Apr 122012

On the morning after the wedding we checked out from the brothel and jumped into our crappy little car ready for a long ride on the infamous “route 62”. Despite the fact that we very specifically asked for a car with air conditioning they had managed to give me another car without A / C , although I had paid extra for A / C … that's the last time I trust Herz .
This meant that we drove through the desert with air temperatures of 40 C + with none other than the heat (and noisy) wind from our open windows

It was a really enjoyable route, slightly different from the Norwegian or English nature which I am familiar with. I have never seen straighter roads than here – 20-30 km straight road with huge mountains in the background and millions of cactus plants on the sides.

Most of the scenery was just desert, Not too much wildlife, other than the occasional snake(I wish..)
After about 3 hours of driving around at 140 km / h we arrived at the ostrich capital of the world – Oudtshoorn. It is a simple village with some small shops, a shopping center and an extremely long main street with lots of guest houses and B & B. We had plotted our GPS directly to the hostel which was recommended in Lonely Planet.
I've had more than enough times where I've come to a city with no idea where to stay,completely lost. I then wandered for hours among different hostels to try to find the cheapest and best value option only to end up with the crappiest hostel that is conceivable. So these days it's easier to just go by the book.
there was only dorm space left, so we checked in., dumped our luggage and went straight to the ostrich farm.
At the ostrich farm, they had organized tours to learn more about the birds and about the practicalities of rearing them.. The best part about the tour is that the people who dare are allowed to ride them for a quick trip for an extra fee.

I was deeply disappointed when I found out that we would not be able to ride them because it was too hot for the birds to have any passengers that day.
There's not many places in the world where I will ever get the chance again!
The trip was interesting nonetheless, We got to hold the small ostrich babies, and I could squeeze some of the more docile ostriches. They are wonderful animals, they are unlike any other animal I've ever seen, looks more like today's Dinosaurs.
However, they are dumber than your average wheat bread. Brain size is the size of a chicken, even if their body is enormous, often 2.5 metres tall.

Ostriches can be quite frightening, They can easily kill a grown man, as their kick is furiously fast and hard, and they have sharp claws that can open a person's chest straight up.
The guide told us that if we are attacked by an ostrich, we should keep a stick in the air. They will not attack as long as the stick is held above their head, probably because they think that you are a bigger ostrich than they are. as I said: they're not very smart.

They had some nice good sized enclosures where they could roam around. On ostrich farms they separate the males and females in different enclosures, otherwise they will just fight battles for dominance and for women, just like people would really..
In the last enclosure they had saddles on some of the birds, and these were the birds that they would normally let people ride free of charge.

Unfortunately I was only allowed to sit on one of them because of the warm weather. To Ride the bird was just like sitting on any other chair, except that it was a bit more feathery and had more attitude than my couch at home.
We were also allowed to stand on ostrich eggs as they are enormously large and can hold the weight of a grown man.
So we went back to the hostel where we had the most amazing ostrich barbecue for dinner, and some ostrich Biltong for snack.
We went to bed in the dorm around about 23:00 and surprisingly found out that all the other people in the dorm were sleeping, even more surprising to find that the air was really stuffy and no fan was turned on.
I went to bed, and it was only about 10 minutes before I had to turn on the noisy fan to get some air circulation.

I do not understand how others could go to sleep without proper air.
There was a guy in bed next to me who made the most horrible guttural sounds. It sounded like the mating cry of a horny walrus.
The snoring plagued many people in the room … I heard one of the girls whispered and cursed “shut up bastard!”, However, to no avail as the sounds continued.
I tried to go to kick the guy, but it was very dark.. I actually think I kicked the wrong person..
The fan was stopped after about 10 minutes, and it was not possible to resume, it just stopped working.
I had to put on my mp3 with loud music to reduce the snoring sounds.
So there I was lying in a rock hard bed with my ears filled with loud techno music (which was all that I currently had on my Mp3) and the air was so thick and nasty that you could cut through it with a knife.

I did not sleep a minute that night, worst dorm experience ever!, and I have been on hundreds of dorms.
Ironically I have tried to convince Torunn to live in the dorms with me because of the superior social experience compared to the double rooms … and this was the first dorm we had stayed in together. It is safe to say that she was not convinced.

Our planning for this trip has been very sporadic, most of it has been done on the road. After some discussion, we decided to travel an additional 400 km to get to a national safari park. Addo Elephant Park is the third largest park in South Africa and a very worthy objective of any road trip in the area.
We spent many days in the car, but it was still pretty fun just to be able to explore the country from the car.

From Oudsthoorn we left to see the famous Cango Caves – a vast system of caves that stretch 5 kilometers inside the mountain. Torunn drove too fast and we ended up with a speeding fine that is going to be sent to our soon-to-be non-existent address in England; good luck with that South Africans ! !
In the caves you could choose between the standard tour and the adventure tour. Adventure tour takes people several kilometers into the caves through some very narrow tunnels. The tunnels are so narrow that people regularly get stuck in them, but they obviously do not let fat bastards go on these trips.

Cango caves
We went for the standard trip due to time constraints, and a mild condition of claustrophobia.
This is without doubt the most spectacular caves I've ever been inside. The chambers that they took us through was absolutely enormous, and the stalactites and stalagmites were as beautiful as they are old. Stalactites grow by around 3 mm per hundred years. Amazingly enough in one of the chambers, there are no stalactites left because tourists have picked them off as souvenirs. How stupid can people become?….my god..?
Imagine having a stalactite on the shelf and proudly announcing that this was stolen from a South African national monument.
The caves were really worthy of a visit.

After the caves we drove on some rough roads into Schwarskopf pass, which is an incredibly cool mountain pass in the desert. On the way we saw grazing ostriches and baboons, not a typical view when I'm driving in Bergen.

It is one of the most scenic areas in South Africa, and without doubt the the greates mountain pass. Our car was a crappy little Fiat Punto, so not exactly a terrain car, but it survived. superbilen på roadtrip
We kept on driving for hours through the desert topography along the route 62. The roads are incredibly straight, usually 10-20 kilometer straight roads, then a small turn and new 10 miles of straight road. In Bergen, you can't even drive 50 meters with rett vei. On these roads, you can pretty much drive as fast as the car goes, and that was exactly what we did. Hence the speed penalty that we ended up with…that we are probably never going to pay.
Most spectacular was the difference between the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. Suddenly the desert was gone, and the area was lush green and full of vegetation. The topography changed drastically with the local fauna. Suddenly, we saw groups of monkeys along the way, birds we had not seen before, and at one point I had to stop to let a giant leopard tortoise cross the road.
the change of weather was equally drastic – from the burning sun to misty rain and slightly cooler temperatures.
It would unfortunately remain like that even on the day of our big safari..

 Posted by at 8:11 pm
Apr 122012

So we left home to go on another adventure … holiday number five (or you is it 6?) so far in the last year. This was a trip we were really looking forward to, as it was more than just a holiday. This was a trip to the opposite side of the planet to attend the wedding of my boss, The first wedding I had ever been to. What made it ten times more fun is that this was actually a real genuine GAY wedding …. even better; the following gay pool party!
Torunn refused to let it go … we would be on our way to the wedding no matter how much money it would cost … It didn't take too long to convince me, and a few months later I found myself in an overcrowded 14 hour flight from London to Cape Town. ..
We left a rainy, windy and foggy depressing England and arrived in beautiful sunny Cape Town the following day.

everyone who had been in South Africa had told me in advance how incredibly hot and dry Cape Town would be, but when I got there I found that it was actually quite temperate. Early in the afternoon the temperature was around 18 C , and in the middle of the day around 24 C , and the evening was windy and around 16-18 C … So not exactly tropical...
Although I didn't have a minute of sleep on the plane (I am one of those people who simply cannot sleep in an airplane seat) I was still determined to do something with my first day in Cape Town.
We picked up the rental car at the airport and went straight to the hostel at the outskirts of Cape Town (thank god for GPS).
After sitting quietly for 14 hours, I really felt like my body needed to move around a bit, so that's what we did… we spent 10 hours wandering through the city centre, trying to soak up all the impressions from a new country, a new continent.

The hostel was in the part of town called “Observatory”, and as we were walking around in that area I got the impression that we were the only white people in the city. The closer to the center of town we got, the more multi-ethnic it was.
We saw some posters on the way which I don't think would have been very popular in Norway – ” Get an abortion on the day! , Extra cheap in our special clinic, and you get a uterine cleansing included! “. And of course we saw lots of condom campaigns. There was also free condoms in the bathroom.

The first day was a nice introduction to Cape Town, We did some shopping and tasting of local specialties at a local food market, then down to the waterfront for a tasty lunch and some fine local beers. We have fallen in love with “Castle beer”, it is as good as any beer you can find in Europe, with exception of Hansa of course.

The view over the city and Table Mountain from the port is pretty amazing, and there is also a monster big coca-cola man down there.
It was also quite enjoyable to watch the seals playing in the water around the fishing boats … We've got lots of seals in cold Norway, but I was'nt prepared to find them at the tip of Afrika, but I was'nt prepared to find them at the tip of Afrika.
As darkness covered Cape Town, we started the long walk back to suburbia.
We did'nt feel unsafe at any time, even when walking around in the dark, Although there are many who say Cape Town is one of the world's most dangerous cities. It is apparently the world's rape capital.

The drive to Montagu was a great way to see the beautiful mountain ranges east of Cape Town, One of the perks of having our own car. We stopped at some rest areas along the way to enjoy the views. In a deep empty bin, I found a 10 cm lizard who was fighting for his life. His death sentence was signed as long as he was trapped in this rapidly heating deathtrap., but there I was; a certified hero who has sworn an oath as a veterinarian to help any animal in suffering . I risked my own life – without knowing whether this was a very poisonous reptile, I took a quick and expertly grip on the animal and saved it from this fiery hellhole. .
I looked it deep in the eyes whilst it was viciously trying to bite me with his razor sharp teeth, and I whispered “Calm down little buddy, why can't we all just get together and show love for eachother as we are all in the same boat? .
the picnic basket was full of ostrich sausages, local pate, and lots of cheese and other decadent foods. The boat trip on the river was the perfect opportunity to get to know some of the people we would be spending the wedding with, as well as beeing a chilled-out start of the journey.

Later in the evening we checked into the hostel where we were staying for 3 nights. It was quite a strange experience as the woman there asked us how much we had paid in advance, and how much we should pay for the rest of your stay. I did not have a clue about it since the hostel was booked through an online hostel Booker, and honestly, I started getting a little worried about how clueless the people who worked there actually could be.
Locals in Montague gave us a very ugly look when we told them where we lived because apparently this place was known as the local “pleasure house” which indicated a brothel.
In our 3 nights there we saw no suspicious activities, but we still felt like we were living in someone's private home, as there were local families with many children who lived there and occupied all the common areas
I don't think we're going to stay there next time we go to Montagu.

The next day was the big day for the wonderful gay wedding complete with a gay pool party – the very reason why we had traveled 10000 kilometers to get here. It is safe to say that our hopes and spirits were high.
The bridegroom, Ivan had booked one of the most luxurious hotels in Montague for his wedding with the other groom (,) Brent. .
The ceremony was held in a beautiful garden with a mineral pool surrounded by mountains on all sides. There was about 50 guests, so just the right size for a small wedding. The ceremony was short, sweet and refreshingly devoid of religious references. The pastor was a somewhat controversial gay priest from Cape Town who had brought his boyfriend along to the wedding.

Ivan and Brent confirmed their love and commitment to each other, and then a big kiss to seal the deal.
There was also a special South African custom where the rings were passed along on a long rope and presented to all so that everyone could communicate their wishes for a happy future for the couple.. The rings were massive structures of precious metal studded with diamonds. I thought they looked much like the ring from Lord of the Rings, roughly the size it was when it was on the hand of Sauron.

The food at the wedding was pretty amazing. I've never been to a wedding before, but it was as good as I could ever have expected.
The speeches from the groom and the other the groom were absolutely fantastic. They had really prepared well, but both were looking forward to being finished with the speeches … as speaking in public is never fun.

We had some fantastic apertisers with bread, beetroot soup and fantastic local fish patèes of different kinds. I couldn't myself from over eating from the divine Snook patèe. Snook is the local Cape Town fish.
So in proud South African tradition,there was a proper barbeque (or BRAII as the locals call it) for the main course. There was a choice between barbecue dinner with ostrich or beef sirloin. Like most of the people there I went for the ostrich and mistakenly asked for medium rare (I thought it was the same as a medium… I'm not a steak connoisseur). So I ended up getting an ostrich steak tartar!
Ostrich meat is the most succulent, tender and tasty meat I have ever eaten, If you have not tried it yet I urge you to try it!
My steak was a bit more raw than I hoped for, really just a thin fried outer surface, and raw all the way through, but it was still super tasty.

The next few days we would be eating ostrich for every meal, especially since our next destination was Oudsthoorn – The ostrich- capital of the world.
This was another one of those times where the volume of my stomach just couldn't meet my growing appetite. I longed for more ostrich, but I knew I was full and that my stomach could not hold any more. I did however manage to cram in quite a lot of desserts and cakes later on, Not to mention the large amounts of alcoholic beverages.
There was a good access to local wines, beers, ciders, Fruit Punch, and champagne. This made for a great party, we ate and drank as much as our hearts desired for 14 hours straight, 13.30 to 4 in the morning
The next day I felt like a train wreck, but it was the worth it, best party I'd ever been a part of, great people, great place, and good food.

We ate lunch at the hotel with Ivan and some of the guys from the wedding, most of them looked tired and had bloodshot eyes ..

We had a walk around some of the more scenic spots in Montague. Firstly there is a place called “The bird tree”, which is a couple of trees containing hundreds of strange birds named Ibis who are going about their daily chores.

Apr 112012

The first time I went out into the world of backpacking, I traveled with an ancient wreck of a 90 liter rucksack. I travelled 6 months without any plans or hopes. That's when I learned how stupid it was to take the wrong backpack, not to mention the wrong content.
Due to my lack of planning I would often just jump on a random bus to some random city, And then i was moping around with a giant bag until I found a cheap fleainfested hostel to stay at.
My back suffered many a time on the trip, since this bag was anything but ergonomic design.

This time I'm determined to not make the same mistake. It is worth spending a little time to find the perfect backpack for RTW purposes. The 2 important thing is the weight, volume and opening mechanisms.

Volume – There is a separate faction of RTW travelers who believe that one should make do with a bag that you can bring as hand luggage, i.e.. and under 10 kg , and dimensions 55*35*23 cm. That amounts to a volum of about 40-45 litre capacity. It does'nt sound too bad, but it is actually very little, especially if you are traveling for a year or more. With a small bag you can't bring many changes of clothes, so you'll be forced to wash your clothes much more frequently. Alternatively you can wear the same clothes all the time, but then you will smell and have trouble finding friends on the trip !
I travelled 2 months through Thailand / Malaysia / Singapore with a 40 litre backpack. It was an incredibly sweet feeling, especially when I met other backpackers with gigantic, heavy bags that they were dragging around, while I was strolling with my little school backpack. It was a tight fit, but it was ok with a little smart packing. On long trips I don't agree with the faction of people who thinks it's okay to travel with hand luggage. Yes it is incredibly nice, but there are just too many compromises on what you can actually bring along.
A 60-75 litre rucksack is ideal. The best thing is actually to pack it 1/2-2/3 full so that you have some extra space in case you want to pick up some souvenirs along the way. Nevertheless, there is always the option of sending things home in a package if there is too much to fit in the backpack.
You should also consider bringing a daypack along , about 30 litre capacity. Some bags come with built-in daypacks, but they tend to become extremely bulky and wide in my experience.
.. Another good reason for not filling your mainpack to the top is that then you won't be able to fit the daypack into it..

Weight – You would ideally want a backpack that has very low weight without making any compromises on quality and design. It is possible, but these packs are usually more expensive. To find a 75 liter backpack that weighs less then 1.5 kg is quite an achievement, but it is possible. It is important to also check that the material it is made of is durable, and that it has an ergonomic design / is comfortable to use and has enough straps around the hips/chest,.. . The image to the right is of a backpack called Ultralight Adventure Equipment circuit 68 litre capacity. It is a sack made of carbon fibers, and it only weighs 1088 grams. The main compartment can hold 39 litre capacity, but it is 68 litres in total when counting the side pockets.
It has a foam support frame, so it should be relatively comfortable to carry. Search for bags that are made of DYNEEMA. DYNEEMA is a new super-lightweight and super strong material that is becoming increasingly popular to create bags from. A bag made of this material may not weigh more than 600 grams and can contain the same volume like other bags that weigh up to 3 kg .

Design Most backpack manufacturers will provide you with long stories about how wonderfully comfortable and ergonomic backpacks they produce, but it is difficult to know how good they are without actually trying the bag on. There should obviously be good to support for your back and shoulders. Some bags also have very good hip support, allowing you to carry all the weight on the hips instead of your back. It is especially the bags made for girls that focuses on the hip support.
The best way forward is really to buy a bag a few weeks before going on a journey around the earth. Then you will get a chance to use it on several trips in the woods. If the bag is uncomfortable to wear for a few hours in your own backyard then it certainly won't do much good going around the world with you., so then the best option is to bring it back to the shop and look for new packs..

Opening mechanisms : This is definitely an important thing to consider. All bags have a flap opening on the top , but not all can be opened in the middle and bottom. I have always travelled with a top-loading pack, but a pack that could be opened on the centre would make life so much easier.. Every time I have been out travelling I have usually spent 1-2 days at each location until I have moved on, so that means a lot of unpacking and repacking the bag. Sometimes I had to take everything out of the bag only to find something that was on the bottom of the pack. It can be an unnecessary amount of work. The best option would be a bag that could be opened from the top , the middle and the bottom without too much fiddling around. It is also a great advantage to have a pack that has side pockets and front pocket for those small items that you need all the time (toothbrush, deodorant,mobile phones, stereo..) .

Other things that are worth remembering

I love the backpacks that have built-in rain cover. If it is not buildt-in it is still worth getting it seperately as it should'nt cost too much.. It is really a must-have on those long journeys. When you are in the tropics in the middle of the rainy season and the bag is on the roof of a local bus, or boat, it does take too long for all the stuff inside the backpack to get soaking wet. There are more than one occasion that I have regretted the lack of rain cover on my sack.

Hydration system: Some of the newer backpack comes with the hydration system design. This means that you can fill water into a specific bag that will fit into a pocket inside the backpack so that the drinking tube will exit from the top of the pack., just like a Camelback. It can be useful if you intend to trudge around in the jungle for days with the sack on, or when trekking in the mountains, you won't have to drag around lots of water bottles. For typical backpackers it has a limited usefulness, and there is always a danger that the bag is punctured and that the water escapes over the content of the bag..

Back ventilation – a very practical design that prevents your back and the back of the backpack of becoming really sweaty and nasty when you trudge around. The disadvantage is that the bag becomes more curved, and thus more difficult to pack properly. Some newer backpacks have avoided this problem by providing an external frame with a strong, breathable mesh to support the back (Osprey Exos58 -my favorite).

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 Posted by at 11:21 in the morning