — but I wasn’t about to find out what happened if I ingested it.  Sonja and I led the way with Sarah and Kate just behind.  We were on the lookout for the fork in the river to see how far we had gotten, until we pulled out the map from our watertight bucket — we were already at the trail head, and in just thirty minutes.  Being ahead of schedule, the four of us decided to trek the three kilometers to the waterfall.

The trail was a lot longer than we expected; it winded up and down hills and even required walking along pipelines at the edge of narrow cliffs.  The trail wasn’t too bad though; it was easy enough for the group of senior citizens that were hiking the trail as well, just one-fourth the speed of us.  One of them told us that she had done the trail before and that the waterfall was “beautiful.”

The path seemed to go on forever.  For Sarah, it ended only a third of the way because she slammed her head into a tree branch, bruising it almost black and blue.  Her expensive sunglasses flew off so she and Kate stayed behind to look for it.  Later, they found it with one lens popped out, crushed by another hiker.

Sonja and I trekked on and it seemed time was accelerated because it was running out with no waterfall in sight.  We ultimately jogged to the end of the trail, only to discover that what the old woman called “beautiful” was actually pretty anti-climatic.  In fact, after all that, it was quite a pathetic waterfall

“Is this it?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Sonja answered.

“Does the trail continue?”

“I don’t know, but we have to go back anyway.”

“Yeah.”

The two of us ran back triple-time to the where we had parked the canoe.  Sonja’s sandal ripped, which made things worse, but she was a trooper and continued in spite of it.  We ran up and down the stairs, passed the old folks and made it back to the river head with twenty-five minutes left to paddle back to base.  We thought that it would be easier going downstream, but we neglected to factor in the winds that worked against us.  We paddled with all our might over the black water and made it back to base in time, give or take ten minutes.  (I’ll take ten.) 

Why we rushed back I didn’t know — Tom said he wanted to be at the train station 40 km. away to get the others on time since “it was a bit boring,” but when we got there, they were casually relaxing outside with drinks.  Oh well, as they say, “No Pain, No Gain” — although I’m not quite sure if I gained anything but sore arms.


IN 2000, WHEN I BUNGY JUMPED OFF THE VICTORIA FALLS BRIDGE — conveniently in “No Man’s Land” between Zimbabwe and Zambia so no government could be blamed for any unfortunate incidents, i.e. papercuts from the bungy registration form — I was told it was the “World’s Highest Commercial Bungy Jump.”  Of course, this bit of trivia escaped my mind when I freefalled off the bridge and screamed like a bee-atch.

Our next stop, the Bloukrans River Bridge, also claimed to be the “World’s Highest Commercial Bungy Jump,” but I wasn’t so sure.  I thought Vic Falls’ jump was the highest!  In adventure sports, people are obsessed with superlatives:  “World’s Highest Peak,” “World’s Most Dangerous Road,” “World’s Fiercest Papercut Caused By A Registration Form.”  Whether these claims are true, no one really looks up, unless you just sit all day in front of a computer bored with lots of downtime.  (I can hear some of your mouses clicking to Google from here.)

Throughout the complex, the Bloukrans Bungy Jump wasn’t shy about their claim and backed it up with framed blow-ups of their entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.  However, I noticed the fine print at the bottom:

“THIS CERTIFICATE DOES NOT NECESSARILY DENOTE ANY ENTRY
INTO ANY PRODUCTS DISTRIBUTED BY GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS, LTD.”


If you noticed on the photo of the certificate, it clearly states, “...which is operated on a daily basis by Face Adrenalin.”  This made me think, ‘Maybe it’s the World’s Highest Bungy that’s Open Seven Days A Week like their signs in the parking lot say!’  Whether or not their claim used a loophole or not — they must have a really good lawyer — it was still pretty high. 

World’s highest or not, it didn’t stop James, a guy we met along the way, from doing his first jump.  He was escorted to the center of the bridge, cheered on by the honks of vehicles driving by, where he was harnessed under the road.  After the obligatory countdown of “Five, four, three, two, one… BUNGY!” he jumped into the canyon with the big string of rubber attached to his ankles.  From our vantage point at the overlook we really couldn’t hear him, but I think it’s safe to say that he too screamed like a bee-atch.


SKIPPING OUT ON THE “WORLD’S HIGHEST” BUNGY JUMP (say it with air quotes) to save money for other superlatives, I continued my tour with the Bok Bus group to Tsitsikamma National Park, the “Garden of the Garden Route,” in an area called “the place of sparkling waters” by the local San tribe.  The national park, on the border of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape states had walking trails along the shore, in between the green Tsitsikamma Mountains to the north and the blue waters of the Indian Ocean to the south.  We walked the Mouth Trail, a built-up trail with a boardwalk and stairs that overlooked the ocean where a school of dolphins swam not too far away.  The trail took all of us to the Strandloper Cave and a suspension bridge over Dryfhout Bay and, for some of us, up a steep hill to a lookout point.  Kate and Sarah only made it up halfway to a bench that we thought was the end of the line, until I came back with news that there was a higher lookout, which took me another twenty minutes to get to by myself. 

Having gone farther than the others, I had to rush back double time like I did that morning.  “You’re a real stickler for punishment, aren’t you?” Kate said to me.  As they say, “No Pain, No Gain,” — although I’m not quite sure if I gained anything but sore legs.


I CAUGHT UP WITH THE REST and hopped in the little green van.  Tom drove us to a dock at Plattenberg Bay where we were just sittin’ at the dock of the bay (picture above), waiting for a boat to pick us up to our accommodation for the night:  The Stanley Island Lodge, a bed & breakfast built on an island that was once part of the nearby farmland until coastal flooding separated it from the mainland.  The island was converted to a holiday resort by its original owner, who sold it to a couple who maintained it until they got divorced in the 1980s.  The wife got the island in the settlement, and rented it to its current owners, Barbara and Barry, who maintained it for close to twenty years. 

Recently, they put it on the market, which is why it wasn’t advertised anymore — you just had to know about it, like the Bok Bus people.  It was a shame too, because the island was a great place to stay, a little village of colonial-looking houses connected by pathways through woodsy areas.  The interiors of the houses were exceptional as well; for the price of a “dorm,” I actually stayed in the loft of a house with comfy beds and blankets, a living room, a bar area, fireplace, living room and a terrace.  Finally relaxed from all “gain” of paddling and hiking of the day, I sat out on the terrace with my journal until it was time for supper in the cozy, but classy dining hall.

The food was also something to write home about:  the staff prepared a delectable buffet of seafood including Cape Malay fish, Thai curry fish, mussel stew, broiled snoek and hake fish, and an assortment of side dishes.  We dined on the culinary feast with James, the bungy jumper from the Bloukrans River Bridge, who had also luckily stumbled upon the Stanley Island Lodge.  We were the only guests on the island and toasted with bottles of champagne and shots of a drink called the “Springbok” — mint liquor topped with amarula — while having a conversation about slang terms between British English and American English.  Kate mentioned “shithead” and “fuck face.”

“I like ‘douche bag,’” I said.

“Oh, we don’t really say ‘douche bag,’ that’s an American term.”

“What’s a douche bag?” Sonja asked.  She had been taking English courses in Cape Town, but didn’t know everything there is to know about the language.

“Um, well, a douche is… a vaginal wash,” I blatantly explained.  Sarah, a refined woman from a world of boarding schools and wealth, almost spit out her drink.

“A feminine wash,” I corrected myself.

As crass a conversation it was for such a classy place, I knew it was no contender for the “World’s Most Uncouth Conversation” in the Guinness Book of World Records — although if you have nothing better to do, you’re probably going to look it up on Google anyway.






Next entry: Up In The Air and Down The Funnel

Previous entry: Big Cats, Big Birds and Telephones




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Comments for “Superlatives”

  • ERIK: I didn’t ship the camera.  Fastest delivery is Fedex but it’ll get there next Tuesday.  1-3 business days my ASS!

    What you want me to do?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  10:25 AM


  • I will give you a new addy, hopefully from Windhoek, Namibia…  Is the delivery time always one week EXACTLY?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  10:32 AM


  • MARKYT:  In the meantime, I can look for cameras here… is that returnable in the end, justin case?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  10:33 AM


  • hey “no pain, no gain”, say are you more paranoid now after the incident? dude, just let us know if you run into trouble again .. we’ll see what we can do from here, telepathically that is ... “The Fellowship” has got your back! Long Live the Blog!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  10:47 AM


  • SIM:  Yes, definitely a bit more edgy…  I probably have to lay off the caffeine for a while…

    Don’t worry, as John Lennon said, “Time heals all wounds.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  10:59 AM


  • Try UPS, I think if you ship by end of day today it can get there by Friday.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  11:16 AM


  • DTELLA - It’s a lie.  UPS won’t be able to get there by Friday…

    If it were going to Europe, I could overnight, but going to Africa it takes longer….sucks….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  11:33 AM


  • damn those evil shipping companies…maybe you should just hand deliver it.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  11:36 AM


  • DTELLA:  I thought YOU were on the way to Africa…  *nudge, nudge*

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  11:46 AM


  • wink wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  12:04 PM


  • And there’s always DHL from your local post office… or their Global Express, which is loads cheaper… 2 to 4 days…. oh the joys of international shipping.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  01:16 PM


  • Duaine and Dtella - thanks for all the help…

    Unfortunately 1-4 days makes sense for letters and envelopes, but packages take more time with customs and what not….  I guess that stuff is in the fine print!....

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  01:24 PM


  • Markyt: Have you tried Canada Post? haha… I hear they’re quite fast!

    Just think Erik, you’re sore arms and legs will enventually build you into the SUPER BACKPACKER! It can be your mutant power, except you have to work for it instead of having the power develop on its own.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  01:40 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Up In The Air and Down The Funnel

Previous entry:
Big Cats, Big Birds and Telephones




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