Life is an Adventure.

After Hayden's death my life in Tanzania was busy.
Helping the skydive company shut things down, witnessing the removal of the engine from the plane, holding a memorial for the town to attend, packing Hayden's belongings, traveling to Kenya to take care of his friend who survived the crash and having to inform him that Hayden had not survived, spending time at the orphanage, fighting a case of Malaria...... by the time I had tied everything up and stopped to ask myself 'what next?' I noticed that my visa was about to expire.

I had been due to board an overland truck mid feb which had long left without me.
I wasn't ready to go home. I didn't want to grieve in my loft room at home - I wanted to wander about a bit and try accept what had happened for myself first.
And so I booked a flight to cape town.
I bid a sad farewell to the town of Moshi and the many many people that had helped me through the most difficult experience of my life.  And the town in which Hayden and I had formed a relationship that I will never forget.
I boarded a bus to Dar Es Allam where I planned on spending one night before an early morning flight to Cape Town. A friend from Moshi by chance was catching the same flight and it was lovely to have some company.
It turned out to be a godsend being a duo - Dar airport is not a fun place.
The events included long delays, Chris being hauled off by the police because a taxi driver accused us of owing him money, me being accused of not having paid for my flight despite having a boarding card in-hand.... it was an emotional and angst filled departure to a country that had provided the highest highs and lowest lows of my life.
The relief that Chris and I felt as the plane took off spilled over in to emotional laughter and big sighs.
I had arranged to meet up with a dear friend of mine Andy, a south african who I had met whilst he was working in London. He was collecting me from the airport. When we arrived after many delays it was very late. Andy offered for Chris to stay at his house also rather than hunting out a hostel late at night.
Chris and Andy bonded fast and were thick as thieves by morning!
And so followed a week of Chris and I staying at Andy's - sightseeing in the day and spending time with Andy, his fiance Jo and his wonderful family of an evening.
We were taken care of like their own.
Family braiis, long days catching up and reminiscing and finally Andy and Jo's wedding!

Andy and Jo headed off on their honeymoon and the time had come for Chris to continue on his journey - a short stint back in the UK and then off again!
Saying goodbye to Chris was hard. I was scared of being alone - I had been surrounded by people since Hayden had died and now for the first time since boarding the plane to Africa I was going to be alone.
But I was still not ready to go home. I headed in to Cape Town with my backpack on and found myself a hostel. I visited the beaches, Table Mountain, Robben Island, hung out on Long St with the other backpackers, Visited the waterfront and went cage diving with great white sharks!
I adjusted to being alone and of course met other backpackers constantly.

Once I exhausted Cape Town a plan had formed in my head.
Hayden's friend Zak had been transfered to a hospital in his city of Johannesburg.
I would backpack the coast from Cape Town to Johannesburg - see Zak and then fly home.
Surely I'd be ready to go home then.
And so I boarded the Baz Bus. A hop on, hop off backpacker bus. You buy a ticket from one location to another and hop on and off between those places as you go.

First stop for me was the wine region of Stellenbosch.
Here I expored the town and went wine tasting.
I had my first taste of the solo backpacker blues here.
I felt very alone and couldn't help question my decision to have stayed away alone rather than going home to my family.
Wine tasting was fun though!

Rather than let the blues send me home, I boarded the bus headed to the town of Oudtshoorn.
On the bus I got chatting to a guy called PJ. He was traveling with a girl called Jess - they had met on an overland trip and were backpacking their way up the coast like me.
We all got off in Oustdhoorn and headed to the same backpackers.
The first activity I attempted was to mountain bike the Swatberg Pass - and I fell off in quite a spectacular fashion! Here I gained a leg injury that lasted the following month.
That night at dinner (Ostrich steak!) PJ, Jess and I were joined by a swiss nurse called Orla. Orla very kindly took a look at my leg and gave me strict instructions for taking care of it.

Not one to let an injury stop me I spent the next 2 days riding an Ostrich (!) and exploring the famous Cango Caves.

With my itinerary mapped out, the time came to leave Oudsthoorn and move on. PJ and Jess were headed on to a different town to me and Orla was staying in town an extra day. I knew I'd see them again though - we were all hopping on and off of the same bus on the same route.

I headed off to the town of Knysna.
Here I met Jo and Mike. They were doing the trip of a life time through Africa and so much fun to hang out with. They however were going in the opposite direction to me. They told me that they were headed to an amazing hostel on a beautiful beach in Buffalo Bay. It sounded amazing. 'Come with us?' 'Ok!'
And so we headed off to Buffalo Bay - so much for my itinerary and journey headed towards Johannesburg - I was now going backwards!

Buffalo Bay was a great place for me to spend some time. Mike and Jo were fab company and it never bothered me that they were a couple - I felt like I was hanging out with a big brother and sister.
I took long walks along the beach and reflected on what had just happened in my life. I thought about Hayden a lot and it felt good. 
In the evenings we'd perch on sand dunes with beers and watch the sunset, then huddle round an open fire and eat fantastic dinners by candle light while talking to backpackers who had been all over Africa!
It was here I heard about a place off of the beaten track called Bulungula - I knew at that moment that I would take this strangers word for it and head to Bulungula. One of the many joys of traveling for me is meeting like minded people.

But I couldn't continue going backwards so again I bid farewell to new friends and headed back to Knysna.
As soon as I arrived back at the hostel I recognized a voice..... PJ?! It was delightful to see PJ again.
Me, PJ and Jess headed out to treat ourselves to pizza for dinner - it tasted so good! 
Jess had a much tighter schedule than me and PJ - she had a flight out of South Africa approaching fast and wanted to speed up the coast picking a few places to see.
And so it was decided that Jess and PJ would say goodbye in Knysna. And it seemed that I had gained myself a travel buddy!

Knysna was a pretty town but without a huge amount to keep backpackers interested - I took a boat trip to see the famous Knysna heads and admired the pretty waterfront. And I ate Oysters for the first time and loved them!

And so PJ and I boarded the bus to Plettenberg Bay.
We dumped our packs in the dorm and headed out for a long walk and explore of the town.
We signed up for some sea kayaking for the next day. Plettenberg is famous for dolphins and apparently sea kayaking is a fabulous way to see them.

We paddled our hearts out in some pretty rough surf for hours - but no dolphins!
PJ having heard about my car crash in Tanzania back in 2006 and having witnessed my biking accident in Oudstshoorn was completely blaming me for the lack of dolphins! His very own bad luck charm! haha.
The next day however while walking we saw dolphins and a whale from shore - not such bad luck after all.
Next stop for PJ and I was a place called Natures Valley.
Set in dense forest our hostel was a place of ultimate peace and a hikers dream.
Our dorm mate was a guy called Craig. We decided that we'd go for a hike together the next day.
So early morning the 3 of us set off. The owners had offered to drop us off at the start of a trail.

We climbed through the forest - up and down for hours. We found ourselves really high up with a fabulous view.

 Eventually we came out on to an amazing stretch of beach - and we had it to ourselves! A great spot to eat our packed lunch and have a much needed rest. Keeping up with 6'3 PJ hiking was hard work! My little legs couldn't carry me fast enough!

Whilst in Natures Valley we visited some cats too - wild cats!

I had a run in with a blue heron though that took a liking to my messed up leg (still messed up and no sign of healing) and so launched itself on me and started pecking! YELP! It was pecking in to my open wound through the bandage!
The Blue Heron is the national bird of south africa. I'm glad we seemed to get on so well - It made me feel very welcome! hahahaha!

Anyone interested in the progress of my leg..... (if squeamish look away now):

Pj and I bid farewell to Craig and boarded a bus to Storms River. On the bus we met Tina - a girl from Switzerland. Unfortunately we were heading to different hostels but numbers were exchanged and we said we'd meet up to bungee together.
YEP. Bungee. The worlds highest commercial bungee.
We arrived in Storms River and headed to Dijembe backpackers. A true home away from home. Home cooked dinners, incredible staff, football playing dogs, open fires, horses roaming the garden..... we settled in quickly!

The bunk beds were 3 up high and made from tree trunks!

The night before the bungee PJ and I went to sleep in the dorm thinking about nothing else.
I was excited - I had always wanted to do a bungee. PJ was petrified and undecided as to whether he'd do it.

And so we arrived and headed off to the view point to take a look at the bridge that we would be throwing ourselves off of. We met up with Tina who was raring to go.
PJ decided he would come up to the jumping platform - an ordeal in itself but wouldn't jump.
I was undoubting in my ability to do it and filled to the brim with confidence and excitement.

We paid our cash and got fitted in to our harnesses. The time had come to cross the bridge!

The bridge walk is a long tunnel like cage through the bridge - you become aware quickly of what a long drop you have below you. All 216m of it!

Once you reach the bungee platform you have a front row seat to watch others throwing themself off of the bridge. They play loud dance music to pump you up and the excitement and adrenaline in the air is contagius!

Still feeling very calm about the impending activity they call me up to get my bungee cord ready.
The guy takes one look at my leg and tells me that he cannot put a bungee cord around my feet because of my wound. Instead I'll have to have it round my waist. Fine - just as long as I can do the bungee.
And so I am attached to the end of a large piece of elastic and told to shuffle to the edge.
Until now it was all going so well.
And then I looked down.

'I've changed my mind! I'll go later! I don't want to do it!'
'Ok Ok' said the guys. 'Calm down. Take a deep breath and see if you feel ok'.
I turn to take a deep breath and then the next thing I know......

I loved it! I can't believe I almost pulled out! I never thought the day would come when I'd be thanking someone for pushing me off a bridge!

And so I did it! The worlds highest bungee jump! 
That night back at the hostel we watched our DVDs over and over and wore our Tshirts with pride.
I could see regret written all over PJs face. He wanted to jump.
The next morning when I glanced towards his bunk he wasn't there.
PJ was the first person on the bridge that morning and threw himself off in a  glorious swan dive!
Thank god - I'd never have heard the end of it otherwise!

I however spent the day investing in some more action - Canopy Zip Lining through the tree tops!

Next stop was Jeffreys Bay

Famous for the supertubes - home to one of the worlds most famous surfing competitions.

Also known on the backpacker circuit as the place to party.
PJ, myself and Tina along with others that Tina had met en route got ourselves some beers and joined the raucous bar. It was a really fun night and I felt pretty bad the next day! Thankfully it seemed the thing to do in the dorms in the day was to sleep. All day. Jbay really is a party spot.
Once I got over my hangover from hell it was time to explore. And who should we bump in to... Orla the swiss nurse! 
First things first I was marched to the chemist to buy first aid supplies and she patched my leg up properly - can you believe it still hadn't healed?! Apparently Orla could believe that because I wasn't looking after it properly!

The following few days consisted of beach time, browsing the surf stores, and long walks. Bliss.

Tina being a very keep kite surfer had found her home in Jbay! And so when the time came to leave we had to say goodbye. Tina was set to stay in Jbay for a long time!
Orla however came on with us. And 2 became 3.

Port Elizabeth was next for us and I was particularly excited about seeing some animals.
I had been in Africa for almost 4 months and not seen any game! Obviousy I had enjoyed wonderful safaris in 2006 but it felt good to be going to see some animals.

I visited the Addo Ekephant National Park and the Schota Private Game Reserve.
PJ and Orla went to explore town.

Life as a trio was working well - Orla became chief cook with me as assistant chef and PJ turned out to be a fab dishwasher! What a trio of domestic bliss!

And so on to the town of Hogsback we went. Magical Hogsback hidden away in the mountains.
We stayed at a backpackers caled 'Away With The Fairies' - it was wonderful!
Hogsback is an amazing place; endless forest, roaring waterfalls and breath taking mountains.
There are several amazing hiking trails which all start in the garden of the hostel and the view of the mountains is unbelievable!

Chintsa was next on the itinerary and so we boarded the bus.

Chintsa is a pretty seaside village.
We spent a wonderful day on the beach and also enjoyed Kayaking up the river and back! And of course the obligatory backpacker jumping on a beach photo shoot!

We managed to pick up a fourth member of the gang for a couple of days - Juliano.
Oh and of course the hostel dog joined us for the day - this is very normal!

The day that we spent on the beach in Chintsa was the 13th April 2008. 2 months exactly since Hayden's death.

I appreciated spending the day on the beach - a place that will always remind me of Hayden.

The next location on the trip was a stop I had been dreaming of since a late night conversation back in Buffalo Bay - we were off to Bulungula.
It wasn't an easy journey and it certainly wasn't a short journey but this is what makes Bulungula the place that it is. Off the beaten track - to get to Bulungula you've got to really want to get there.
And we did.

Bulungula is an eco friendly backpackers lodge that is a community run project. The village has changed little over it's history and remains very traditional and very basic. There is no road, clinic, school, running water.
But is is the most beautiful place that I have ever been to. And the people are incredible.

Bulungula is an eco lodge. Solar panels, recycling, compost toilets and rocket showers. Yep Rocket Showers!
Fill the little pot with paraffin, stuff the bottom of the rocket with newspaper and cover in paraffin. Light the rocket (it will sound like a rocket!) and turn the tap on....... 4 minutes of hot water coming right up! 

Every evening was spent in the hub of the hostel lying on cushions chatting, playing board-games, reading.... all by candle light. The home made meals were out of this world but we continued to save money by self catering, however every evening we would have the dessert of the day. Usually amazing cake with hot custard. 

During our time in Bulungula we spent hours walking along the never ending beach. And of course we took Kilo the hostel dog with us!

And no backpacker beach trip is complete without the standard 'jumping' photo-shoot!

The village shop was a sight to see.

And the village restaurant.

Bulungula is a community run business. In order to offer employment to the villagers and a cultural insight to the backpackers members of the village can act as guides and show an aspect of their life in the community. What a wonderful initiative.
We spent a fantastic day with the witch-doctor out in the forest learning about all the different plants and what they can be used to cure.

Bulungula is one place in the world that I sincerely hope that I return to.
If I were to ever write a book, or want to hide away from the world, Bulungula is the place I'd go to.

Orla and I spent a day with a local woman at her house learning about her life and having a go at doing her daily chores!

Wandering about the village was a delight. You would always meet a friendly face who would like to give you some of their time to make sure you are enjoying the village.

One morning myself and another backpacker Alex got up before dawn and wandered up a sand dune to sit and watch the sunrise. Amazing.

A very special event took place while we were staying a Bulungula - a coming of age ceremony in the village! And we were asked to attend - what an honour.

The blue containers.... home brewed booze. And yes I drank it!

Saying goodbye to Bulungula was tough and I almost didnt go. But eventually I had to move on.

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