South Africa Update 5

South Africa Update 5

I finally woke up after arriving back in Denver on Tuesday:)

So, I wanted to finish up on the rest of my experience in South Africa.

After shooting our last exercise routine in Stilbaai, we headed out the next day to Capetown.  It was another 5 hour drive, but when we drove through the gorgeous Sir Lowry’s Pass, the view was nothing short of spectacular.  Or, as Anthea would say, gob smacking!  We had views of the entire Peninsula.

To go from such poverty living conditions to this splendid spectacular wine estate in Stellenbosch and stay at the charming conversion from old farm buildings to an exquisite Lodge, was a shock to the senses.  It was a perfect way to end our journey amongst the tranquility and beauty of Eikendal Lodge, which was gently tucked away in the heart of the Stellenbosch Winelands.  A true slice of heavenJ

However, I couldn’t help but feel guilty after witnessing the hardships that so many of these children have to endure on a daily basis.  Sitting outside the Dreamcatcher home office, watching them all walk from their school to the church or home in the blazing hot sun or worse, in the pouring rain.  It hurt my heart to hear Anthea tell me that when it is raining like that, they get soaked walking to school, and then have to sit all day shivering in their classrooms because they don’t have rain coats.  Thank Goodness that Anthea has found a sponsor and is addressing that situation.  Just one of many I am afraid, but at least she is doing something to help these kids.

Ricardo captured an amazing sunset for our closing shot to the video.  The light in South Africa is magical, special and quite surreal.

We had dinner outside at this fabulous restaurant nestled in the vineyard and toasted to our amazing journey and to a successful project that will truly help to empower these young women!

I slept like a baby that night after saying my goodbyes to Ricardo and Henna, as they were headed back to Holland.  I sure am going to miss them!  We truly bonded over this experience.

Anthea and I had the most magnificent breakfast and then headed into Captetown for some last minute shopping.  I was definitely not ready for traffic and a mall.  It was an assault to my senses!  She then drove me to the airport and we said our farewells.  It felt very strange to say goodbye to this woman who I just spent the last few weeks with experiencing the amazing diversity of her beloved Country.  She took me on a special journey while shooting this video, wanting me to get a sense of all the variety that South Africa has to offer.  I do not believe I have ever met someone more passionate, more knowledgeable and more full of energy than Anthea Rossouw!

Flew into Johannesburg that evening and crashed at a hotel.  Viva Safari’s picked me up the next morning, and with a car full of very excited people going on their first safari, we embarked on a 6 hour drive to Marc’s Treehouse, located in Kruger National Park.  It is a wild game reserve, and the lodging was deep in the bush.  I stayed in a hut by the swamp with the monkeys and other animals that were roaming all about.  We had severe thunder and lightning storms, and I was sitting in my bed reading “The Girl On The Train” under my mosquito net when the power went out!  It was not the most settling feeling in the world I must admit.  Thank Goodness the lights came right back on, but this happened 3 times!  Didn’t get much sleep that night.  Woke up to a huge monkey on my deck and others screeching all about on my rooftop.  The staff were amazing, and we were all served a delicious breakfast before heading out on our safari.  Unfortunately, it was pouring rain, so we all got a bit wet.  Our guide, Vanessa, was incredibly knowledgeable, and my new friends, the Norwegians, and I had an amazing day.  We spotted a leopard, lions, lots of elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, impalas, and others that I’m not sure of the names.  The only animal from the big 5 we didn’t see was the Rhino, which was okay for me as I got up close and personal to 2 of them when we went on our private safari at Botlierskop Day Safaris in Mossel Bay.  I’m glad I got to experience both, as they were quite different.  With the private game reserve, we had the opportunity to get very close to the lions (a little too close for my comfort) and other animals.  Our guide was very well trained and even wrangled the ostriches to get them moving so we could get the best shot for our video.  We even had a picnic under a huge tree with the giraffes hanging out behind us.J  That day was sunny, warm and perfect, and the safari was more of a high end experience and a highlight for me.

After two days in the bush, I was so ready to come home.  My body felt wrecked and I knew I was in trouble.  Between the malaria pills giving me insomnia, the hay fever I got when in Stilbaai, and then the cold I got from Henna when we were all in the car driving to Capetown, because she was sneezing and coughing all over us, it was going to be a miserable and long journey back to Denver!

I decided not to torture myself with another 6 hour drive back to Johannesburg Airport, so booked a flight from the small little airport only 20 minutes from the Treehouse.  It was the most adorable, charming intimate little airport I had ever seen.  But, it was so hot and steamy after all the rain, it was unbearable.   I had to spend 7 hours in the airport feeling very sick, only to embark on my 16 hour flight to Atlanta and was unlucky to be sitting behind a screaming baby for most of that flight.    Dear Lord, I thought, where is my good karma for just doing this project pro bono?J  Once again, I had to dig deep.  I knew going into this I was going to have to completely surrender all control.  I had no idea of what I was getting myself into, where I would be sleeping, what I would be eating, how uncomfortable I would be….so many unknowns.  It was a true test for me, and I feel proud of myself that I was able to hold it together and deliver when I needed to!

Finally made it to Atlanta and got through customs.  I was a zombie at this point.  I was respectful to everyone not to spread my germs so wore my mask throughout the flights, which I wish more people would do.

When I arrived in Denver, I was so grateful and excited to get to my own bed and see Barney!!!!

Now that I have slept and feel a bit recovered, I am reflecting on this experience.  Some of the highlights for me were:

  1. The faces of those girls when we were shooting the exercise routine I developed for them.  Seeing their pure tears of joy and excitement filled my heart.
  2. Driving along the Indian Ocean, the Garden Route, and seeing the magnificent beauty.
  3. Meeting the Kamamma’s (Means “Baby on My Back”) and seeing their pride at having their own business, homestays that Dreamcatchers helped train them for so they could be of service.   Also, eating their amazing home cooked meals.
  4. Driving along Route 62 through all the spectacular mountain passes with jaw dropping views and seeing a beautiful rainbow.
  5. Shooting the second video at Heidelberg School and getting all the girls to sing “I’m All About That Bass”.
  6. Sitting outside at the Dreamcatcher’s home office with all the little girls playing with my hair, giving me all kinds of interesting hairdo’s.  Watching them sing and dance once again to Megan Trainor’s songs.
  7. Our safari at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve!
  8. Staying for 3 glorious nights at the Nuy Valley privately owned Wine Estate having incredible, traditional home cooked S. African meals and shooting my routine outside with the backdrop of the glorious mountains.  Also, getting our very own private wine tastingJ
  9. Driving to Capetown and staying at the Eikendal Lodge in Stellenbosch.

Now, Ricardo and Anthea start the editing process for our video.  I can hardly wait to see the finished project and am excited to see it get integrated into all of the schools.  The principals can’t get it fast enough!  It is so very gratifying and rewarding for me to have helped Anthea achieve her vision.

I will be posting a link soon “Postcards from South Africa” to share my favorite photos and moments.