Thursday, February 18, 2016

Amazing African Adventure Day 8

 We got up super early today so we could be on the road for the 2 hour drive to Bela Bela. We made it there by 8:00 for our interaction w/ the elephants. Dad had bought us all these Springbok shirts, which is the name of the South African rugby team. I'm glad we chose to wear them today, b/c we look great together.
I thought we were just going to ride the elephants, but they actually had us interact w/ the elephants for about an hour before we rode them. Elephants are VERY smart, and the trainer showed us an example. He had Lexie, Jon, and Andrew take one shoe off and let the elephant smell them. Then the shoes were thrown into a pile and the trainer told the elephant to give each person back their correct shoe. The elephant got it right on the first try. I love the look of surprise and shock on Lexie's face when the elephant handed her her shoe. That's how we all felt! 

 This baby elephant was so cute, but we were told not to touch him at all. The Mom (as you can see here) is very protective. Plus, just like any little child the elephant wanted to play w/ us, but he tends to try and knock people over. To him it's just playing, but he's so much stronger than us and could hurt us unintentionally.
 They had the elephant lay down so we could get a picture hugging it. Autumn wasn't too sure about the whole thing and was very cautious around them the whole time.
 Look at those big old teeth! They said an elephant's teeth are like a conveyor belt. The older ones move to the front and then fall out while new ones file in at the back and move forward. I'm glad elephants are NOT carnivores!
We all got to get our picture standing next to the elephant just to show how big they really are. We all loved this one of Jon, Lexie, & Andrew. The elephants make Jon look tiny! 

 One of the elephants even played soccer w/ us. We'd kick him the ball and he'd kick it back to us! So fun!!!
  I had to go all the way to South Africa just to get a kiss from a boy. It just happened to be a kiss from a boy elephant! LOL! Everyone took a turn getting "kissed" by an elephant (except for Autumn). It's trunk covers your whole face! The worst part (and it was unexpected) was when he blew air into my face! Gross! Elephant air in my lungs was not what I had in mind. LOL.
This is what it looks like to be kissed by an elephant! This is such a cool shot that Dad took.
The trainer was asking us how much water we think an elephant can hold in its trunk. We didn't know, so he had them bring over a bucket of water and the elephant sucked up a bunch of water and then sprayed us! Luckily Dad & I were on the side b/c otherwise our nice cameras would have gotten wet. Mom was right in the middle and got SOAKED! Lexie was CRAZY and had the elephant spray her 4 times in a row!
After all that fun of interacting w/ the elephants and learning about them, it was time to actually ride them. I'm glad there are no pictures of me trying to get my big old booty up on the elephant. It was comical to say the least. I was freaking out, b/c there were just 2 small handles to hold on to while the elephants walked. But, once we got going I was fine b/c the trainers had the elephants walk slowly.
Autumn & I got to ride the Mama elephant (Shan) w/ Joseph as our guide. He was the one that we teaching us all about the elephants during our interactions. It was fun to ride w/ him and ask him a bunch of questions.
When I look at this picture, I have to pinch myself b/c it seems like a dream that we're riding elephants in South Africa! What a "bucket list" item we get to cross off!!!
As our elephant walked past the photographer, Autumn put her hand up in the air and swung it around like she had a lasso. LOVE IT! One of the many things I learned about elephants that I didn't know before is that they have coarse hair all over their bodies. It's like the bristles of a scrub brush you use to clean the bathroom or the dishes. It rubbed the skin on the back of my legs and made my legs all raw. Note to self ... if you ever ride an elephant make sure to wear long heavy jeans!
While we were waiting for everyone to use the restroom and check out the professional pictures, one of the owners was talking to us and said we could touch their pet meerkat, Trouble. Dad has a way w/ animals, and pretty soon Trouble was laying on his back and letting Dad pet his tummy.
The owner said if we laid down on the ground and held still that Trouble would come and play in our hair. We tried it, and sure enough he did. That's him in the middle of us. He especially LOVED Autumn's long hair and kept getting all tangled up in it on purpose.
This picture had us cracking up non-stop. Trouble came and sat down by Lexie and just leaned back against her like he didn't have a care in the world. Lexie started laughing and he turned and looked at her like, "Lady, who do you think you are? I'm trying to relax here and you're disturbing my peace." We made up all sorts of captions for this picture and made ourselves laugh until it hurt!!!
 We thought we were done for the day, but Dad had other plans up his sleeve. We drove for another 2 hours to Madibeng. It was so pretty to drive through farmlands and we even saw some workers stopping to take a break from the fields for lunch. It was beautiful out in the country.
 We stopped at Chameleon Village to do some shopping. It was like the African Market, but way bigger and the sales people were way more aggressive. I was haggling w/ a vendor over beaded animals and when I looked up, everyone was gone! I hurriedly made my purchases and went looking for them. I found everyone except for Autumn & Mom. I started to get a little worried, and walked faster and father into the shopping plaza. There were rows upon rows of vendors and my mind started thinking the worst. Someone could have easily taken Autumn, gagged her, and hidden her where I would never find her. I was frantic and on the verge of tears when I finally found Mom & Autumn. I yelled at them both for making me worry and then I walked away to go and cry. I was so relieved that she was safe and sound!
 It was so stinkin' hot today (this is the hottest summer on record), so after everyone finished their shopping we went and found a restaurant that had air conditioning to cool off and eat some lunch. We ended up at Amigos Steak House. Our waiter was super funny and we really liked him. It took a super long time to get our food, but the cool A/C made up for the long wait. Our waiter had us put these sombreros on at the end of our meal for a fun picture.
We thought we were done, but Dad had other plans. We drove across the Hartbeespoort Dam and went to the Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway. These green cable cars take you all the way to the top of the mountain. It doesn't look that high in this picture, but believe me that IT IS!!!

 Once we got to the top Mom & I just sat at a picnic table in the shade and talked while the others walked around to get some stunning pictures!
I didn't use to be skiddish about heights, but lately I have been. It was scary to be going up & down that super all mountain and realize all that was between you and plummeting to your death was a small cable rod!!! The views were beautiful, but I was holding on too tight for dear like to take any pics. I'm glad that Dad snapped a few. Mom & I threatened to beat him if he made the cable car sway at all!
 After all of that fun & excitement, we were DONE for the day! On the 2 hour drive home we passed several of these shanty towns. I hope this gives Autumn & Andrew (and all of us really) a greater appreciation for things that we take for granted like running water, electricity, flushing toilets, etc.
We got home and just vegged out the rest of the evening. Papa & Andrew played several games of chess w/ Andrew's new set he got at the Chameleon Village. We started a puzzle, caught up on emails, enjoyed the heavy rain/thunderstorm, and went to bed early since we had gotten up so early.

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