Saturday, June 21, 2008

Jamie and Julie's South African Adventure

My dear friend and fellow Shark Saver director, Jamie, has arrived in South Africa and our new adventures have begun!

They all started with me deciding to take on one of the most daunting tasks, I think I have ever taken on. I was so nervous about it, I couldn’t sleep for days… Yes, I decided to DRIVE in South Africa. Which, by the way is no easy task for someone from the states. First of all, they drive on the wrong side of the road here. Add in the fact I have NO IDEA where I am going, and that seemingly, all traffic signals, rules and speed limits seem to be just suggestions here, and you have a totally stressed out Julie. Constantly repeating the matra “You can do anything”, I decided to suck it up and rent a car. I figured I was going to have to do it sooner or later, so best reduce the factors that cause issues, and do it with an automatic transmission (who the heck can shift with their left hand???), a GPS, and a Jamie to constantly remind me what lane to be in and squeal when I got too close to cars on her side. Three hours later without any help whatsoever from my GPS who kept instructing me to turn right on a cliff and a small accident in which I lost the passenger’s side mirror, I had managed to travel the short 40 km to the hotel Jamie was staying at, so stressed out I had to sit down for a few hours and compose myself. Fortunately, things became easier as I quickly settled into my new driving style.

Jamie and I had a great time exploring Capetown – which was absolutely stunning. Think San Fransisco then multiply its beauty by ten, Then, we headed to Gansbaai again, as Jamie was desperate to get into the water with White Sharks and spend the day with the Sharkman, Mike. We only had one opportunity, given the weather, to head out to sea. Jamie was sooo excited and I was thrilled to be able to share it with her – her enthusiasm is even more contagious than mine. Unfortunately, the swells were huge and I literally felt as if I was diving in a washing machine. We had some great white shark interactions – with at least six sharks in the water – so the bruises and battered fingers were a small price to pay! The trip home was so rough Jamie managed to nearly knock herself unconscious walking into a doorway, but all in all, well worth it. Actually, Jamie’s head took a beating this trip as two days later I slammed Jamie’s head in the trunk and in the midst of drama, was actually so proud of myself for knowing to use the word boot instead of trunk when I went screaming into the hotel lobby for some ice. She wasn’t the least bit amused with my new South African vocabulary.

Then, we headed to, what I think might be the most beautiful place in the world. Franschook – the wine region – about an hour North of Capetown. Even though it is winter here, it was still lush, green and absolutely stunning. Napa and Santa Barbara cannot compete. Making the journey even more delightful was the fact we were staying with Herbert Henrich at his beautiful guest house, La Balloon Rouge. We felt like princesses in the huge suite and luxurious bathroom larger than my apartment in New York City. Paul had arranged it, since Herbert runs Sea Shepherd here in South Africa. Lazy days tasting wine and eating more than I thought humanly possible of fresh cheeses, olives (I ate the cured ones only after witnessing Jamie eat a fresh one off the tree which she swears is the grossest thing she has ever eaten – and she eats pickled herring) and bread combined with wonderful dinners with Herbert discussion the state of sharks, whales, seals and Africa. My appetite was endless, as my biggest weakness in the world is olives, cheese and oh yes, cured meats. HEAVEN.

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