Dear Sarah, Oh, To Drive!

Dear Sarah,

I think of you, more than anyone else I know, when I think of people who enjoy beautiful drives. I have such sweet memories of you and your kids, packing up in the van and heading out of town. And oh, Sarah, if only you could’ve been here for these last couple days–we drove some of the most scenic, stunning, spectacular roads I’ve ever been on.

Our first drive we headed south, first central and then to the west coast of South Africa. We wound past gorgeous countryside, passed through several towns riddled with vineyards and wine tasting rooms, and ended up at a beach that was easily one of the most epic I’ve ever been to. (And that’s saying a lot, from a woman who’s been to Hawaii and the Caribbean–and there are even some ridiculously beautiful beaches in Michigan, as you know!). Bright turquoise water, incandescent white sand with the finest grains I’ve ever walked on. The wind whipped at my hair as we walked, and the water was frigid, in stark contrast to the heat of the day (around 85 degrees farenheit). When we got back in the car, our elevation gain was extreme, and we quickly climbed to an area where we had, once again, one of the most epic views I’ve ever experienced. It reminded me of stretches of highway 101 in Northern California: the road wound dramatically, each turn revealing ocean views more spectacular than the last. The cliffs were rugged, wild, and the lanes narrow–I was so grateful to have a tall stone wall separating the road from the thousand-foot drop. Again, I thought of you, and some of the more harrowing drives you’ve described to me–including one notable one, I believe around the Mt. Saint Helens area. You’re brave, lady! That was no small feat!

Driving home, we stopped for beers and fries on the beach. You would have loved this place: very laid-back, and everyone clearly in vacation mode. It was interesting to feel how much the energy shifted, just an hour outside of the big city; you and I both are very familiar with how different the vibe often is in small towns, and here in South Africa was no exception. Even at the restaurant, service was notably more chill, and most people seemed to be more in relaxed  “vacation mode” than in go-go-go. I think of you as the type of traveler that’s much more interested in taking it easy than trying to see ALL the sights, visit ALL the tourist attractions. I feel like we’ve achieved a pretty good balance thus far on this trip (of doing & seeing vs just hanging out and enjoying ourselves), but it’s always a delicate dance between enjoyment and exhaustion.

The next day, we drove around the opposite coast–Cape Town is surrounded by water on three sides, and east and west coasts yield very different sights and experiences. The beach towns to the east felt quaint and lovable, a little like Cannon Beach or Astoria: cute boutiques, coffeeshops, lots of restaurants. The ocean water is also notably warmer, so unlike to the west, there were many people swimming and playing in the waves. We stopped by a famous Cape Town attraction, Boulder Beach, where we (and throngs of other tourists) hung out with hundreds of adorable wild penguins! It was so fun to see these sweet birds in the wild–interesting to see their calm demeanor, so clearly reflecting their freedom to come and go as they pleased (unlike in any zoo or aquarium settings).

And then came the unfortunate part of the day, as I was dealing with serious tummy troubles and ended up having to cut my adventures short. Thank goodness for Uber, and a kind driver from Zimbabwe who kept me company on the drive back home, while the rest of my family continued on to the most Southwestern point in Africa, the Cape of Good Hope. When I got home, I slept for 4 hours straight; was up briefly, then slept another another 11 hours last night. I went through several iterations of sickness: body convulsing with shivers, burning up with a fever, stomach that felt like it was devouring itself from the inside out, indigestion on both ends. The reality hit me hard: it’s so hard for me to surrender to feeling like hell, even though I know there’s nothing I can do but ride the sickness out. Both my physically and emotional suffering was excruciating.

To make matters worse: I spent several hours over the past few days researching New Years Eve plans. Cape Town is supposedly one of the greatest places in the world to ring in the new year, with tens of thousands of people attending parties lining the beach shores–beginning at 11am on the 31st, and continuing through all hours of the night. I’d found a particularly alluring location with a world-famous DJ from Ibiza, along with a few rooftop bars that also looked amazing. My sisters and I had been looking forward to one final hurrah in South Africa, a chance to celebrate together and dance the night away.

And where was I, on midnight in Cape Town on New Years?

Yes, in bed. I was asleep by 8:45pm.

And I know there will be plenty of occasions in the future to dance like a maniac; to drink with my sisters; to experience amazing beaches. But I highly doubt I will ever again be in Cape Town on New Years Eve. Suffice to say, though it was hard to think about anything besides how horrible I felt physically, I felt sad and disappointed when I woke brielfy at midnight and heard the fireworks, and wild cheering and hooting and hollering.

By now, it is the new year in your neck of the woods, too (we are 10 hours ahead!). I trust it finds you happy and well. I have been in great awe of you and your family this year, Sarah–you have dealt with so much adversity, so many challenges, and emerged stronger and more solid than ever. When I reflect on 2017, visiting you in Cleveland was absolutely a highlight, and friendships like ours are what make me feel such excitement for the year ahead.

Happy New Year, Sarah. I love you so much.

Sophie

PS The cover photo for this post was taken from one of the west side overlooks. Ocean – ocean – ocean! Utterly magnificent.


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