Category Archives: RTW #1

Johannesburg and Soweto

Johannesburg is the sort of place that freaks the hell out of other South Africans when it comes to crime, so you know when other South Africans are concernd about a place it’s time to pay attention. (“I would never live in Jo’burg- the people act like prisoners in their own homes while the criminals walk free!” is a common sentiment, followed by a favorite crime-riddled anecdote.) So I wasn’t particularly raring to go there but had to as the plane home flew out of Jo’burg, so this city got to be the last destination on my round the world trip and the first with crime statistics worse than Cleveland.

And actually it turns out that if you’re careful in Jo’burg and stay in a hostel in a wealthy suburb it’s just as generic as any other Western suburb you’ve been to, the only major difference being all the locals who wanted to go out to eat would drive to a mall where there was secure parking and the trendy cafes spilled out onto the atrium. Just like anywhere else but indoors! And because I don’t like malls at home so I can’t imagine hanging out in one my last day in Africa, I spent it instead on a trip out to Soweto.

Soweto is an abbreviation for South West Township and really is a city in itself with well over a million people (it used to be, but now counts as a district of Jo’burg). It is the most famous of the South African townships due to its size and the anti-apartheid uprisings that happened here. Nowadays, thank goodness, things are getting a bit more normal and at a faster rate than other townships in the country.

Typical houses in Soweto being built by the government lately by the millions. They’re not entirely inspiring, until you remember what the standard was up until a few years ago and still is in most townships around South Africa-

Everyone thinks of shacks like these when they think of the townships, but believe it or not these are some of the last in a township of 1.3 million people. The goal was to have new houses built for everyone by the World Cup this summer actually, but I’m not sure how that schedule is going…

The iconic power plant in the heart of Soweto (if such a structure can be iconic), which interestingly did not power the district at all during apartheid as most people didn’t have electricity in the first place.

Anyway, it turns out when you go to Soweto as a white person you do a couple things, like visit a fish and chip shop, look at the largest hospital in the world, and walk down the street where two Nobel Laureates lived (Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela), but invariably someone inquires about going to a sheeben (bar) so that’s where we headed-

Complete with heart and liver on the menu that we didn’t try, but giant Castle beers which we did!And last but not least, the giant football stadium on the edge of Soweto which will host both the opening and final match of the World Cup this summer!  And believe you me everyone is beyond excited to show the world what an amazing country South Africa is. Which reminds me, I still need to pick a team…

And that’s a good note to end on because above all things Soweto struck me as a place in flux more than anything- yes it has a history of struggle and desperation, but things are changing quick and I guarantee I will not recognize it in a few years.  And all in all, that struck me as a marvelous thing.

And so things ended, and I went to catch my flight out of Africa.

Journey to Lesotho

When I told my sister I was going on a daytrip to Lesotho, that little spot of a country in the middle of South Africa, her reaction was “you just like going to weird countries, don’t you?”  Well yes, I think we’ve adequately established that, but going to Lesotho is really more about the journey then the destination.  Because you get to go up the Sani Pass from the Drakensberg side to do it, and the scenery is just spectacular-

Honestly now, how could you not go on a journey with views like that to be seen?  Another view from the bottom of the pass towards the top, where South Africa ends and Lesotho begins-

To get there from where this picture was taken takes about two hours over very windy dirt roads.  To prove I’m not kidding, look at this-

You are required to go up with a 4×4 vehicle (and, if you’re smart, a guide who knows how to drive well) because South Africa just plain won’t let you through the border patrol if you don’t have such ability to go up.  There is some talk of paving the road actually and this is probably the first place I’ve been where the locals are dead-set against it:  a few fatal falls occur each year as is, so who knows how unsafe the road will be when most vehicles are equipped to travel it?

Something else to make you consider hiring that driver who knows what he’s doing- it was winter at the time in the mountains, so we found this icy patch covering nearly the entire track.  And there’s a sheer cliff face dropping several stories behind us.  And even in a 4×4, after the first try up this curve the car slid backwards… as well as the second time…

There was a stupid American girl sitting next to me and annoyed everyone on the trip who at this point said she was glad her seat belt was fastened, and was not amused by me pointing out that actually, you want to be ready to jump out as quickly as possible should the ice prove too much. (Because this is why we travel- to consider how best to jump out of a sliding vehicle on a winding dirt pass in Africa.) But luckily we made it up on try number three, thus quelling much apprehension in the car at the time.

Hooray, we survived getting to Lesotho!  This is the so-called “Mountain Kingdom” because all of it is above 1,400m (~4,500 feet- like Colorado I guess?) but the Sani Pass is the highest border entry point at 2,873m, ~9,500 feet.  And as you can tell by how bundled up I am, it is cold up there!  Amazing to think that I was surfing in the ocean just two days ago in a bikini just a few hundred km away…

The typical house in Lesotho- there isn’t much, and about 40% of the people live on less than a dollar a day (traditionally the tribal people here were herders).  What I thought was interesting was how the houses were of the exact same construction method as the rondavels at the bottom of the pass, but made of stone because you use what you have, right?Last but not least woohoo, a bit of liquid courage for going down the Sani Pass at the highest pub in Africa! (The only mountains of comparable height on the continent is up at Mount Kilimanjaro, and not like they’re building a pub there.) Now I hate to say it but the Lesotho beer I tried was pretty crappy, in case the can wasn’t a good hint in that regard, but the pub had a great view down the Sani Pass which we needless to say survived else you wouldn’t be reading this.  Cheers!

The Drakensberg

Trivia fact of the day- whenever people think of Lord of the Rings they think of New Zealand’s mountains, but those are not the ones that inspired Tolkein. Rather, it turns out he was born in South Africa and lived in the Drakensberg Mountains for several years as a child, so when he envisioned Middle Earth he was actually thinking of here. So how could one not visit a place with such stellar literary commendation?

There are so many lovely spots in the region that they become commonplace- this waterfall was just next to where I was waiting for the bus in a town called Pietermaritzburg. Some bus stop!

A lovely sunset view from the hostel I was staying at. Most of the people around here are ranchers of various capacity, so the sunset was particularly spectacular due to smoke from controlled burns in the area just before the dry season.

A word about the backpackers I stayed at by the way because it was yet another neat place in South Africa I wished I had more time to spend at, called Khotso Backpackers. It was de facto a working family ranch that let rooms to travelers, complete with a sheepdog to guard the livestock against leopard attacks and the family crowding around their Ham radio every night to talk to those away on a several day horse trek. Sort of Wild West meets Africa I suppose.

Um, ok. On this trip I met several animals who had cases of mistaken identity like the dog that thought it was a cheetah or the giraffe that thought it was a person, but this is the first time I met a horse that thought it was a dog. No joke this is Simon the horse, who spent most of his time trying to get into the house where all his friends were hanging out and, yep, I once spotted in the kitchen when someone didn’t close the door quickly.

When not actively trying to sneak into the house Simon is always looking forlornly at it in hopes that someone will come hang out with him in a very non-horse way. And I’ve gotta say it’s somewhat disconcerting after awhile- can you imagine opening the curtain sleepy-eyed in the morning only to jump back, wide awake now, because there is a horse staring at you on just the other side of the glass?! I’ve seen far less creepy scary movies started under much more dubious circumstances, let me say that much!

Anyway, these are some of the more sane and cuddly inhabitants of the ranch- baby lambs! Specifically these are the ones whose mothers rejected them upon birth for whatever reason, so they get to spend the night sleeping in the shed as well as getting bottle-fed until they get bigger. Me holding the sheep I bottle-fed. Excuse the milk on his head, it turns out lambs are plenty cute but also plenty dumb.

More on the Drakensberg later because the scenery is just amazing. Plus I got to go to my last new country of the trip while exploring it…

Dinner at the Village

One night the Coffee Shack hostel organized supper at a local Xhosa village a few miles away from town.  Sounded like a great way to kick off the evening, so off I went.

First thing’s first, gotta distribute the beer to the guests!  This stuff is very obviously homebrew and made from corn, a dead giveaway because the main taste was a very corny, yeasty one.  One of those things that you’ll generously try a few sips of the first time the bucket is passed around, but smaller and smaller sips as it keeps coming around… Also, it turns out traditional African beer is very non-alcoholic in content and the locals are more into it because they’ve developed a taste for it/ in places where you can’t guarantee water quality it’s best to drink fermented stuff.

A bunch of kids in the village who were demanding I take pictures of them while posing for the camera so they could see themselves on the view screen afterwards.   So I indulged.

Ok, time to get into a hut for dinner!  And yep here’s what most villagers eat day in and day out in this part of the world, boiled cornmeal with varying types of spices  on top.  Exciting?  Can’t pretend my plate was finished because I wasn’t a real fan, but it did make me sympathetic to people who have no choice but to eat such a non-varied diet every day!

There was also a second course, which was mealie-meal with a mashed potato-type quality, some brown sauce, and some boiled greens on the side.  Meat is only for special holidays in this part of the world.

Food’s done, time to dance! This first one was done by the boys and basically consisted of walking around with a stick in hand.  It should be noted that there were virtually no men older than my age in the village- due to economic necessity most families live here while the father works in Johannesburg, with the father spending maybe a month at home during the year while the wife may visit him in Johannesburg once or twice as well depending on the family’s situation.

Sort of related, I also got into an interesting conversation with an older woman about Xhosa bride-prices: in this part of the world the potential groom’s family has to pay a certain amount of cattle to the bride’s family in order to marry her, depending on how hardworking and  how much income the woman can bring to her new family in the future (traditionally marriages are arranged, but nowadays most guys will tell his family of his girlfriend so the marriage can be arranged).  If you have a reputation for laziness you’re not going to bring much of a price, maybe only seven cattle, but a woman who has a nursing certificate or some such can fetch twice as much (the highest bride price I heard of was a man who worked several years to get 23 cattle to wed the beautiful daughter of the chief who was also a teacher).

“So how much would I get?” I asked, and was subjected to a look of frank appraisal.

“You’re beautiful and probably well brought up and undoubtedly educated so you could bring in income,” she  began, “but you probably don’t know the first thing about pounding mealie meal or how to build a rondavel so that would count against you. ” She then concluded that my father should not accept any offers on my behalf that were less than 15 cattle as a starting point, and he  should do it soon because I was about five years past the average Xhosa marrying age.  Good to know!Last but not least the girls  danced, a lot better than the guys I should note, and turns out I could hold my own with the Xhosa gals.  Maybe we can up that bride-price to sixteen cows in light of that information?

As a final note, the night was a lot of fun but my favorite part was when the traditional music was pierced by the jingle of someone’s cell phone.  Before I could cringe that one of my fellow backpackers was being so disrespectful one of the white-skirted girls jumped out of her seat and ran outside with her phone to answer it.  Mind this village has no electricity so I was surprised that a pre-teen had a cell phone- hell I didn’t have a cell phone then!- but the villagers looked at me like I was an idiot when I asked how the phones got charged.

“At the store,” I was told matter-of-factly, as it turns out some area entrepreneurs will charge a phone for a few Rand each time.  Lack of electricity doesn’t stand in the way of progress!

Anyway, to finish the story after a few moments the girl came back with her phone which obviously had a text on it, and immediately had a pow-wow with her friends over the meaning of her latest social development like girls do the world over.  People are more alike the world over then we acknowledge, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

A Walk on the Wild Coast

One morning in Coffee Bay I woke up to learn that a bunch of people were planning on a hike to a site called Hole in the Wall, about 10km to the west along the coast. And because the region is so lovely that it’s just begging to be explored, I joined up.

Hiking around here along the coast isn’t just a stroll along the beach but rather a series of ups and downs, but it is absolutely lovely isn’t it?

A view down from one of the steeper parts towards a little hole in the wall. Just lovely.

One thing I love about this part of Africa is you have all this great plant life growing all around- to the left is part of a cacti forest consisting of a type my mom has a sizable specimen of at home, which is absolutely dwarfed by these cacti that “escaped from their pots” as my mom likes to describe plants in nature.

Somehow at long last we found a beach and not just a cliffside to walk along. This was about three hours into the walk and we’re just about there, the hole in the wall is just beyond that little hill in the picture.

The final hiking destination, the Hole in the Wall, not to be confused with Hole in the Rock in New Zealand. This one’s actually much smaller- hard to get scale because the tide was up and the water was cold but someone could swim through it but not more than that.

And then, because no one was particularly interested in hiking 10km back to Coffee Bay, we got a ride in the back of a local pickup truck. That’s the African way.

Coffee Bay

Coffee Bay is little town that is one of my favorite places in South Africa- had I not had a flight to catch I probably would have stayed there quite awhile. In short it’s a tiny surfing spot in the middle of traditionally Xhosa territory (the second largest tribe in South Africa, after the Zulu) dominated by hills sloping into the ocean dotted with colorful houses called rondavels all around. Only backpackers really come here and the people get into deep philosophical conversations for reasons I never quite worked out but had surprisingly little to do with the guy selling dagga outside for a couple dollars (lots of Rastas in this part of the world!).

Looking down at Coffee Bay at sunset. A beautiful but very isolated stretch of the Indian Ocean- not completely isolated though because you’d see several tankers out at sea on any given day rounding Africa a la Vasco da Gama.

The bar/restaurant I took the picture from, during a Springboks match against the UK/Ireland. Sorry New Zealand, but South Africans are definitely the biggest supporters of their rugby team I’ve seen! The only TV for miles is the tiny one to the left of the pole in the picture, yet everyone crowded around it.

By the way, I saw Invictus with my family a little while ago sans the last twenty minutes as the film ripped to shreds and the theater couldn’t get it fixed that night (I didn’t know that could still happen!). You know, movie about South Africa during Mandela’s time… I highly recommend it, but one of the things that amused me while watching it was how they showed people in South Africa crowding around little TVs in the sheebens to watch the final match, and hey I’ve done the same! (South Africa won the match for any interested parties.)

So what is there to do in Coffee Bay when not watching the rugby match?  Lots of things I’ll talk more about later, but surfing is very big in this part of the world all along the coast because of the beautiful large waves they get, some of the best and most consistent conditions in the world.

I’ve never gone surfing before but had to try it, so for about twenty bucks I got a board, wetsuit, and a free lesson.  And hey guess what, turns out I’m really bad  at surfing, even compared to others who hadn’t done it before!  Just couldn’t get the nerve to balance correctly on the board before toppling, and swallowing seawater is only fun so many times.  So all in all I spent two hours in the water with a surfboard and most of the first was up before I stood up, then a little more to prove I could before deciding body-boarding was a more fun use of time.  Yeah not as awesome, dude, but when you’ve only got an afternoon it’s more better to have fun rather than keep getting battered by the waves!

Some cows on our beach around lunchtime.  The Xhosa are cattle people and the cattle are actually the centerpoint of one of the weirder stories in history, when a girl in 1856 went to fetch water and came back saying she’d met the spirits of three ancestors who told her the Xhosa needed to kill all their cattle and destroy all their crops.  This would cause their dead ancestors to return to drive the white people away, and in return they would be given healthier cattle than those they had before.  And the scary thing is the Xhosa did it- the chief believed her and ordered all their wealth to be destroyed, and even those who didn’t believe complied because obedience to the chief was unquestionable.  So there was widespread starvation and even cannibalism, finally allowing the British to take over the Xhosa lands, and the moral of all this is don’t listen to teenage girls who claim they saw spirits.

As a final picture, here’s one I took after surfing from outside the rondavel I had to myself at the hostel, called the Coffee Shack.  (By this point in the trip I was upgrading from the bunks in hostels, as I’d rather have a rondavel than a few extra dollars back home!) The reason I show this is because the non-rondavel part of the hostel (ie bar, restaurant, reception, comfy hammocks, etc) are all on the other side of the channel pictured here, which filled with water at high tide.  So you were right next to the hostel when the tide was low, but circumventing the channel was a good fifteen minute walk around during high tide!

So for obvious reasons, while I was at Coffee Bay observing the tide became my obsession.  Luckily it turned out that low tide was around 11when I was there, meaning there was a convenient buffer time to cross after a lie-in in the morning and you could just barely get back at night (for those who don’t know it’s about a 12.5 hour cycle).  Ah Africa, the weird things I never thought I’d worry about like trying to get home before the tide comes in…

Enter the Wild Coast

The Wild Coast is a hauntingly beautiful and isolated stretch of land in the middle of South Africa found between Port Elizabeth and Durban.  Formerly part of the Transkei, a South African “homeland,” it’s still rather undeveloped compared to the rest of the country, and I loved it immensely- definitely  more interesting than the Garden Route especially if you’re a backpacker!

My first stop in the Transkei was at Cintsa, which is synonymous with Buccaneers Backpackers Resort  for many people- imagine a hostel with an amazing command of the hillside (the above picture was taken on my room’s terrace!) with stuff like a pool and free activities every day like volleyball or a surf lesson and you sort of get the idea.

The cutest puppy on the Wild Coast, who I realize is no longer a puppy as this picture is several months old but I’m certain is nonetheless very cute and very spoiled.

Yeah, to be honest there wasn’t too much going on around Buccaneers while I was there as it was the off season.  Must be a hopping place in the summertime though… but before I make it sound like I did nothing, here’s a bit of a horseback riding I partook in.  After all I’d realized I had more experience on an elephant or an ostrich so far this trip, and that would be a bit odd to go home on wouldn’t it?

My horse, V, short for Olivia rather than a caped fellow with a Guy Fawkes mask.  I’d only ridden a horse once before for about an hour on a Scouting outing but she was a very good horsey, except for how we kept having polite arguments about not going off the trail to eat exotic blades of grass and the like.
Riding on the beach!  It should be noted that this is slightly before the first time I ever cantered which I can tell because had it been taken after I wouldn’t be smiling.  See, V was a very tiny horse several hands shorter than the bully of the group, and during my first time ever cantering said bully abruptly veered right and tried to drive me into the ocean.  How sweet! So I could have done without that bit of excitement, but the second non-threatened time cantering was fun.

So begins the Wild Coast.  Stay tuned, hopefully the adventures will start showing up again at more regular intervals here!

Bungy Jump of Doom

For all two of you who still check in here wondering if I’ll finish discussing my adventures (not my fault, I swear! blame CWRU Physics!), here’s a bit about what it’s like to do the world’s tallest bungy jump.  With photos because for the first time on my trip I copped out and bought the CD that had ’em.

This is the Bloukrans River Bridge, which is the largest single-span arch bridge in the world at 272m for its central span.  It’s also 216m down to the bottom, so let’s jump off of the darn thing shall we?  Because that’s what all backpackers do in this part of the world, or at least talk about doing…

The important thing to recall about me and bungy jumping is I’ve done this before- a comparatively much more tame 74m jump off the Kawaru Bridge near Queenstown, New Zealand.  I  liked it so much that I was keen to do it again, and typically don’t get too scared about this sort of thing so long as I have sufficient time to analyze it in my physics-y sort of way.  Just a bouncy spring, right?

(Note: God help any students I ever get to set intro physics exams for.  They will all be problems about zipline collisions or bungy jumps or paddling whitewater and the like, so whenever they complain about what the point is I can flail my arms and shout “this could save your life someday!”)

Claiming you are in control of your fears only goes so far tho, as you still have to jump.  When it comes to adrenaline activities by this point in my life, I freely confess the taking initiative parts are very much driven by the “wow that girl looked like an idiot who stood there for a few minutes freaking out, don’t want to be her” approach.  Plus c’mon, if you paid as much as you did you’re gonna do it anyway!

And she’s off! Woo!   Time to freefall for a few seconds, the exact amount which will be determined by my physics students someday in the future! (About four or five… in ideal physics land it’s 6.7 seconds to 216m, but obviously one hopes they made the cord somewhat less than that.)

Um, ok.  So this is the point where I freaked out.  See physics is all fine and good, but logic will fly out the window when you begin to feel on your rebound bounces  that your legs are slipping out of the harness.  I kid you not!  Later I realized there was an emergency cord on my chest so I wouldn’t have died obviously, but panicked minds do not think of such things while dangling headfirst several stories above the South African forest.  Rather, they get a huge terror-stricken sense of foreboding while thinking “oh pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease…” directed towards no one in particular (this being proof that I will never be religious).

This is noteworthy because this was the only time I was actually scared on my trip- there were some situations that worried me, yes, and some which filled my heart with concern, but nothing else in that AHHH!!! feeling of absolute dread.  Which left me a little shaken up afterwards more because I was worried I was losing my cool until I remembered normal people don’t hold it against you if you freak out on the world’s tallest bungy jump.Saved!  Getting pulled up at the end of the jump- a guy comes to pull you into a sitting position before they pull you up.  Up at the top I mentioned the “it felt like my feet were slipping out” thing to the guys in charge who had some line about how this was normal they just didn’t tell people about it as they’d worry… but then no one else I ever met who did the Bloukrans jump experienced the same thing.  So hmm, not gonna dwell on that, except to state that I am announcing my retirement from bungy jumping.  Because I’ve done the biggest one in the world now anyway, and can’t think of a good reason to get so freaked out again!  I know, I’m such a wimp…

Plettenberg Bay

I ended up in Plettenberg Bay (known as “Plett”) for one simple reason- on warm days I’m liable to leave my jacket in the overhead of a bus or train and forget about it, but always realize the error of my ways and get it back.  This happened when I stopped off at George and the driver dropped it off at a Plett hostel, so there I went.

As far as places to randomly end up in your  world travels that you weren’t expecting, Plettenberg Bay is a top choice.  A small seaside resort town on the Garden Route frequented primarily by South Africans on summer holiday it was a little quiet in wintertime, but the view more than makes up for it-

IMG_0014

So gorgeous and so startlingly like California it was hard to believe Santa  Cruz or Santa Barbara weren’t just around the bend.  Look, there were even surfers!IMG_0017

A view from the water back towards town, every available surface with an expensive vacation home perched on it, shuttered for winter.  This was also the first place in South Africa were all the houses weren’t surrounded by tall fences and the like (maybe a third weren’t) and it’s funny how houses that don’t look like miniature fortresses seem like the odd ones so quickly-

Anyway, one of my primary goals while in Plett was to do something very special that occurs every South African winter- go say hello to the whales!

IMG_0033

Every winter the Southern Right Whale comes to shore to calve, meaning so close that you can see them from shore if you’re lucky.  I’d seen whales twice before- once on the way out to the Great Barrier Reef, once briefly in the Caribbean when something large enough to resemble a house surfaced briefly to breathe- but whales are cool and are a lot smarter than they let on so I wanted to check them out.

IMG_0031

Back in the days of commercial whaling these guys were named the “right” whales because when you harpoon one when it dies it floats instead of sinking.  Hooray!  They’re still endangered from that chapter of gruesome carnage, but luckily rebounding very well in recent years.

Anyway, whales are cool but it’s really hard to take impressive pictures of them.  So we shall move on.

IMG_0040

Near Plett is a place called Robberg Peninsula, where there is a seal colony.  Thousands upon thousands of seals.  It turns out seal colonies smell really bad so your only defense is to pray the wind blows in the other direction, but they’re plenty cute so tourists will still flock to see them.IMG_0042

Finally after all that getting acquainted with some aquatic-leaning mammals, I took a page out of their book and helped participate in the Beach Relaxation Project of Plettenberg Bay.  Because if I have learned anything on this trip it is that perceptions of weather sorely depend on what you’re used to- sure it’s winter here but it’s probably warmer than it gets in some places in the US in summer, so why not?  The water’s plenty freezing though; turns out the surfer guys are a touch crazy…

Yvette and the Infamous Ostrich Ride

For anyone who plans to do so be forewarned, if you decide to ride an ostrich on your round the world trip it is the activity that everyone most wants to hear about (with the close second being tiger petting).  Screw the third world bus journeys, or getting charged by an elephant, or leaping off of platforms with arguably flimsy support- is that an ostrich in your Facebook profile picture?!

Anyway, the area around George on the Garden Route is famous for its ostrich farms, the feather dusters gotta come from somewhere and ostrich is a tasty lean red meat, so naturally touring them is always an option. And by touring I mean everyone half pays attention to how the farming part works and then goes to the paddock to ride an ostrich because of the sheer spectacle, even if it only lasts about a minute.

P1100400

Ok the lighting in these first two pictures are terrible because of the shadows despite the best efforts of the German guy who had my memory card in his camera and promised to take lots of pictures (camera was dead, next best solution), but this is me climbing up onto the ostrich  at the ostrich hitching post.  There’s a small cloth saddle behind the wings so you don’t disrupt the feathers to sit on, and you’re supposed to grab onto the wings to hold on.  The reason the ostrich stays put is right now it has a bag over its head, and the animal is so stupid it thinks if it can’t see you you can’t see it.   Having about 50 kilos climb onto your back is apparently no issue either!P1100403

Properly mounted on the ostrich smiling an “ok what the  hell happens now?” smile as the bag is about to be taken off its head…P1100404

And they’re off!  The second the bag got off its head it became very evident that ostriches like to run like crazy once they can see and realize there’s a person on them.  Fast. And there’s no real control so it just runs willy-nilly around the paddock while you hold on and two guys run behind you in case you fall off suddenly.P1100405

To give you a time scale, this is maybe fifteen seconds later rustling up the ostriches on the other side of the paddock.  Haven’t fallen off yet!

P1100406

Runrunrunrunrun Facebook profile picture! runrunrunrunrun…P1100407

And this was snapped just about the time when I was told “ok, jump off now” so I did.  Total time of ostrich ride: just over a minute.

As a final entertaining note, if anyone’s curious we got a demonstration of an experienced ostrich rider as well.  This means he can make the ostrich head in a particular direction, which is done by grabbing the neck and pointing in the direction you want to go.  Probably not a particularly convenient method of travel and you probably don’t want to rely much on a creature that can shred you to death with its talons, but in the ostrich’s defense it is a smoother ride than a horse.  Pity the whole thing is more difficult than it was in Super Nintendo though.