I traveled to South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique with Bold Earth Teen Adventures in 2013. I became really close with the group I travelled with and wanted to give you all a glimpse into the blog we created while we were there. We spent the first week in South Africa volunteering, the second week in Swaziland living in a village, and the third week in Mozambique on the beach. Each member of the group wrote one of the blog posts and we posted every single day of our trip. This is the South Africa portion. The Swaziland and Mozambique portions will be listed in their own journals. I hope you enjoy!
Safe Start in Durban, South Africa!!
Date: Jul 01
We made it to Africa! After many hours of travel, we finally got most of our campers together. Lia arrived first and got to be the first to enjoy her hot shower! Always good after an airplane ride. We then went back to get the big group of fourteen that arrived in the early afternoon. Everyone was chipper despite the slight change of flight plans and the long hours of travel (and plane food). We made our calls home, exchanged some money, and were on our way! As soon as we made it to camp in Ballito (a holiday town 20 minutes north of Durban’s international airport) we wanted to go to the beach to check out the “Mr. Price” surfing competition. It was late in the afternoon, so we unfortunately didn’t see any surfing, but were able to dip our feet in the Indian Ocean! Check that one off the list. We came back to camp for meetings and for a delicious meal cooked by our personal chef, Brandon! Speaking of that, maybe now is a good time to mention all of the help we have here along the way. Sonja is our South African guide who has traveled far and wide in southern Africa and has lots of experience. She’s a hoot, too! Monga is our assistant/bush chef, and in addition to having the widest smile you’ve ever seen, he also speaks some 7 or 8 languages. Not bad. And Floyd is our awesome driver who will be taking us on our journey! We are super excited that Carisa, Kelsey, and Madeline arrived later and we played lots of games. We have a GREAT group! We are all anxiously waiting for Kinzy to arrive – we will welcome her with lots of hugs when she arrives tomorrow! We can’t wait Kinzy! Thanks to all our parents for making this trip possible! We will keep you updated on our adventures by posting on this blog, so be sure to check it regularly. Whenever we find wifi, we’ll upload posts with pictures and stories from the previous day(s) – and of course, give you a call when we can! Salanikahle!! Goodbye for now. Much Love, Carisa, Diego, Emily, Hannah, Jane, Jared, Jordan, Josephine, Kelsey, Kinzy, Lia, Lily, Maddy, Maggie, Matthew, Morgan, Peyton, Sydney, Taylor, Joel and Amy
Mama Africa Strikes Again
Date: Jul 04
This morning, the entirety of our Epic Africa entourage woke up around 7:30-8 to wet dew on the ground and a new group member, Kinzy, who had finally arrived for a warm welcome from Saudi Arabia! After a brief “get to know you” game, we settled down at the long tables to feast on caramel, banana, and syrupy crepes. Once we had chowed down, and water bottles, sunscreen, cameras and hats had been grabbed, we trundled into the truck to drive back to the crisis center buildings that we had been working on yesterday. Today, our missions were to complete the triangles that we had begun painting yesterday, along with forming thick black lines around the triangles and painting other adjacent structures. We all worked solidly for about three hours, painting and taping and chatting. Our work felt especially meaningful knowing that the buildings would soon house women and children escaping abuse or unhappy homes, along with religious functions and other social gatherings. Being knowledgeable of the impact that our hours of work would create made the work less like work, and more of a simple act of lending a hand. After our painting session was over, we piled back into the truck and drove to the camp site to enjoy a delicious lunch of chicken salad and apples, prepared by our magnificent chefs, Brandon and Monga. We then changed into sneakers and headed over to a nearby field-ish area, where we convened with locals for a soccer game. Though most decided to participate in the game, I decided to sit it out and try to bond with some of the younger native girls. I would love to say that this was entirely because I wanted to create a connection, but I have to admit that my strong desire to avoid soccer had to go with extreme balance and coordination issues that arise when it is necessary to run while kicking a moving object. Anyway, as the athletically-inclined people played soccer, some of the other Bold Earth girls and I approached some girls and showed them how to navigate the workings of a camera (which I must admit, even I sometimes have trouble with). Once they had had their fill of snapping candid pictures, a group of us sat in a circle. Here, I taught everyone how to play this hand slapping elimination game that revolves around the song. I always forget the name of it, but the tune starts with “quack a diddle ee oh so quack quack quack…”. Following a few heated rounds of this game, we joined an even larger group, where some native girls taught us this amazing game involving a group of clapping people and an affinity for dancing. All the people in the circle would clap and sing “I love my teddy bear (x2), polish your shoes, I love my teddy bear.” One person would dance in the center, then run up to another person, rub their shoes, hug the person, and then that new person would go dance in the circle. It was here that I made two of my new friends, Meniti and Nafu. The three of us raced, did Superman lifts, epic piggy back rides, and danced and sang like crazy. Everyone was able to bond with someone from the area, and it was a truly special and amazing afternoon. I was so sad to leave my new gal pals. Once we arrived back at camp, I sprinted to be the first to take an absolutely frigid shower. The Abominable Snowman would have cringed from it. After returning to normal body heat, I trekked down to the river with a couple of other people and we all sat enjoying a beautiful sunset and journaling. It was picturesque – absolute peaceful bliss. Tonight for dinner we’ll enjoy a traditional South African-style BBQ, known as a braai, and then have a nightly meeting before passing out. Adventure is out there! Lily
Painting in Izulu
Date: Jul 04
Greetings from AFRICA! We began our first day bright and early at 5:45. We woke up to coffee and rusks (this funky hard bread you are suppose to dunk in your coffee, it was really good) & hopped on the bus for 2 hours! Despite our lack of sleep, we were able to pack our tents and our enthusiasm to the Izulu Orphanage Project “Bainage.” There, we set up tents and bonded over many super fun games! I’m sure we all learned at least one new game, like Big Booty or Honey, I love you. After lunch, we went down the orphanage to help out. We taped triangles, pulled weeds, and painted; lets just say we left covered in paint. Since it gets dark at around 5:30 here, we are still not adjusted to the time change. Tonight we played numerous games and are very entertained with everyone’s different talents. Over these next 21 days we have a cleanup, water, meal, and an activities group. With three weeks ahead of us, we are so excited for all the activities planned for us! Carisa, Diego, Emily, Hannah, Jane, Jared, Jordan, Josephine, Kelsey, Kinzy, Lia, Lily, (Maddy) Madeline, Maggie, Matthew, Morgan, Peyton, Sydney, Taylor Joel and Amy
Horseback riding in St. Lucia
Date: Jul 05
Hello! Jared here from Epic Africa 1. We woke up bright and early at 7 to a breakfast of toast, oranges, cereal and pb & j. Our first activity was a safari drive through a game preserve. We were treated to sights of zebras, kudus, wildebeest, secretary birds, bush bucks, impalas, and velvet monkeys. One group even saw fighting hippos as well as a rhino. It was truly an incredible experience. After our game drive, we then drove to Cape Vidal beach. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go snorkeling due to rough waves; but we were still able to swim in the ocean, play rugby and football, and have a brief yoga session complete with intense beach selfies. It was fun to have some downtime after a very busy first few days. A highlight of the beach time was turning Brandon into a fabulous sand mermaid. During lunch, which was complete with chicken, pasta salad, and rice, monkeys jumped the table and tried to steal food. It was pretty wild but Joel and Amy scared the monkey’s off. Then we came back to the hotel to relax for a little before we went on an EPIC horseback safari. We got to appreciate phenomenal close up views of groups of zebra, wildebeest, impala, and a stunning view of the local scenery. The game drives are amazing and we can’t wait for the end of the trip when we go to Kruger National Park. Apparently that is where we will see the best wildlife. For dinner, we went to our first restaurant, John Dory’s, for a delicious meal of seafood and sushi. Before dinner arrived we were given some surprise entertainment of African dancers in their attire doing a dance to drum beats! Overall, it was an amazing day. Peace out.
-Jared & Epic Africa Carisa, Diego, Emily, Hannah, Jane, Jordan, Josephine, Kelsey, Kinzy, Lia, Lily, Maddy, Maggie, Matthew, Morgan, Peyton, Sydney, Taylor, Joel & Amy
This part was at the very end of the trip, after a trip to KFC gave us food poisoning….
TIA! This is Africa.
Date: Jul 17
Today, we began the day by waking up around 7am to pack up our tents and grab the proper attire (swimsuits with a change of clothes) for the day. After all of us were ready to begin our day we walked to the common building of the camp site for a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, roasted tomatoes and toast, bananas and peanut butter. Once all of the food was eaten, we departed for Induna Adventures for a day full of jam-packed fun, white water rafting and zip lining! We arrived and put on our life jackets and helmets in preparation for our first activity, white water rafting. In groups of two we piled into inflated rafts and set out on the grade 1-2 rapids. As we traveled the 7k trail of the river we worked together with our partners to avoid rocks and steer ourselves through the frigid white water. Most were relatively successful in their attempts, however, some groups became stuck frequently. Even when stuck, those groups remained smiling and positive. Only one person at the beginning of the activity fell from their raft which was an achievement for the group as a whole. Once finished the sense of accomplishment and joy was unanimous. We placed our rafts on a trailer and were then transported to our truck to retrieve our dry change of clothes. We quickly changed and buckled into harnesses that would keep us safe as we sailed down a 350m long wire above the ground. A quick ride up the mountain brought us to our launching location and the reality of the situation began to set in initiating fear in some of us. Emily and Morgan in particular were scared of heights, but they bravely addressed their fear and jumped from the launching pad with extreme determination. Their bravery was admirable. One by one we climbed the stairs to the actual launching pad and began to jump into the open air to survey the scenery including a misty, heavily forested mountain range and an orchard of orange trees below. As more of us continued to jump some began to come up with creative ideas that they planned to do when their turn came. For example, Matt, Jared, and Kinzy went upside down in what we called the spiderman position and Diego, Joel, Amy, Jordan, and I reversed our harnesses so that we could fly like superman! The view from the zip line was absolutely stunning as we soared over the natural beauty and those who had already gone. After we had all reached the ground again we happily loaded onto the bus for our next destination, KFC. We patiently waited as our 4 buckets of chicken, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, french fries, and bread was prepared. Finally, we left KFC with our feast and filled our plates for the bus ride. We crazily scarfed down the food and afterwards were so full our stomachs ached slightly. Even though we were full, some continued to snack on items that had been purchased the day before.
We drove to the new camp site and set up our tents as quickly as possible in order to get back on the road so that we could arrive on time at our next activity, a cultural meal with the Shangaan tribe. We were welcomed with a dance performed by young boys from the community and then followed our host to a circular hut to hear him speak about is culture. He was extremely interesting and taught us about the significance of their architectural and community layout, the specifics on their marriage traditions, their language, and more. We ended the session with a fun game that they use to teach children manners. In the game we passed a CD around the circle referring to it by any name we wished. For example, we could pass the CD to the person next to us and say “I am giving you a camera” and they could then pass it to the next person and say “I am giving you a banana.” If we got the trick our host would say yes. Contemplating the alphabet, letter patterns, and body movements of those who were correct we worked to figure out the trick, but struggled greatly. Finally at the end of the game he explained that our name for the CD did not matter and that rather the trick was saying “Thank you” to whoever had passed it to us. Surprised by the simplicity and embarrassed by our lack of manners we moved to the dining area, sticks arranged on a field to form a circle, and were treated to a traditional meal of cabbage, tomatoes, pumpkin, porridge, and chicken. However, by that time most of us were not feeling good enough to eat much of their prepared food, we think the KFC of all things was not good : D The experience was finished by an amazing dance performed next to the warm fire. We climbed back onto the truck and a few of us were already feeling sick to the stomach. The bus pulled up to our campsite and those who felt sick immediately rushed to the bathroom. As the night continued more people became sick and it was clear that we were suffering from food poisoning from KFC. As the situation became worse, we stuck together and took good care of each other. Finally for some of us, sleeping bags were brought into the bathroom and we had a sleep over on the floor. We called a local European doctor who came to our group and gave us the medicine we needed to get over the food poisoning and allowed our stomachs to settle. We are looking forward to being better tomorrow and heading on a safari! All in all, the day was very busy and eventful.
Painting and Kruger Safari!
Date: Jul 17
Unfortunately, today didn’t go as planned due to yesterdays diarrhea, etc. About half of the group had to stay behind and catch up on sleep. The rest of us went to a local South African school, Eco Village Primary School to volunteer. The school is very different than the average American school. The curriculum is environmentally and ecology based. The children even planted a beautiful garden to grow crops to be sold or eaten for lunch. Our volunteer assignment was to paint trash barrels with exuberant colors and designs. We got to see a lot of smiling children who were not only getting an education, but also helping make the world a better place. Next, after lunch, the healthy group went on a safari through Blyde River Canyon Park. We saw many animals including white and black rhinos, giraffes, impalas, buffalo, owls, vultures, and a honey badger. We even got to see a cheetah which is incredibly rare. The safari lasted from 3:00-7:00, so we got to see a beautiful sunset that made the mountains a beautiful shade of robin’s egg blue. Some of us weren’t feeling our best after the safari ended so we had to make a quick stop at a First Care style medical center for shots that kept us from feeling nauseous. After that, everyone felt much better. We were able to have a comfortable and restful night of sleep. Even though today was full of surprises, I had no trouble enjoying the school and safari. I look forward to tomorrow, when everyone will be ready to get back to the exciting agenda that Bold Earth has planned for us! And don’t worry Moms and Dads, we are all feeling better.
Cradle of Humankind
Date: Jul 19
Today, we started off our day with a delicious breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon, and pancakes. We then packed up our bags for our next and final location, Johannesburg. At ten o’clock we boarded the truck and set off for our first activity of the day, a cave tour. During the tour we climbed numerous steps, crawled through narrow tunnels, and walked through airy underground chambers. As we moved through the cave we were greeted by exquisite stalagmites and stalactites that allowed our imaginations to run wild forming abstract figures out of the masses. We also viewed walls with glittering crystals and an eerie lake that was accompanied with the sad story of a diver lost in the lake. After the interesting tour we exited the cave and walked past the cradle of humankind on our way to the restaurant that we ate lunch at. For lunch we enjoyed a classic American meal of hamburgers, french fries, soda, and ice cream. We then departed for our next activity, a museum on evolution. Upon our arrival at the museum we were surprised to see the building built into the side of a mountain. We entered the main room and viewed a large fountain and many information posters on evolution and the elements. After walking through a tunnel, we got onto boats that took us on a Disney-like ride in which we experienced the elements- water, earth, fire, and air. After a fun ride and a walk through a vortex we were able to read interesting facts and look at fossils. After that we had long car ride to our hotel in Johannesburg. We had a delicious dinner of pizza and soda and now are looking forwards to sleeping in our luxurious beds. I can’t believe tomorrow is our last full day in Africa. It’s been an amazing journey and we are looking forward to learning a little bit more about the culture tomorrow. Night!
Elefantes, Rinocerontes y Mercados
Date: Jul 19
Today, after a great night’s sleep in electrically- heated beds, we enjoyed one of the best breakfasts of the trip before heading to the elephant sanctuary. We got into the truck and before reaching the exit of the safari lodge we were greeted by a rhino and her baby – everyone was instantly awake. It was then when we also realized that we were in South Africa and it was Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday, which would come in handy later in the day as we bargained in the market. As we got to the elephant sanctuary, high-spirited and excited as the bunch of teenagers we are, we got to see the majestic creatures we’d all been waiting for. These animals, part of the Big Five and naturally predisposed to aggressiveness, suddenly became friends with all of us and treated us to their kisses and hand (or trunk) shakes. They have been trained to follow directions in such a way that their evolutionary traits are no longer their primary concern and they have become human -friendly, allowing us to bond with them without worrying too much about our security. Once everyone walked hand in trunk with the elephants, we fed a bigger, older and more intimidating elephant to his mid-morning snack before getting some souvenirs and food for ourselves. Once we had lunch, we headed to a market that reminded all of us of our days in Mozambique. Handling the usual harassment that comes with African markets, our group bought gifts and souvenirs that went from hand-crafted masks to drums and paintings (and the occasional ice-cream we’d been craving for a looong time) enjoying the discounts that were offered to us due to Mr. Mandela’s birthday. As we drove back to the lodge enjoying the amazing African sunset, conversations began sprouting in the truck and friendships were continued while we looked at the ostriches and impalas grazing next to the road.
The day began to wind down as we took baths in our tents (yes, bath tubs in tents) and watched TV for the first time in weeks. The last highlight of the day came with the nightly meeting and the fire that followed (complete with band) both of which made this day end in the epic note in which it began. Pura vida!
-Diego P.S. While we sat around the fire and I typed this blog, Amy dared Jared to jump into the freezing pool for $10… He didn’t think too much about it and jumped straight into it. (It was very bold considering that we are all very cold and unwilling to move out of the fire). Jared then went right back to the fire to dry off. What a champ!
Soweto Bike Ride and Farewells
Date: Jul 21
Three weeks went by way too fast! It is hard to believe that less than a month ago, nobody in our group knew anything about anyone else. We have grown so close and experienced so much in the last few weeks. All the laughs, the tears, beaches, mountains, African dances, hugs, new foods (one not-so-new or edible), soccer matches, long conversations, even longer bus rides… this was a truly incredible trip and many lasting friendships have been formed. But alas, all good things must come to an end. We began our final day with a tearful goodbye to Kinzy who needed to leave a bit early to catch her flight back to Saudi Arabia. After wishing her safe travels, we left for the township of Soweto. This is the largest and perhaps most famous township in all of Africa. It has produced two Nobel Peace Prize winners, a few internationally-acclaimed musical artists, and was the center of the struggle against Apartheid. The best way to explore an historic area of this size is not by car, from which it is impossible to interact with the locals, nor on foot, for it is too large an area. Bicycle was the only way to do it. The tour started at a backpackers’ hostel where our guide gave us a brief history of the area and its neighborhoods (check it out on Wikipedia if you have the time). We then rode around, paused to taste some local cuisine, try on some traditional garb, and visit Nelson Mandela’s former residence. Despite its rough appearance, Soweto was a fascinating (and safe) place and the locals were extremely friendly. It was wonderful to soak in the cultural vibes of this township so central to South African history and identity. A perfect ending to our African experience.
We went straight from Soweto to the airport. Because we were several hours early, we had time to grab some grub after we checked-in. After contacting all you parents, we said our sorrowful goodbyes to our amazing group of campers. It was difficult to accept that it was all over. We had an unforgettable three weeks getting to know your kids as we explored southern Africa together. Thank you so much for giving them the opportunity to have this experience. They have all left with lifelong memories and experienced great personal growth, just as we have. We hope you all get to speak with them at length about each and every part of the trip! Love, Amy and Joel