Soon enough, the weekend rolled around and it was to be an exciting one. We had the opportunity to drive along the Garden Route with our program coordinator and medical director, Marion and Avril. The day started with an alarm going off at 4:30AM. Somehow, I stumbled into the shower and did my thing. As I was drying off, I put my finger over my ear lobe and noticed something was missing. My earring must have fallen off I thought but it was really sore. I felt the backing of my earring still in my ear and then I got worried. Upon closer inspection, the ear lobe was bleeding and swollen. I probed at it some more and lucky for me my earring was still in….inside my ear. Somehow the stud went inside my ear while I was sleeping. Feeling pretty shocked, I phoned Avril and told her the situation. She told me not to worry and we’ll figure it out. Sure enough, I got picked up at 5AM and drove 30 minutes to Marion’s house. At her house, she busted out her medical kit out the back of her car and she started inspecting my ear. Without warning she yanked on the backing that was in still lodged in the back and pulled out the entire thing. Yes, it did hurt… but it felt good to be out. Finally, we were on our way to our 3 day adventure.
The drive was pretty (after 730AM that is, it was dark before then). I was also falling asleep intermittingly. We stopped for breakfast at the Country Pumpkin honestly in the middle of nowhere. The breakfast was delicious of course. A couple hours later we arrived at the Cango Caves. We were able to climb through caves in a ninety minute tour. Some of the caves had super tight squeezes. The worst one was definitely where we had to crouch and walk for like a minute straight. Other tunnels included the tunnel of love where we had to walk side by side, devil’s chimney (I thought it was the best one, consisted of climbing up this really tight tunnel 5 meters high), and the letter box where we had to slide through it on our stomachs. After climbing out of there sweaty and smelling like hot cave, we headed to an ostrich farm (duh what’d you expect?). As we began driving, we noticed the mass amounts of ostriches in this town called Oudtshoorn. It soon became an ostrich extravaganza. EVERYTHING in this place was ostrich themed… the restaurants, cleaning supplies, lifestyle, meat, and many more. Eventually, we pulled into this place and sat in on an ostrich lecture…hmm. The lecturer held up a pellet and told me since I’m the only guy that I have to kiss the ostrich. Eff are you kidding?! These things are gigantic and dumb as screws. I really had no desire to do this but I don’t think I had a choice. We proceeded into the ostrich holding area and he shoved me into the pen and told me to put the pellets in my mouth and close my eyes. Betsy then bolted over to me and nipped the pellets out of my mouth. Like the dumb bird that she is, she missed twice and left marks on my face. It was something bizarre and slightly unmemorable. Let’s just say it was a one time only thing. Since Hailey didn’t feed or kiss the ostrich, the guide demanded that she ride first on the ostrich. How they wrangled the ostrich was another thing. First off, ostriches are absolutely retarded. If you look at one you can see how tiny their head is, inside their head must be a brain… putting it together, ostriches have brains the size of a peanut. Anyway, the wranglers go out into this ostrich confinement and they start going crazy and running. Given that they’re all dumb as hell, all you have to do it put a blindfold around the ostriches head and it thinks they’re all alone and nobody is around them. Once they did that, the ostrich stopped running around and panicking. They guided it back to this horizontal A-frame looking thing and Hailey had to straddle the ostrich reluctantly. They lifted the wings up and she sat on top of it and began to scream. Suddenly the removed the blindfold, the ostrich backed up, and they just threw her into the confinement and the ostrich ran like crazy. She lasted only a little bit but it was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. She ran over to Marion and Avril and cried in their arms in sheer terror.
I was up next, and soon we were realizing we were the only ones doing it out of the entire group (there were some Dutch and Italians with us). Again, I straddled this ugly monstrosity and it just backed up like it was nobodys business and took off. The video is pretty funny and is also on Facebook for everybodys enjoyment. The guy shaked my hand afterwards and told me I did a really good job. I guess I lasted a long time? Or maybe owning an ostrich farm is my true calling. After that we drove a long time until we hit out hotel in the town of Wilderness. Creative huh? We went out to dinner later that night and had a good time with Marion and Avril. When we came back, the three of us opened up a bottle of J.C. La Roux champagne and partied in the room.
The next morning, none of our alarms went off for some reason, so we woke up and had to eat breakfast in five minutes before taking off. During those five minutes, we received some sad news. Avril received a call when we got back from dinner to let her know that her mom has just passed away. It was a pretty devastating blow but she had been suffering for quite some time now. It was all a matter of time before it happened but it was sad that it happened that day. Avril insisted that we continue with the trip after we offered to go home early. The whole day was to be filled with crazy things to do but it was definitely bittersweet. The first stop was ziplining. We were able to zipline through some pretty tall canopies. I’ve always wanted to try it, so it was awesome that I got the opportunity to do that. We got lunch after we returned and we had to take it to go because of time constraints. As we started eating our lunch we asked what was next. Marion turned around and casually said “bungee time”. We all looked at each other, then at our lunches, and then quickly put it away and began to panic. I had been dreading this moment since even before I came to South Africa. Thirty minutes later, we saw the bridge that we had seen online and my stomach felt like it dropped 216 meters. We pulled into the place and had to rush to get registered because this giant Indian tour bus pulled right behind us. We were harnessed up and then were told to wait for 30 minutes or so. I walked over to the viewing platform across the way from the bridge and looked down. It was HUGE. No picture, no video, or anything can really put into perspective how absolutely gigantic this drop is. A bungee-er was about to jump (or be thrown) and I decided to watch it. Big mistake. I could barely even watch it since I began to put myself in that body flailing around. The person dropped so far it felt like it never ended. A canyon surrounded the bridge with a stream leading out to the ocean down below.
Eventually, it was time to walk out to the bridge. Since the bungee platforms are slightly below the bridge, they needed to construct a tunnel to get us over there. This walkway had a hollow grated bottom… so as we were walking we could see what was down below. It was already terrifying and only making the pre-experience worse. Finally we got to the bridge bungee platform and the music was playing which eased my nerves a little bit. They instructed us how everything works. The order we signed up for was not necessarily the order we will be jumping. It all depended on what cable was attached at the time, so it went according to weight. The guy held up the clipboard to his face and was like “hmm… ok let’s have our first jumper be…Miles”. Out of our group of twenty, I get to go first. Lovely. Going first on these thing carries a big role of making sure you don’t screw up. I started to get strapped up…which took a whopping 20 seconds because it consisted of simply strapping on a little booty. Phew, glad this nifty booty that’s been used thousands of times is going to keep me from falling 708 feet to my death. I remember looking behind me and seeing everybody’s faces. Most of them had their hand over their mouth. Hailey and Lauren were genuinely concerned and Hailey even began to get tears in her eyes. Soon enough I stood up and the crowd started cheering for me. I was helped/hobbled over to the platform where I had to stand at the very edge of the bridge with my toes dangling off the edge! That was by far the scariest part of the entire process. I gave a wave to Marion and Avril who were hopefully watching from the viewing platform at one side of the canyon. If not I just waved to nobody. The people behind me started to cheer, which was nice and encouraging. The wind would gust at times and when you’re standing at the edge of the bridge you either want to jump prematurely or run back to safety. But they spreaded my arms out like a damn eagle and before I knew it, “5 4 3 2 1 bungee!” and all I remembered from our mini orientation was to jump out… so I did just that… I jumped like a crazy man. I honestly didn’t know what was going on at first. I remember it being about 7 to 8 seconds of flat free fall. That feeling of your stomach in your throat and feeling of self-implosion. I flung back up and down again which was another huge drop. That hang time between the first and second drop is pretty awkward and long. At that point, I realized what was going on… I had just jumped off a 708 foot bridge attached to a stupid cable that I put my life on the line for. But instead of being mad, I became high or something. A feeling of complete euphoria came over me and I just relaxed and enjoyed all that this jump had to offer. I was completely alone bobbing around in this canyon, I remember hearing my echo and thinking how cool this really all was. After having that little moment, I realized my head wanted to explode since I had been dangling there for what felt like forever. My eyes felt like they were bugging out of my head and I’m sure I just looked like I had been asphyxiated. It seemed like an eternity before this guy came down and began pulling me back up. Eventually I was getting pulled back to the bridge and right as I was pulled up, Lauren had jumped off (she was the next person on the other cable. Hailey was 15th or something). Apparently Lauren had grabbed onto the guy during the first countdown with a death grip. This girl managed to jump even with a fear of heights. I was placed on the platform and the guys played a trick on me and almost threw me off again. When I was released from my straps everyone came up to me and congratulated me and asked how it was. They also told me I had red dots above my eyes and also that they were bloodshot. I saw a reflection in a metal bar and saw that I got patikeye which are essentially blood vessels that exploded. You can see them in autopsies when people have been strangled to death. But I guess I can get them while bungee jumping. Nobody else got them so I have no idea what the hell was up with that. Hailey continued to have tears in her eyes and apparently screamed when I jumped. I couldn’t believe I actually did that jump, after all the nauseating YouTube videos I watched… I finally did it. Overall, I think it was a once in a lifetime experience. Even though it was a crazy feeling, once is just fine :)
After that exhilarating experience, it felt like everything else to follow would be just so calm. But I think that would be fine considering that was enough adrenaline to last me for a while. Up next was the Knysna Elephant Park. When we got there we sat in on a little elephant movie and then hopped in a tractor and was lead to the elephants. Right as the truck pulled up, the elephants immediately knew what was going to happen. They rushed over and seemed very happy. They all got behind the little post where they belonged and we were able to feed them. Of course you get your selfish elephants that try and steal every piece of food that’s put out. I tried to help the less fortunate ones but those trunks can ambush your bucket in no time. Also I had a runaway elephant reach from behind and steal some fruit. It was quite scary to turn around to this massive thing reaching in your bucket. After that we were able to mingle with the elephants like they’re our buddies. They didn’t mind the company at all and were able to be touched by us. Definitely not everyday you’re able to just hang out with the elephants and touch them...or hang on their tusks. The day didn’t end there, after that we drove and went on a sunset cruise around the bay. We were all able to catch up on the day and see how everyone was doing. It had been a long and rushed day. Avril was in good spirits despite her loss this morning.