The final few days of our Maymester in Cape Town followed the trend of being jam-packed with class, adventures, and the making of lasting memories. That’s definitely to be expected when squeezing six credit hours into two weeks!
Before we left for the much anticipated Aquila game lodge, we had a full day of freedom which was to be capped off with my first ever rugby match. I began the day traveling with Will and Parker to Old Biscuit Mill, a market located in Woodstock, a local suburb of Cape Town. We had no idea what to expect and we were greeted with a unique atmosphere that would be described in the U.S. as “hipster.” There was a very organic, sustainable-living vibe about the place. We ate breakfast at one of the small cafés located within the market and the food was absolutely delicious. We perused various shops, art galleries, and boutiques but, even if we found something we liked, we soon realized that just about everything was beyond our college budget!
The Old Biscuit Mill was also the site of another phenomena I experienced several times during the trip. For better or worse, Americans are generally readily identifiable when traveling overseas. However, being thousands of miles away in both a different continent and hemisphere, our nationality instantly gives us a common factor with other Americans we encounter. At home, simply saying, “Hey, I’m from the States, too!” would certainly not be an effective way to meet people. But in South Africa, and other overseas destinations I have been, this often leads to lengthy conversations and the making of new friends. While at the Old Biscuit Mill, we spotted a group of girls we could tell were American. Of course, with a group of Will, Parker, and myself, these girls instantly made a beeline for us (okay, maybe it was the other way around, but I’m the author here). They all went to large universities such as Alabama, TCU, Ole Miss, and Florida State. Stranger still, we soon discovered we had several mutual friends with these girls. There we were, in Woodstock, Cape Town, meeting a girl in the same sorority as one of Will’s good friends from Columbus and another girl who had a friend who is a sophomore at none other than Presbyterian College! This world, seemingly incredibly large, is at the same time frighteningly small.
We spent the early part of the afternoon at the Green Square market where I was able to purchase many African souvenirs for my loved ones. We made it back just in time to catch the 2:30 departure for the Newlands Stadium area, the venue for the Saturday night rugby match between the local Stormers against the Reds, an Australian team. Upon our arrival we learned that a form of tailgating exists down in South Africa, too. There were many tents set up; some sheltering grills that wafted delicious smells through the area while others covered merchandise stands or fans eager to cheer on their team. We spent the pregame period at a bar managed by one of Dr. Turner’s friends called “Toad’s.” Other live rugby games were on all the televisions inside the bar, which allowed me to ask some locals many dumb questions about the game and rules of rugby. I definitely wanted to get a better grasp on it before going to a game myself!
When we entered the stadium itself, I felt the familiar excitement comparable to that of a college football game. Though the stadium was not completely filled, the home support was raucous! I found it very easy to become one of the supporters and passionately cheer on the Stormers. The first half featured two teams content to battle for field position. A field goal on the stroke of halftime allowed the Stormers to take a 3-0 into the locker room. The second half featured more scoring and a suspenseful ending. Holding a 20-15 lead as time expired, I thought the Stormers won the game. Instead the teams played on. I found out that, in rugby, if the losing team still has possession at the end of the game, it continues past the completion of the time on the clock. Down by just 5, the Reds marched all the way down to within a few meters of the Stormers’ goal line. Fortunately the Stormers were able to come up with a steal and seal the much-needed victory!
Despite the cold, misty conditions, I was quite impressed with the first view of Aquila game lodge. All the architecture was designed to fit the persona of a rustic African game lodge. When we left for our first game drive I was worried about the effect the weather would have on our ability to spot animals. Those concerns were quickly dispelled as we saw a Cape buffalo, zebras, tons of springbok, ostriches, and two rhinos within minutes of beginning our drive. In addition to some photos, here are some interesting facts I learned while on the safari drive:
- White rhinos are so heavily poached because a single horn can be sold for R1,000,000.
- Aquila is down to only two rhinos because two of the original four were poached at night off of the preserve’s property.
- Springboks, the most commonly seen animals at Aquila, are the national antelope of South Africa.
- The pride of seven lions Aquila possesses are held separately from the other animals in their own 900 acre facility.
- Aquila now only has one giraffe. The other two fell off of one of the property’s small mountains and snapped their necks. Tragic!
- Aquila is home to two male African elephants. They can’t have females because the larger, more aggressive female African elephants are too dangerous for a game preserve of that size.
The weather was much nicer and visibility was much improved on the morning of our departure. We set out for a 6:45am game drive. Of course, I woke up to find both my camera and phone were dead. A much better photo setting yet no photos for me! In addition to the vast array of animals we saw the day before, we were able to spot new animals such as the aforementioned elephants, cheetahs, and a leopard in addition to watching the sunrise over the African landscape. What a way to begin a day!
What followed was a testament to the marvel of modern travel. It all seemed like one long day. I woke up viewing exotic African animals on a safari, slept a bit on an airplane, and somehow ended up back home in Greer, SC on what seemed like the same day. And to think it took Magellan’s crew over three years to first circumnavigate the globe. Simply incredible!
Thanks for reading. Though by no means comprehensive, I hope my blogs gave you a taste of select parts of our journey.
As the South Africans would say, “Cheers!”