jme & Bryan take on Africa- Day 15: South Africa- shark dive 2

Again I woke up many times- so did Bryan…4am again came early. We were in the car by 430 which was a nice minivan with a driver who was super nice but sounded so much like Eddie Murphy in Coming To America. He had glasses like Eddie Murphy does too so I kept feeling like he was really familiar- and wanted to laugh.

We, of course, fell asleep on the way there- despite SO much sleep the night before…but I awoke to see there beautiful layers of mountains in the background with acres and acres of hills of fields of wheat. It was really pretty but I didn’t have the camera, Bryan did in his bag and It seemed like something I would just capture on the way back…but the lighting wasn’t the same. I should have done it then!

I see people walking to work in the morning. No matter where you are in Africa- you can be as far away from civilization as can be, where you’re certain not a person has set foot- and you will see someone walking. On these old country roads (many of the plantations had grapes, but most were cattle) and people walking miles and miles- kids waiting for the bus too!

Time was going by pretty fast- we were supposed to be at the Mossel Bay office at 8am. I was starting to worry when he said we’re about halfway there- more than 2 hours into it. At that rate, we’d not make it in time…I worried the boat would leave without us!

And then we hit construction traffic. There was absolutely nothing happening on the other side of the road, but we had to wait about 15 minutes. Then they let us go. We drove miles before we saw anything happening on the other side of the street, so I don’t get what was happening even so- but it was definitely more frustrating than usual.

When we got closer the driver asked me to type the address of the dive company into his phone- but I didn’t know the dive company! The hotel had taken care of it all and ensured us the driver knew where he was going…but maybe just that he was going to MB, not specifically where in MB. He had to call the hotel and get the information and we had already passed the exit, so we also had to turn around…and it was a few minutes after 9.

I was SO worried we’d get there and they’d have just left- or we’d be watching the boat pull away and not turn around to get us. They called and asked where we were and we were just a block away at this point, so they waited. We ran over waving and apologizing, but we’d made it. Thank goodness because I would feel pretty annoyed paying $400 for a ride that didn’t yield us getting on a boat.

We had to walk down to the boat and it was clear this was a much more loosey-goosey operation. We thought we missed the safety briefing, but it became quickly apparent that there was no briefing at all. They had music playing and a bunch of casual guys just chilling…we had to laugh because there wasn’t even talk of life jackets or such- because really, once you see the sharks we’re getting in the water with, what’s the point? We all know what would really happen…

We don’t have to head out very far, maybe about 5 minutes and we see a rocky island with a bunch of seals on it. Seals mean sharks- which is why when we’re surfing it is always a super fun experience to see the seals pop up a few feet from you and look at you quite curiously- but then after a few minutes you are thinking “ok please go away now!”

Then we wait. And Wait.

This morning was already starting out not to be the best- my throat was hurting, though my legs were doing better. The spots had somewhat faded and were not raised…but with my phone not working I was really upset. I had tried putting it in a bag with some desiccant, just to see if moisture was the issue, and it flashed a glimmer of life when I plugged it in in the morning, but it refused to do anything. I even charged it with the solar powered back up brick we have (which was fully charged) and it would get a second of life then stop. So I thought it was maybe the cord? I hoped…but needless to say, I had to do this without the phone…which I probably would have hesitated to use the waterproof box for again anyway.

Thankfully, I have a little mini camera, much like a GoPro, but not that brand. I hadn’t really figured out how to use it yet, but now was the time. It has a waterproof box too, but I have no handle or strap. I cannibalize the strap from the waterproof box to attach to the camera, and I use a small, metal, bendy tripod as the handle to I don’t have to pinch this little box between my fingers. An instantly as I hook up the tripod, one of the legs busts off. It was a thin, small weld and the look on my face must have been priceless. Bryan just looked at me in disbelief.

And we wait more.

I am starting to get a bit upset, and I just can’t fathom we are going to be without a shark sighting, but the guide shouts “shark” and everyone cheered. I put the wetsuit on faster than anything and I was first in line to get in the cage, even before the cage had been dropped.

As I am the first ready, I make the first entry into the cage. Basically, you have to climb through this lid and then walk down the bars of the cage, to stand on a bar at the bottom (which is above the floor) and there’s a handle bar on the inside (away from the outer bars of the cage.

I start to slide down into the cage and I put my foot on the bars of the cage- the outside bars, like you are supposed to. I get down in and start to get situated. No less than 5 seconds later, a great white slams its face into the cage, chomping on it- Right. Where. My. Foot. Was.

People on the boat kind of scream and cheer and I must have looked like I was going to poop my pants. I was the only one in the cage and I can only imagine the look of shock and horror on my face- which I am certain no one got on camera. I was just standing there stunned and they are trying to get Bryan in next- telling him to put his foot there too. Right. Where. The. Shark. Bit. He was scared to leave me but quickly climbed in and we were just trying to get our wits about us as the others got in.

The water was really calm today and sunny. Really freaking sunny. I put a ton of lotion on my hands- and everywhere, but already I could feel my hands cooking. I try to ignore this as I enjoyed the passes of the shark- and filming them (2 we think) on the little camera. I am mostly just trying to enjoy the experience, knowing that the vid, again, may not turn out…I realized that almost each time, the view while amazing underwater, may have been better on the surface…but seeing that open mouth coming at you (the chum) is pretty amazing.

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They made it clear we’d only get one try in the cage, no matter what, so after about 10-15 passes, we get out and the next group goes. We go to the top of the boat to look down. This is a great view- the shark is jumping up out of the water for the chum and coming up onto the side of the boat, chomping the chum- often getting it off the rope. The chum are GIANT tuna heads, like the size of watermelons, and the sharks make quick work of them. One of the sharks seemed to be a bit more aggressive than the other; we got a great show.

The entire time I was trying to hide my hands which were really burning now. I slathered on more lotion- so much so they were white- but still couldn’t stop them burning. We also decided being right NEXT to the shark this time, would be even more exciting- so we staked out our place right next to the camera guy and chummer.

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This is the prime spot for sure. The shark was about 5 feet away from us, jumping up, chomping…you could see it’s eyes, it’s crazy razor sharp, jagged teeth…the brusies on his nose, every scrape and cut. It. Was. Crazy. I never imagined I would be that close to a great white- this was exactly like what you see on tv when you watch the documentaries and stuff about the sharks breaching.

This part of South Africa is the only place in the world where sharks will breach- launching themselves completely out of the water- especially when chasing a seal. They will swim up from the deep, top speed and basically bump the seal up and out of the water, then catch it in their mouths. It is fascinating and awe inspiring all at the same time. Sadly however, there is a ‘season” for this and this isn’t the season- but we reveled in each moment the shark did jump up a bit because it was nothing to sneeze at either way.

At this point, my hands were just killing me. I was thinking more about how much they were hurting than the sharks- and after waiting a while for the last few sightings I just HAD to go back inside- and could not spend one more second in the sun.

I was tired, burned but happy- though my hands were ON FIRE. The sun is just relentless, not a cloud in the sky and it feels like the rays are just searing your skin like a laser. I am pretty sure the other white Europeans went home really red and sore- probably as bad as my hands- if not worse, because they seemed to be oblivious to the potency of it all. I was ready to crawl in a hole however, so just chilled inside the cabin the rest of the way home.

When we got back we got a sandwich and our driver was waiting for us there. We ordered the video, but we didn’t get to see it yet, since it was taking so long to upload. They said they’d send a secure link and we could buy it later- so we went next door, got more sunscreen and a drink, and were ready for the LONG drive back to Cape Town.

On the way back we marveled at the beauty again- however, also struggled to stay awake. We saw ostrich farms- and sadly, even ostriches packed in big open topped trucks, going to slaughter (we assume). The weird thing was it was 3 trailers connected and there was a man riding straddled on the top of the edge of the truck in each car, tending to the birds? I am not sure why but it looked like a pretty fun gig to ride on the highway in the open- although weird, and certainly dangerous.

We hit that construction traffic again- this time much longer a wait…but this time we weren’t in a hurry, so whatever. The driver however, was supposed to be back at 5pm for something…and it became clear he was not going to make that time frame- especially when we hit an accident in the pass: a truck had rolled, blocking both sides of the highway.

We probably waited an hour- again I wasn’t super concerned about it, but the driver was called at 445 from his appointment and he said he was not going to make it. We were still a min of 40 minutes out of town- not including the traffic…so we apologized for being the pain in the ass clients that took up his whole day- but he was in good spirits. I mean he had to be, but he seemed genuinely assuaged by our sincere apology.

When we got to the pass that the truck had tipped over, we heard about it on the radio- and then saw the truck. It was a mini-semi, full of fruit and the truck box was just crushed beyond belief, as well as the cab. Both were on tow trucks we sped by once traffic got moving…

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But oh my goodness, the view from up there! It is one of the most stunning views I have ever see- 180 degrees of mountains, with the sun shining just right, looking down into the valley, to the city on the shore and a long beach extending in a giant semi-circle as far as the eye could see. It was amazing, truly. We went passed wineries until we again got back into the outskirts of CT, here where I noticed on one side of the highway was this pristine, white-bread area of schools and pristine housing- the other side the “not so horrible” concrete homes I mentioned before. The stark difference between each side of “the tracks”. It was really sad- especially being that blatant.

There was terrible traffic when we got back into town- turns out it was one of those “first of the month type bazaars the city has every first wed, for example, of the month. He went a different way than we’d went before- and he pointed out “the castle” which is the oldest building in CT, built in the 1600’s. it was pretty cool, but then also the lawn around was strewn with garbage and a serious number of homeless people just laying around in the grass. Some looked like they were totally not right and others just choosing to but it was a sad mar on this historic site…however, a sad realization of life for the have not’s in CT.

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At the next block, the driver points out an old styled courthouse, which is where Nelson Mandela did his speech after he was released from prison. That was pretty cool to see- although not intentional and just at a glance, it was an important point in history- I think both here and world wide. We pass a few other buildings he points out- then we start taking alley ways. We end up n this small neighborhood high o9n the high with very tight streets and brightly painted houses. I had never heard f this before but apparently this area is famous world wide- and I can see why. It’s a really pretty, colorful side of CT and it seems quite quaint.

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FINALLY, we get back to our hotel and I practically run in to get the cake which I intend as dinner- because I am starving. I said thank you and we tipped the guy, but I was far more concerned about stuffing my face with cake. Bryan agreed that cake first, shower and dinner later, was in order. Bryan has to be pretty hungry for that to happen!!

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Eventually we get showered and make our way out. There is that mystery bucket form the neighbors, just sitting in front of their door. What does this mean? At first we thought maybe the bucket was to collect the extra water from the shower- to reuse for something like pouring over your head or who knows what. But we never imagined then that someone would put it outside the door, like “take this and do something with it”, then give it back? What is this bucket for? We still don’t know.

We go out again, this time staying on the same side of the street and just going about a block, because we were so exhausted. We ended up at a burger joint, which had a few veg options- and more exciting, they had mojitos! This is my absolute favorite drink, only rather than regular rum, I like it with coconut flavored rum- Malibu to be specific. It just gives the whole thing an even better flavor…but in all mojitos can be hard to find because they require fresh mint, not always in season- or an option in some countries.

The glass seems about as big as a fish bowl, and she doesn’t give us water- so it’s good but I am going through it fast. Our waitress was nice enough but far more concerned about flirting with the guys behind us than serving us- especially when she noted herself my next drink should be made with Malibu but came back without. She forgot Bryan’s beer altogether, just leaving him without a drink…it was eh. I had the same flat bread pizza again.

I don’t think I have mentioned yet, but my mouth has been killing me.

Basically, when I am brushing my teeth I sometimes pull out the toothbrush too far when brushing the inside of my bottom teeth and then jab it into my gums. This happens relatively often which is dumb, but not so often do those marks turn into giant ulcerations…the whole front of my mouth is all shredded ad sore and it kills to eat and drink anything. So while my legs seem to be getting better, my hands are singed and my mouth, an open wound! As we say in our house “at least” I am trading one thing for another, not simply piling things on top of the last affliction!

The walk back to the hotel was long, mostly because it’s uphill and it was starting to rain a lot and was very windy- and my legs were just tired. Bryan dragged me up the hill and we rolled into bed- this time for a 3am wake up!

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