Entry January 25, 2009 - My last night of the trip
am on my last night of my trip and felt compelled to write home. It is
10pm and I am getting ready to go to a club to dance the night away. It
won't get started till midnight so I have some time to kill. (odd choice
I was not sure what I would write about. My letters home are usually
quite regular at weekly intervals and I did not have that luxury this
trip not being able to find internet cafes or internet connections
So, I get to write one more story before I return home and I was
debating between the Rhinos, the gorillas, the crocs, the orphanages,
schools and hospitals, the kids, the sites, the people, the clubs or the
I hate to have my next email be so dramatic after the Nile white-water
rafting incident but here goes.
My month in Uganda and Rwanda were brilliant to say the least. I met
some fabulous people and it was actually quite hard to leave there.
Never-the-less, I was looking forward to my time in South Africa. I had
planned on several adventures in and around Cape Town.
Upon my arrival to Cape Town I found my bags had been torn and destroyed
with missing zippers and locks. Apparently that is not unheard of from
the leg of Johannesburg to Cape Town. So, my 1st evening and following
day I found myself dealing with the airlines (a true pleasure to deal
with, honestly), and the luggage shop. They were all so nice but
everything moved rather slowly so it all took time. But again, there
really was no stress just many wasted hours. My ride was not at the
airport when I arrived either so I was delayed waiting for a car to
escort me to the proper luggage shop that I had been directed to go to.
I then had to deal with delay from the rental car company and a GPS unit
that was to be picked up directly from the cellular company so my second
evening was shot as well with that. Ok, so I arrive at the hotel which
was fabulous and I'm laughing about the delays and the girls (hotel
front desk staff) and I were just having fun and they commented that
they were so impressed with how I was making positives out of negatives.
Now, had this happened in Los Angeles, I know my tolerance level would
never have been so accepting? I love what being on the road does for me.
I really was not experiencing any stress over anything as of yet.
by 9:30pm my second night in Cape Town, I had two new suitcases and a
GPS unit for the following day. As a matter of fact, the cellular
company guy was so nice, he threw in a cell-phone at no additional cost.
I'd only pay for airtime and I told him how much I appreciated that. It
would be great to have if I got lost on route. After all, I was
traveling 6 hours to my first destination, 4 hours to my second
destination and then several hours back to town. I would not have had a
clue at how invaluable having that phone would actually be. Everyone
knew I was nervous about driving from the airport staff, the luggage
shop staff and the cellular shop staff and most definitely the car
rental company. Let's face it, I've now been to 55 countries and I have
never driven in any of them let alone one where the steering wheel is on
the opposite side of the car as well as having to drive on the opposite
side of the road. But everyone assured me I would be just fine!
Before I go on, let me say that with the mix-ups thus far, I was still
in love with South Africa. The hospitality here is really remarkable and
the country itself is gorgeous. The contrast of the beautiful, clear
blue skies with white fluffy clouds and forest and Kelley greens in the
trees is enchanting. There are beautiful mountain backdrops everywhere
and the dramatic Table Mountain is visible from all over Cape Town. I
really had fallen in love with the city and its landscapes and
I must have delayed the driving as
long as I could. I sat in the car and was so careful pulling out into
the road. It was a straight drive on the N1 to Route 62. This is
comparable to our famous route 66. They even have bumper stickers that
say I Love Route 62!
Now, I am not sure I share the same love for this route but I just had
to buy the sticker and put it on the last page of my journal!
I had been driving for over 5 hours. I made one or two photo stops for
rainbows, cloud formations, mountain backdrops that made my jaw drop and
a few others. I was getting more comfortable and yet still cautious and
nervous. Cars pass like lunatics on this road and the big-rigs pass so
fast they shake you.
Ironically, I had made a lovely
new friend in Bwindi, Uganda during my Gorilla trek that was a resident
of Cape Town. Karen visited me at my hotel in Cape Town and had told me
a special stop to make on my way to Oudtshroon. So, I stopped at
Ronnie's Sex Shop (famous for a cold drink) along the way and chatted
with a couple of girls that were wearing shirts that said I survived the
crocodile dive. Well, that was where I was heading so I asked how
far away I was. They replied only 1 - 1 1/2 hours. "Great, I'll see
I took several photos of the bras and underwear hanging from the walls
and ceiling, snapped a shot or two of the worlds currency notes adorning
the walls, and the signatures that left only inches of blank wall space.
I bought a bottle of water at Ronnie's and was back on the road. Only I
did not make it to the crocodile dive that day.
About 32 km away from my destination I was passed by a big rig. I shook
rather fiercely and I must explain that these roads are one lane on each
side and paved just enough for the width of the car with not a lot of
room for error. The outer lane is just loose gravel and quite slippery I
So, back to the story...
The car is vibrating and my right front left tire just barely touches
the gravel and the rest is a complete blur!
The car swerved back and forth and I thought just get control. When the
car spun around into the other lane facing oncoming traffic and
continued moving backwards I realized I would never regain control of
that vehicle. I don't remember much from there except believing for a
second time this trip that this was it! There was no way I would survive
The car spun around one and a half times and was traveling or skidding
backwards in the wrong lane when another tire hit the gravel on the
other side of the road and flipped in the other direction. I felt the
car drop down into the ditch but I was still traveling at over 100 km
per hour. It dropped further into the ditch and I think I was just
waiting for the crash. The car was moving along the ditch at an angle. I
was backwards again and could not see what was happening. There was dust
and rocks and no visibility. I must have already gone into shock at that
time. It was slow motion from then on.
The next thing I know is I hear
the crash. The back of my car hit a wired fence and spun forward and I
slammed into a small tree and a pole. The fence then fell on top of the
I don't know if I realized I was alive or not. I waited like nothing
happened. I then came too and thought get out, get out, get out! But I
The driver door was completely blocked by tree branches and a gate. I
was trying to kick my way out with no success of even an inch. I was
really trying to kick my door open. I just was not thinking clearly. I
was panicking. I thought the car is going to blow up so get out! I realized
I could climb out from the passenger side. It was like I could not think
clearly. I fumbled with the belt and grabbed my bag with my passport and
ran out of the car. I didn't smell gas but I knew a fire was a
possibility. I then realized the engine was running so I ran back in the
car to shut it off. I then realized there would be no fire and that I
was actually ok. I was walking, actually swerving like in a drunken
stupor but walking none-the-less. I ran up to the remote road to drop my
first load of bags and then ran down to the smashed car for the second
load. I was just a robot going back and forth. I could not think
straight. It was all so automatic. Just get your stuff out of the car
was all I could think. I could not bear getting my big bag out of the
trunk so I just left it in there. I had the important documents, phone
and cameras somewhere in the piles along the skidded road.
I realized I was all alone and may be there for some time and I remember
fumbling to find my phone in my bags. I couldn't though. My fingers
could not sort through anything to find it. I know I needed to get it
but my brain could not focus. I was moving but with no direction. It
must have looked like a crazy cartoon. I knew what I needed to do but I
could not contain my motor control. I was moving too fast to focus.
finally saw a big truck coming and flailed my arms pleading for
assistance. As he drove past me, I felt completely alone and helpless. I
just plopped down on the side of the road. He must have had an instinct
that I was no threat to him as he stopped in the distance and started to
back his car up. I lifted my head and saw him backing up to me and just
bowled over and sobbed. When he reached me I could not speak. I don't
even know if I understood what he was yelling from his car window. I
know he could not understand me.
A man in a car had pulled up at this point and told the truck driver he
would take care of it and the truck drove off. Then a lady with
such a kind face drove up. I felt so much more at ease when
she showed up and I just hugged her and held onto her as if I had known
her for years. Then, a half-dozen cars must have been on the road with
us. They all wanted to see the car in the tree I guess.
Well, there was no reception in
the "accident zone" so the man in the car went to the next
town to call the police for me. The kind lady stayed with me and brought
me water. She took me out of the sun and a group of us waited for the
police. I was still in shock. The ambulance came and did a very quick
check of my blood pressure. They asked if I wanted to go to the hospital
and I said no. They released me to Jo, formerly referred to as the
The police were very lovely and
knew Jo since their station happens to be only doors down from her
guest house. Jo insisted I return with her. I was so worried about being
an imposition I didn't want to go but it was my best alternative as I
was not going to drive anywhere. I was in the middle of Calitzdorp and
Oudtshroon. I thought, thank God that before I took the car, the man at
the rental car office offered me full insurance. I had rented the car
from home before I left on the trip so I did not know options of
insurance. I just said I would take it but I was only given partial
coverage at that point. So, for 150 Rand ($15), I had full coverage.
I was thinking how will I get to Oudtshroon and then Knysna? How will I
drive again? How will I see the animals, do the crocodile dive, get to
the Cango Caves, ride the ostrich, see the Garden Route and then do the
shark dive? I was thinking of all of this with my bruises, my head
aching like crazy and being quite frankly in shock.
So, from Jo's place, I called the rental company and they said my cost
would be $50 for the processing fee of the claim and that the tow truck
would go get the car and they would deliver a new car to me within a few
hours. I thought, “Are they seriously going to give me another new
Then I thought, "Why, I'm not going to drive it?"
Sure enough, a few hours later, I had a brand new VW Polo at the
door. No questions asked.
I filled out the police report and then finished the evening drinking
Vodka and orange juice with the police at Jo's house along with her
other guests over dinner. Now, I don't want to be misleading like I was
fine. I was so out of it but I was once again grateful to be alive. Jo
was a life-saver and I will always be grateful to her! She took such
good care of me.
bruises are healing and I still have some neck and back aches and the
headaches have not gone away completely as of yet but I'm well enough to
hit a dance floor tonight. Although, now that it is 11:38 pm, I'm not so
sure anymore that I will. I think I will intelligently get some
So, now what was I going to do...
I had things to see and places to get to. Mind you, I was not myself all
day. I was scared, nervous, still in a bit of shock and yet quite
I hugged my new friend Jo goodbye
and drove off around 10am and was rather slow and cautious. Actually, I
was paranoid and terrified. I don't know how I drove. I was extremely
determined to do some of my planned activities although looking back, I
think I did them all in a fog. I made it first to the Ostrich farm where
I did stand on ostrich eggs and I rode an ostrich. That was the whole
reason I rented the car so that was now done. It was a good time and I'm
glad I did it.
Then I headed off for my crocodile dive. Three enormous crocodiles and I
were literally face-to-face with them under water. The staff were
telling me to slap the water and blow bubbles to excite them. Now,
normally I would jump at chances like that but I was really gun shy. I
was just too afraid. I was actually feeling like I had already tempted
fate twice this trip (more if you count the dangerous things I did
without incident). So, I was calm and happy to look at them eye-to-eye
and call it a day with them.
I showered and dried off and then was off to play with a tiger. Words
can not express the beauty in that. The tiger is my favorite cat. I find
it the most regal of them all. Then I played with two Cheetahs. They
were so playful licking me so passionately the keepers made me back
away. They said the larger male was getting too excited and if he
decided to play more, they would not be able to control him. I was in
awe over how much they loved me. It made me miss Spooky!
Then it was time for the snakes. I really enjoyed the Pythons. I spent
most time with them. The keepers said that the snakes are normally not
as calm for other tourists as they were for me. We got on quite well. I
was even allowed to spend time with the albino. So, the keepers gave me
extra time with them as they slowly slithered around my legs, body and
So, now I didn't know what I would do. I was missing the Cango Caves
which was a major disappointment to me. They are the biggest draw in
that area. But it was after 6pm, about to get dark and started to rain.
There was no way I could drive 4 hours to Hermanus let alone in the dark
with rain. But, I had to push 1 hour ahead to drive to George. I made an
emergency call to the car rental company and asked for a driver. They
gave me a number to a chauffeur service and I hired a man to meet me in
George and he would drive me to Hermanus and then drive my car back to
the rental company at the George airport. I would then get picked up at
my guest house in Hermanus at 7am for my caged shark dive and they would
return me to Cape Town safely at my hotel. Done!
was slow moving and steady with a few shakes from passer-bys. I made it
to George at the airport just at 7 when they were closing and met my
driver John. I added him to my policy and we were off. I arrived in
Hermanus at 11:30pm and was safe. The comfort of a driver for that 4 1/2
hour drive only cost me 580 Rand or $58. Shocking! I love this country.
Again, upon my safe arrival I was tearing and just a bit shocked. I was
well taken care of by the owners of the Bed and Breakfast at 138 Marine
Drive. Jena ran a bath for me and I was asleep by 1am.
the next morning, the caged shark dive was the most exciting of all of
my activities in Cape Town. This I could not wait for. Well, there is no
drama here. It was a rather boring day with a boring group of people on
the boat. One Great White surfaced for us and I was right in front of
him but only for a moment and only before the cage was lowered into the
water. I did capture the moment on video and it was exciting for a
fleeting moment. Nothing else happened over the next 3 1/2 hours. Well,
I wanted the cage experience so I hung out in it for about 40 minutes on
my own just chilling out. It was cold and I would dunk my head just to
see nothing in the water but I was going to make the most of the cage
experience. I kept asking for the shark to come visit but I guess he had
other places to be. But, with all I had been through, I was going to
have a good time. I played my music on the boat and chatted with the
crew. It reminded me of the white-water rafting people that I had been
with. They all left their personalities on the dock.
did see hundreds of seals though. But then we sadly watched baby seals
drowning and dying all around us. Literally, it was really pathetic to
watch them dying, trying to swim to the rocks literally exhausting
themselves to death and we could do nothing about it. I hated that
part! We did pull in one and threw him back in the water toward the
rocks but were told he would sadly not make it in spite our efforts.
shark driver dropped me off safely at my hotel and I had a great story
for the girls at the front desk when I got back to my hotel Fire
and Ice. Once again, they said how "inspirational" I was for
being so positive about everything. I have to say that I really was
being very optimistic about everything. After all, how could I not be? I
was alive and well. I was so lucky to have walked away from that
accident. I am pretty calm and accepting of everything considering what
has happened in this last week.
I managed to ignore the pains that night and danced away a few hours and
it rejuvenated me. I was ready for the next day to go see the townships
and hang out with the kids and I did just that. I passed out pencils,
bracelets and fans to a lot of really appreciative kids living in
shanty’s and projects. I then took a cable car to the top of Table
Mountain and appreciated the views of beautiful Cape Town.
was grateful to be on that mountain. I was grateful for the views and
grateful for the clear day.
I'm grateful for all of you that allow me to share my stories. Each of
you has a role in my life and I'm forever grateful for whatever role
that is regardless of how big or small.
you for being my friend!
you on Tuesday, God Willing!