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Spontaneity is Expensive and Rude

Sunday, before last, I was working at one of the three part-time jobs I now have when Jason called me and informed me that we were going to Durban. “Ok.”, said I, not completely convinced that he was serious about making an unplanned 6 hour trip. When he picked me up from work he assured me that we were leaving in a few hours and that I should get a day off work. I didn’t bother to reason because I was pretty sure I had no choice in the matter.

Jason and his brother, Matthew, had just decided that the beach would be a nice escape from the cold winter weather. Jason organised for us to stay with friends in the Midlands on Sunday night and Matthew arranged a free hotel room in Durban for Monday night. We would drive home on Tuesday.

Jason’s “We’re going to Durban” face

Along with Amber, Matthew’s girlfriend, we drove to the Midlands. Malvina had only been given a few hours notice of our visit but had generously made us beds and offered us dinner. She put Jason and me up in their cottage and Matthew and Amber in the under-construction lodge.

In the morning the sun revealed a beautiful farmhouse with surrounding natural forest. The four of us took a walk down to one of the waterfalls and then Jason and I walked through a shallow section of forest. We would have gone in further but we knew that if we got lost Matthew would be furious at us for taking from his beach time.

The house 

Walk with the Danes

Taken from future Bath House building

This building is going to be the backpackers

We left the Midlands early afternoon much to my disappointment; South African beaches don’t really compare well to Caribbean beaches.

I assume that the Kwazulus must think that the rest of South Africa is occupied by psychopathic killers. I really can’t think of any other explanation for the large signs that read “Please don’t kill us!” as you drive through Kwazulu Natal. Either way I realised it must be important to them if they made the effort to put the signs up. I made a mental note not to kill anyone while in Durban.

“Free hotel room” sounded like something that would be pretty dodgy and I prepared myself for something that would be remotely liveable. Turned out that the free hotel room we got was not only more than liveable but also the best room in the building. It was air-conditioned, pretty and most importantly clean; which is not something I can say for cheap Caribbean hotels.  Also the receptionist was a real sport. She had no idea who we were but refrained from throwing us out. She even let us check in before making calls to verify that we weren’t fraudulent vagrants. So if ever you are looking for a nice and affordable hotel to stay in, in Durban, go stay at the Florida Park hotel; not only because they let me stay there for free but also because the receptionist knows how to keep her shit together. If that doesn’t qualify as service I don’t know what does.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on a filthy Durban city beach. I walked along the beach avoiding condoms and broken bottles while the other three braved a dip in the cold winter water. Their swim was soon interrupted by a huffy man on a quad bike who informed them that they were not allowed to swim because all the lifeguards were on strike. This made me wonder if people really get paid to drive around on quad-bikes telling other people to stop swimming. I certainly wouldn’t mind getting paid to do that for a living. Sure you’re the bearer of bad news but you’re the bearer of bad news on a quad bike on the beach!

The next morning we decided to find a nicer beach outside of Durban. We found a spot that sheltered us a bit from the wind and I put down my towel to lie on while the rest took a quick dip. For the first time in weeks I felt completely relaxed. Lying on the beach I pretended just for a few hours that I didn’t have to start my life all over again.  I pretended that I didn’t have three part time jobs, a cell-phone that doesn’t actually work and a learner’s licence that had expired months ago. Sea air therapy worked its magic.

 

By the time we left Durban we were rested, slightly tanned and Amber was sick. Clearly the sea air wasn’t working as well for her.  The getaway was well worth it, even if we spent a lot of money and even if we only gave Malvina a few hours notice. To our merit though, we didn’t kill any KwaZulus.

The Benefits of Coming Home after Travelling

Although I miss travelling already I’m not unhappy about being back home; after all there are so many advantages for someone who’s recently travelled. Here’s my list:

  • Perspective

To cheer myself up about having to spend money on groceries I compare the prices to that of how much we would have paid overseas. Jason bought a six pack of beer last week that cost the same as one beer in the USA. Score! Well at least it feels that way.

  • Tipping

I came back with heaps of coins from America and Antigua that were shaking around in my wallet for at least a month. I had no idea how handy they would be until I went out to have a hangover breakfast one morning. After Jessica accidently spilt an orange juice all over me I asked a waitress to bring me a wet wipe or a serviette to clean my pants. She rolled her eyes at me and when she returned to clean the table I had to ask her again. Finally another waiter brought me a bowl of dipping water. My friend Astrid pointed out that she definitely wasn’t getting a tip. I did give her a tip though, in US dollars.

  • Some more perspective… for other people

I came back to discover that my youngest sister cleans the bath properly now and my mother occasionally cleans the counter after cooking. Actually this has fairly little to do with me going away but it’s still nice. While I was away my mother had a tenant who was pretty much half blind. She couldn’t see well enough to clean the counters or even the bathtub properly. Jessica, who was annoyed about having to clean the tub before bathing each time, admitted that she now knew how I felt when she had done the same to me. Some of the best words I’ve heard uttered.

  • People actually want to listen to me

Actually this applies more to Jason because he loves to talk much more than I do. The point is that ever since we came home people have been interested in listening to us. They want to hear about the parties and killer rums in Antigua and sometimes about the ‘oh-so dangerous’ sea travel. These people are usually friends but Jason doesn’t allow the label of ‘acquaintance’ to deter him from exhibiting a slideshow of 101 photos.

  • South Africa is awesome!

Just a few of my favourite spots

Kaapsehoop- inhabited by mist, horses and rocks

Hike to Bridal falls, outside Nelspruit

God's Window

On a Serious Note

So I’m just going to put humour aside here; bear with me. Today I want to mention one of the things that made our experience as travellers so wonderful. The people we met were really what made it fantastic; starting with Sophie and Matt who we met in Tortola.

When we arrived in Tortola we had no idea what we were in for. We couldn’t find any work that wouldn’t get us deported and the cheapest accommodation we could find turned out to be very expensive. In no time at all we had spent our airfare money and we were pretty stressed. When we met Sophie and Matt they were just about to go on holiday. They did not need a house sitter but offered us the choice to house sit for them anyway. The best part of all is that they had such a lovely home with a view of all the nearby islands. When I finally did get a little bit of work I didn’t have to spend my earnings on expensive hotel fees, instead I bought us tickets to Antigua. For Sophie and Matt’s kindness I will be eternally grateful. They are the kind of people that make the world so fantastic and not only because of their kindness but also because of their sense of adventure.

Sophie and Matt looking at the view after our hike up.

Thank you, Matt and Sophie.

Very Amateur Travel

I have been writing almost every day for the last two weeks but not at all about anything that I would ever read or ever write about if I weren’t being paid to. However, it’s surprisingly less tedious than I thought it would be because it’s still writing even if the topics include ‘how to pick up women’ and ‘medical cargo pants’. Still it’s really amusing; I don’t know the first thing about picking up women seeing that I’ve never tried.

The other thing that has been taking up my time is trying to decide what to do with this blog seeing as it is a travel blog and I am not travelling. It is dishonest after all to have a blog called ‘Amateur Travelling’ which is really about my boring life as a part-time shop assistant/internet-fluff writer and whatever else I stumble upon.  So I’ve come up with two possible solutions:

  1. I could change the name of my blog to something more appropriate like ‘My travelling is so amateur I don’t even leave the house’ or ‘travelling is for amateurs; I stay at home’. Only problem is that I don’t have the slightest clue how to change my blog’s name. It would probably take a lot of effort and an understanding of how websites work.
  2. The easier option would be to simply earn enough money so that I can go on holiday frequently and write about that. A four hour drive to Nelspruit still counts as travelling and maybe I’ll even make it as far as Mozambique. In the mean time I guess I could write about all the places I plan to travel to when I do have the resources to. I would love to do another yachting season in Europe but at the cost of doing an almost-three month boat delivery to get there I think I’ll take a rain check.

What I really want though, is for someone to pay me to go on holidays. I wouldn’t mind writing about that sort of thing at all. So hopefully someone will stumble upon my blog sometime in the near future and decide that that is exactly what they want to do.

This has nothing to do with my topic but it's really funny. My sister and her best friend woke me up wearing this.

I guess my life isn’t completely boring…

New York

New York was a mad rush consisting of two days that are, now, a blur to me. Even some of the photos are blurry.

On the Saturday Gareth, Courtney, Jason and I took a taxi to Providence where we were to catch a bus to New York. Our taxi driver was probably half blind; he almost squished a squirrel and went straight through a stop street after that. We found ourselves wishing he’d do more concentrating and less talking. He told us in a paternal sort of way that New York was very overwhelming. “Whatever you do, do not let the city overwhelm you!”

After three and half hours on the bus we started walking towards our hotel room and closer to Times Square. When we reached Times Square we stopped to take it all in. Courtney clutched his chest and gasped, “The city! It’s overwhelming me!”

Times Square, overwhelming us.

And it really was overwhelming; the noise, the smells and the clutter of people, buildings and flashy advertising. We spent the first few hours just walking around dumbfounded. For the first time since we left home I actually felt like a tourist especially with Jason walking next to me with a big camera taking pictures of everything.

After booking into our hotel room we lost Gareth and Courtney in a hoard. We shrugged off our losses and went ahead and had a great day anyway.

We took a stroll in Central park, explored over-the-top shops including a three story Toys R Us and also a two story shop devoted entirely to candy coated “m&m” souvenirs.

m&m statue of liberty, because you know, liberty has everything to do with candy-coated chocolate.

Found in Central Park. “Twinkle twinkle little bat, how I wonder what you’re at”

Life-sized T-Rex robot in Toys R Us

Also in Toys R Us, which I pointed out to Jason would be more appropriate in an Adult World

 

My favourite though, was the Ripley’s Believe it or Not ‘Odditorium’.  Surely it doesn’t get much better than shrunken heads, albino giraffes and three-legged tap dancers.

Yeah, that’s my boyfriend.

Albino giraffe!!

oink!

My pickled head

Shrunken head

On the next day Jason and I visited the Natural Museum of History which we had to do quickly to get to our bus on time. At the ticket counter Jason asked how long it would take to do a proper tour of the whole museum. The lady told us that it would take about a week but that we could do it in three days. “Perfect!” we told her, “we have three hours.”

We ran through the museum taking fuzzy pictures, occasionally stopping for a brief ogle. Jason pointed out that when people asked us “what animal does that skeleton belong to?” and “Why is that guy wearing a shell suit?” we’d probably say something like “Oh wow, I don’t remember seeing that.”

Giant Armadillo

Giant skeletal Tortoise.

No, I don’t know why he’s wearing shells. Honestly I don’t know why anyone would.

My overall opinion of New York: It was noisy, stinky, excessive and crowded. After spending only two days there I decided I could never live there. But despite all of that I loved New York; loved the lights and the signs and the busy energy and everything that made New York excessive.

South African Planet

That One Time We Hit a Shark: Antigua to Newport

Two weeks ago Jason and I hopped onto South African racing yacht ‘Prodigy’. In exchange for working as delivery crew to Newport the owner agreed to buy us flights home. Since then Jason has decided to stay with the boat for a while longer to work as race crew. I’ll be flying home this week. The delivery took 10 days and along with our Skipper, Gareth, and third crew member, Courtney, we had a pretty good time.

Sorry this is so long. Props if you don’t fall asleep halfway through. I’ll put a post up about our trip to New York next week.

Prodigy 

Prodigy, built in South Africa in 2006, hasn’t had the best of luck. After sinking about 4yrs ago she sat in a harbour up until the beginning of this year when she was finally repaired and sent off to the Caribbean to compete in the Antigua Race week which she didn’t enter due to engine and generator problems. We have now delivered her to Rhode Island where she will take part in the Transatlantic race. I’ll let you know if she doesn’t break down before that.

If you don’t know much about racing yachts then you probably don’t know how uncomfortable they are.  They are extremely uncomfortable. This delivery was very challenging in the way that we really had no luxuries; no shower, no air conditioner, no fridge, no freezer, tiny gas cookers and no autopilot. So just to make our suffering clear, that meant washing out of water bottles outside, eating mostly tinned foods and someone had to be steering all the time.

Introducing Courtney (left) and Gareth

My bunk: the no-fun hammock.

Kitchen

This is the account taken from my journal.

Day 1: Didn’t I say I’d never do this again?

Finally left, 15 days late. It was just one disaster after the next trying to leave Antigua.  Felt mild discomfort (seasickness) after a few hours of sailing but overall it was a good day. When the wind was right the boys brought out what looked like a circus tent, but really it was just a spinnaker sail because apparently it makes no sense having circus tents on racing yachts.

The boys caught two fish today.

Caught this Barracuda first but we let him go. Weren’t sure if he was safe to eat so close to the coast.

The Tuna the boys had for dinner.

The circus tent and a very hung-over Courtney after a night of forgetting he was on antibiotics.

Day 2

After a good night of rest I’m feeling very chuffed about the deal I struck with the boys. Basically it was agreed that if I cooked dinner and helmed a little during the day, when the boys had to do sail changes or repairs then the boys would do all the night shifts.

We stopped for a swim today. It’s been very calm and flat today; unfortunately no wind.

Photo by Jason

Beautiful Dorado. Let him go because he was too big for dinner.

Day 5: The Peg Game

Gareth invented a game today for us to play for the rest of our trip. I’m too lazy to think of a catchy name so I’ll just call it the “Peg game”. Basically we all have a clothing peg that we’ve named and pegged to ourselves. These are the rules:

  1. No talking about the peg game outside of the peg game. (oops)
  2. You have to keep your peg on you at all times. If caught without your peg the other three competitors get to graffiti your face with marker pens.
  3. To eliminate another contestant you must steal their peg without being caught and peg it on the Dan buoy.
  4. Peg can only be pegged onto clothing.
  5. The winner gets three drinks on the rest of the competitors and must proclaim that he/she is the “Peg champion!” after each drink.

Small fry holding a big fish.

Day 6: Sneaky Tactics

Jason deviously stole Gareth’s peg while he was sleeping this morning. We all sat outside snickering like foxes waiting for Gareth to wake up and realise. Finally I had to wake him up for his shift, calling to him through the hatch. All I heard in reply was a string of profanities and insults directed at his lousy crew. Ironically Gareth had been telling Jason all night how he knew he was going to win the game.

When Gareth finally came out he gravely informed us: “I never thought a peg would make me feel so bad.”

While taking a nap this afternoon, Courtney snagged my peg. I woke up when I heard someone running on the deck; I checked for my peg and realised I’d been jacked.

Peg Game just became Courtney vs. Jason.

Jason laughing at Gareth

Day 7: The Mysterious case of the Ravioli

Because we’re beating into the wind we had pretty rough weather last night. Things got thrown all around the boat and it’s pretty messy inside. Fortunately I slept with my head under my sheet last night because of the strong diesel smell; when I woke up there was canned ravioli sauce all over the ceiling, all over my sheet and on the wall right above my head.

The boys claim no responsibility and apparently have no idea how it got there.

I took my revenge on Courtney while he was winching this afternoon, making Jason the peg champion.

Gareth checked the weather today on the satellite program and apparently we’ve missed a hurricane by a week. That’s how we roll!

Day 8

I threw up for the first time today which is definitely a new record for me.

We’re running out of good food and Courtney suggested that they eat me. Sometimes I can work pretty well under pressure; I skilfully changed his mind by pointing out that it would be silly to eat the skinniest. It totally worked.

Hiding from the cold.


 Day 9

We spotted small dolphins and a whale today.

Dolphin

Whale!

Day 10: “We just hit a whale! Bring the camera.”

We saw a pod of whales/porpoises this morning. We’re undecided. So everyone who’s smarter than us can take a look at the photo and make suggestions. For all I know they weren’t either. Someone will probably inform us that they’re submarines, not even cunningly disguised ones.

Pod of something.. possibly a flotilla.

Two of them

I’d just gotten into my bunk this afternoon when Jason stuck his head through the companion-way and shouted what I thought sounded like “We just hit a whale! Bring the camera.” Obviously I knew I’d heard wrong. I grabbed the camera and climbed up.

“Jason, did you just say ‘we hit a whale’?”

“Yep!”

“Oh shit”

We all looked down into the water searching for the whale we’d hit. What we saw was rather unexpected. Swimming directly towards us was a very large mass with a big shark fin and then another two. It was a little unnerving considering the biggest was almost as long as the boat but also too captivating to worry too much about falling in the water. At first we thought they were Great Whites and the boys actually advised me to stick with that version of the story for sensationalism; but unfortunately for my poor readers I’m entirely ruining the story with the truth. On closer inspection we decided that they were actually Basking sharks which are completely harmless, unless you’re plankton.

Day 11: What’s up America!

We arrived in Newport 8 in the morning. Two customs officials rode up on bicycles to meet us and after satisfying their needs we hit the town. We didn’t have any plan other than to find something to eat that wasn’t in a tin. I suppose we were more curious than hungry because we walked past several restaurants.

Newport, a popular yachting town turned out to be a pretty town with heaps of old mansions and beautiful churches.  I’m blaming Jason for not having any photos of Newport; he’s the only one who never has any shame about looking like a tourist.

Walking around in an American town for the first time was amusing. Having watched Hollywood movies all our lives we suddenly felt as if we’d stepped into one. We couldn’t help laughing at everything we deemed ‘movie clichés’. We got a few looks which the boys claimed to be due to their delicious accents; I think it probably had a lot to do with us chuckling at fire-hydrants, zebra-crossings and other normal things. No wonder no one likes South Africans.

 8June

We spent one night in Newport before moving on to Barrington where the boat had been booked in for the rest of its stay.

Barrington is a lot smaller and is truly the kind of town where people lend you their cars on the day they meet you, take-away restaurants let you walk out with your soda before paying, and friendly neighbours who give you lifts have wives who send you left-over carrot cake. All of these have happened to us. Ok, except for the carrot cake part but there is a very good chance this will still happen.

I’m not going to put any photos up because Jason was driving and I took really bad photos trying not to look like some kind of stalker/pervert. Trust me; it’s not fun taking pictures of people’s houses because your boyfriend thinks camper vans and American flags are amusing.

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