Brrapp brrapp brrapp brrapp- incessant droning of my cell phone’s alarm function stirred me from my slumber.
“Just 5 more minutes, Mel… Hit the snooze.” Sue mumbled sleepily to me.
“K.” I managed to croak as I hit the snooze button.
Brrapp brrapp brrapp brrapp… The second alarm went off and we sprung out of bed. Before I knew it we were showering, and scrambling to find last minute items we had misplaced the night before. Our bellies were filled with delicious cheese and avocado toasties and the taxi driver was being called.
The giant overlanding truck with the name Harrison branded on the front indicated we were in the right place when we pulled up to Nomad Adventure Tours’ offices and were greeted by some smiling faces ready to help us with our bags. Once our bags were safely stowed away in our lockers on the truck, we were directed inside the offices where we were to sign our lives away.
For the next half hour, tour goers of all ages and from all around the world showed up- Germans, South Africans, Dutch, Swiss, even a girl from South Korea. In the next twenty or so days, together we would form our own league of nations, ready to discover all that South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe have to offer.
After passport numbers were logged and travel insurance policy numbers confirmed for each of us fifteen adventurous travelers, we were told to make our way to the truck, find a seat and get comfy. Shingie introduced himself to all of us- he would be our leader and cook. Sandile (pronounced san-dee-lay) was to be our driver for the next twenty days and co-leader. We were also introduced to Shaun who would be coming along as a trainee. The three of them were here to give us as Shingie put it “the ultimate African experience.” It was about this time when Sandile climbed into the front of the truck and took his position behind the wheel. As we made our way away from the Nomad Adventure Tours office and out of the Cape Town city center, Shingie told us all about Harrison, our trusty steed- where the safe was, which chilly bin was for our own beverages and that the front four seats that face inwards as opposed to the other twenty front-facing seats, were considered business class and that we were to rotate throughout the trip to ensure everyone had a chance to enjoy it.
Stop number one of the morning was an area across the bay that provided unparalleled views of the monolith hovering above Cape Town, Table Mountain. We took the opportunity to snap a few photographs before jumping back on the bus for the quick jaunt over to the Bayside Mall where we were given the opportunity to get money changed into South African Rand, buy last minute items we may have forgotten as well as pick up snacks for the long truck rides.
Stop number three was the San bushman park about forty-five minutes down the road at a reserve and information centre called !Khwa Ttu. Here we were given a very brief language lesson where we learned some words in the different clicking dialects used amongst the San people. We sat around making various clicking and kissing type sounds in attempts to form basic words.
FUN FACT: did you know there are five different type of clicks and sounds made that are paired with different words?
The tour leaders from !Khwa Ttu centre then loaded us up into a tractor as if we were about to go on a hay ride.
“Keep your eyes open for eland, springbok, zebra and ostrich. We may see them along the way.” Andre, the trainee guide from !Khwa Ttu, informed us. For those who didn’t have their cameras ready, it was as if they had witnessed a car crash and were reporting for the evening news – all cameras were in hand and ready to capture a photo of any wild animal we may stumble upon.
The tractor and trailer bounced along the uneven terrain, winding it’s way down a well worn path. After a good twenty minutes of being jostled about, the tractor came to a stop and we all noticed that about 300 m in the distance was a rather large herd of Elands (the largest in the antelope family). Binoculars came out and photos were snapped, we oohed and ahhed over our first animal sighting.
Andre led us towards a replica village with five thatched huts that surrounded a campfire. Artifacts laid out on an animal skin and the guides from !Khwa Ttu explained each one to us. We were shown traditional attire used by the San people, bow and arrows, jewelry, and they even gave us a demonstration on how to build a fire, the traditional way – using only two sticks and dried grass.
Upon return to the main house, we were treated to a lovely quiche lunch in a beautiful outdoor setting overlooking the vast flatlands of their property. This time was great to meet some of the other travelers as well as chat with Shingie, Sandile and Shaun. Once our bellies were filled, we were given one last opportunity to use the bathroom before we got back on Harrison and started our 2-3 hour drive to Cederberg- our first campsite.
With the sun beaming in the windows, and the (sometimes not-so) gentle rocking of the truck driving along the uneven roads, the majority of the travelers fell asleep until we made our first petrol break. With the gas tank filled we carried on another sixty kilometers down the road, through the gorgeous Cederberg mountains, before we hit camp.
Upon arrival Shingie went right to work preparing dinner, while Sandile demonstrated how to put up the tents and then we were on our own to erect our canvas village. Daylight faded and we gathered around our dinner table, laughing, drinking and getting to know each other and once dinner was ready we all quieted down and thoroughly enjoyed our sweet and sour chicken pasta – you know the food is good when it’s silent around the dinner table, especially when the are nearly twenty of us!
Once our bellies were full and dishes were washed, we gathered around the campfire and did an official introduction, saying who we were, what we did, why we were here and anything else we may want to mention. It was a great way to really get to know who we were going to be traveling with – we learned that our Nomad Adventure Tours group consisted of everyone from a retired air force member to a recent high school graduate and everyone in between.
With nightfall upon us the temperature dropped, some retreated to their tents for an early turn in, I found myself on the truck with Sue, Shingie and Sandile and we discussed differences between African and Canadian cultures – which was very insightful and interesting. At around 10 we all decided it was time to turn in as we would be up before the sun came up.
Sue and I changed into our layers of thermals and pajamas and crawled into our sleeping bags… Before long we were both sound asleep in the comfort and warmth of our ‘beds’ and while I can’t speak for anyone else, I had a delightfully sound sleep.
Click HERE to read all about Day 2!
**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours did provide me with a discounted tour, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
**If you would like more information about Nomad Adventure Tours and their products – contact me!**