If I think back to the main reasons I wanted to study abroad in South Africa, the wildlife and weather were top on my list. The idea of getting away from the cold, snowy New Jersey winter and entering the warm, sunny Port Elizabeth summer sounded perfect. For an entire month we had sun, clear skies and beautiful weather, but even in paradise there are rainy days. Rainy days, experiencing my first South African storm.
Myself along with ten other friends headed to Plettenberg Bay on Friday for a weekend full of outdoor activities and quintessential South African weather. My car arrived Friday afternoon and once we saw how gorgeous our view from our hostel was, we decided to sit back, relax, and enjoy the sun and each other’s company. Later that night we met up with at our friends from Germany’s accommodation which was this adorable house tucked away in the hills for a traditional South African braai! We then got back to our accommodation pretty early because we had plans to hike Robberg Island early the next morning to avoid the midday heat and be able to get to our second planned activity.
Saturday morning came and we were up, out and on the hike by 9am! The view was amazing, every turn of the trail you saw something more beautiful than before. About half way on the hike, you have the option to turn and go down the beach where you would only do half of the trail or continue hiking uphill and walk the whole island. Myself and three others decided to keep going and promised our friends we would make it back in time to go swimming with the seals.
So we hiked on, climbing up and up the mountain side, winding our way up and down the mountain for two hours until we ended back where we started. Feeling accomplished because we had plenty of time and exhausted because we went as fast as possible to avoid the “I told you so” comments that were almost a sure possibility. Once we returned, the clouds rolled in, the temperature decreased and our friends informed us that the swimming with seals was canceled because of the rough waters. Disappointed, we went to a nice lunch on the water instead and chatted about what we could do instead of wasting an afternoon.
We decided we had just enough time to get to monkey land, until it started raining, we cut our losses and went back to shower and get ready for dinner. Still slightly raining and overcast, we showered, but then a huge storm rolled in. The hostel employees frantically gathered all of the outdoor furniture and pillows and we all waited out the storm. It only lasted about 45 minutes but in that time the lightning managed to knock out the power, which meant no electricity, no running water, and no internet!
Nevertheless, we went out to dinner, most of the town had power but since we were a little more secluded we were not as fortunate. When we got back the sun was just setting so we had enough light that we could get our beds ready. Candles were lit everywhere, they had 3 fires going and I had my little flashlight to help navigate around the hostel. Even with no power we had so much fun, it was like camping, instead of checking your phone they were turned off to conserve battery and all of us got to be in the moment.
Another early morning the next day, the agenda had Afri-canyoning, a guided activity that took us through the forest mainly by river and we got to abseil using natural waterfalls. All eleven suited up in wetsuits, harnesses, life jackets and helmets and off we went. The scenery was beautiful, our guides were great and overall it was amazing. The entire time it was overcast but we did not notice until we got back to camp and again it was drizzling just enough that we thought our afternoon of kayaking might not be the best choice so we had to cancel.
At first I was pretty upset, half of the activities we had planned were canceled and in that moment it felt like the whole weekend was ruined….. But it wasn’t, not at all! We started talking about all of the funny memories we made that weekend and focused on all the good and before we knew it, the rain, cancelations and power outage were just minute details.
I guess what I am trying to say is that every day is not going to be perfect, there will be rainy days, but those days won’t be remembered. People always say that studying abroad changes you, I did not pay much mind to that, but little by little I see myself letting go of things that usually would bother me and learning to go with flow even if I do not have a grip on every little detail! If I am being honest I missed rain, the smell, the feel, the coziness, it felt like home even if it was only for a short while!
Taylor Farro is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She is currently a junior at Stockton University in New Jersey.