A Decade of Reflection 16

Back to South Africa I went. 8 years after my first adventure. It was only for 3 weeks but I was so excited. I was meeting up with Kev again and we had planned to cram a whole lot of stuff into the 3 weeks.

I flew into Cape Town and spent a day ot 2 with Kev and his lovely girlfriend before we left, with Kevs brother and 2 others on a road trip. The destination? Punta Do Ouro in Mozambique, over 2000km away. We piled into the car and off we went. The day or so was just solid driving, stopping for the occasional photo opportunity but solid driving, and it was great fun. Getting to know everyone in the trip and having a lot of fun.

We stopped in hostels when we could, spent exploring on foot when we weren’t driving and the evenings drinking. It was a totally different side of South Africa that I saw and it was great. It is such a beautiful country, the mountains and hills standing proud with a blue sky overhead.

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We stopped in KwaZulu Natal in the outback to visit where Kev had spent time working, this was great as it was a long way from anywhere. We got to visit a traditional Zulu village and learn about their way of life, as well as camping out in the relative wilderness. Again seeing rural South Africa was new to me as I had spent most of my previous trip in the bigger city’s. Kev gave us a tour of Isandlwana and Rourkes drift and gave us an interactive presentation about both battles that was absolutely fascinating and I recommend anyone to visit these places.

Back on the road again and we went through Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park and went animal spotting. We got 3 of the big 5, and had a very close encounter with an Angry elephant who refused the leave the middle of the room and kept threatening to charge. That was pretty terrifying as I don’t think we would have stood a chance has it charged the car.

We eventually got through the border and arrived at Punta Do Ouro. Its a beautiful sea side town, quite popular with south African tourists. Its all sand and dirt roads and you need a 4×4 to get there, however the beaches are just amazing. We were in the off season so we managed to get some good deals on a house for a few days. We hired some quad bikes and went exploring around the area and it was really nice to see another southern African country and how people lived their lives. Throw on top the RnR. Not rest and relaxation, Rum and Raspberry. Tipo Tinto rum, a local drink bought from the road side in old cola bottles, mixed in with Spa Letta Rasberry. Its just amazing. Im fairly sure this Mozambique moonshine was slowly rotting me from the inside out but it was still incredible.

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Now there was 1 more amazing draw to Punta Do Ouro, and that was the diving. Its a world famous diving site and I was lucky enough to get to go out a few times. Unfortunately as it was the off season I only got 1 morning dive a day but those were still amazing. While I didn’t get to see the hammerheads, Whale sharks or Zambezi’s I still had a few great dives and id be keen to head back there to do more.

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After a while it was time to head home. Rather than take the leisurely pace back we smashed it. In one trip. 26 hours solid driving. Why? Because I was running out if time and needed to get to Gansbaai. Now Gansbaai is a little town near cape town. Not much there, on the land that is. In the water is where the fun is. Its one of the few places in the world you can go out in a boat, get in a cage and see great white sharks.

What an experiences that was!!! While the visibility wasn’t amazing, this almost added to the thrill. Id be on the surface waiting for the man on the boat to shout down. I would take a breath and pull myself underwater. Suddenly out of the murky water id see a great white swim by, close enough to touch. The sheer size of these creatures is just insane! How they can be so graceful when they are so huge. Id love to do this again when there is better visibility but I wonder if that would be less of a thrill.

Back in Cape Town and we heading off to Robben Island for the day. Everyone should have to go here. Its a place of unbelievable suffering, the tour guides are people who were unjustly imprisoned there and its a real emotionally charged tour. The gentleman doing our tour told of how his father had been murdered by the government while trying to visit his son on Robben Island. The tour made me very angry that people had suffered so much within living memory just for the colour of their skin or political affiliations. This still goes on around the world today and it makes me very very sad.

Finally it was time to head home. But not before 1 final lasting memory. An abseil off of table mountain. Wow, talk about a rush, the mountain disappears from your feet and you are left to repel a distance without seeing anything below you but a huge drop! If you find yourself near Cape Town visit http://abseilafrica.co.za/ and have a go yourself. Its was just so amazing.

Back home and I settled back into working, still enjoying it and having fun. But then I got some awful news, my Gran had passed away. It was quite a shock, she had been quite ill but was on the mend. My Gran was an amazing lady, while I didn’t see enough of her as id like due to the distance I was still close to her.

She was a born storyteller, when we would go to Reading Fc away games up north a bunch of us would stay at my Aunts, where my gran often was. And she would talk to us all and tell us story’s about the war and the evacuation that would have us all completely entranced. I was honoured to have been able to write and deliver her eulogy with my brother and I hope we did her justice.

I met a girl in the summer and we decided to head on holiday. We picked Egypt for the diving and off we went. Great plan. Hmmm life lesson here, don’t go on holiday with someone you haven’t known too long! Long story short, on day 2 of the holiday we had a row. A small one over something meaningless. I woke the next morning to more hostility so took myself away to the beach and went to read for a bit. When I came home she had gone! A note on the table told me she had flown home!! Slight kick to the gut! While I wasn’t to bothered with her leaving as it was clearly not to be it did smash my confidence down to 0. Was I really that awful that someone wouldn’t want to spend a 5 star holiday with me!!  Unfortunately that self-confidence Is still being rebuilt.  14 months later.

But back to Egypt. I had a great time, despite the unforeseen breakup. I went diving every other day and saw amazing corals and fish. I went to Cairo and saw the Pyramids, I went to valley of the kings and saw the tombs. I wasn’t blown away by Cairo or the pyramids, but Valley of the kings was just breath taking. The conditions of the wall art there after 2000 years is just incredibly. I loved this area as there as so many well preserved ruins everywhere!

I met some amazing people in Egypt that were so king and helpful it really softened the blow of my abandonment.

Back home things got a bit rough. I had to call the police to get my car back from the girl id gone with as she was initially refusing to answer the door to give me my keys back . Fortunately I got the car back, but it really made me doubt myself. Was I just that awful a person? Ive always seen myself as a pretty decent guy, flawed but not a total dick. This whole situation made me doubt that. Everyone told me it was her not me but I’m sure her friends told her the same thing. I don’t know but it really did affect me.

An incident at work around a promotion made me reconsider my future there and suddenly I was back to being unsettled. I was still loving work but id got the travel idea back into my head. I was 27 and wasn’t ready to settle, Egypt had show that. So I began to look around for new trips. A few weekends away to Prague, Amsterdam and Dublin with my family fueled this feeling. We had some cracking weekends when we went away. In Prague we discovered the joys of Segway’s and Escape rooms.

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Amsterdam showed us the best escape room I’ve ever done and showed me the craziness of Kings day.

Dublin was like visiting an old friend as I love the city, immersing ourselves in music and history. But I kept wanting more travelling.

These weekends weren’t enough. I used all my annual leave again to go away for 3 weeks. Back to Canada to get my head straight and make up my mind for sure what I wanted to do. I had an amazing 3 weeks again. I spent the time with family but we were busy busy busy. Visiting parks, canoeing, going down Giant slides and watching live music. I even tried my hand at Ice Hockey.

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The main draw of Canada had been a music festival. Now I’m a huge country music fan, and while its slowly getting more poplar in the UK, North America is where its at. There are loads of festivals and its more popular. Anyway we got the trailer packed and My cousin, her husband and I went to the gig.

It was like an out of control frat party to begin with. Having been to Reading festival I was expecting organised chaos. This was just chaos. The camping area was out of control. Like a frat party where no ones calling the cops, ever. We didn’t feel comfortable so went to hang out in the family camping zone. Much better. No drunk teenagers, only drunk cowboys.

People happy to sit on lawn chairs and slowly drink while listening to music. This part was great, as were the actual musicians themselves. However the festival organisation was a shambles, speakers didn’t work, you could only drink in designated areas etc. I had a great time but this was more down to the company and not the festival.

I spent some more time staying with family and catching up and this was really great. Especially as it led to me seeing the Northern lights again. Id seen them in Iceland but was underwhelmed, this time they were out in force. The sky was green! It was very special and I found myself getting a bit emotional.

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I love Canada and it’s always great to spend time with my awesome family there. I also loved being on the road again. It helped me finalised my ideas. I had to leave again. I had to pack up the backpack and get back on the road.

The inheritance from my amazing Gran meant I could afford it, but where to go? Asia or South America, I couldn’t decided. It was only when I saw the diving in Thailand that I got set on Asia. I looked at flights to Thailand and saw they kept all passing through India. “well” I thought “if I’m passing through India I may as well explore it”  So there It was, I was decided, I was off to India on a one way ticket with the aim of heading east when my 6 month visa there expires.

And here I am now, 1 month away from flying!!!!!

So there it is! The final instalment of A Decade of Reflection. I’ve had so much fun writing this series. Its been emotionally draining though. Its dragged up memories and feelings I had buried deep down. But it has helped me process some of the things and put a few issues to bed. I set out to work out what I had done with my 10 years as an adult and 16 articles later I think I’ve done that. One things for sure, its been a very busy 10 years, I’ve suffered addiction and heartbreak, depression and despair. But I’ve also had a wonderful time. I’ve crammed so much into 10 years and done some incredible things. Here’s to the next 10 years, I hope they are as eventful.

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