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musk ox

Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle

Oddly enough, this story starts with goose barnacles. What might those be you might ask? These are goose barnacles.

In July 2009 fate made sure I was walking along a beautiful beach in Goukamma Nature Reserve near Buffelsbaai. I was looking for goose barnacles that had washed ashore as part of my honours thesis. You see there are several different species of goose barnacle and I wanted to find out if different species preferred different objects. I had already noticed that all species had a strong affinity for plastic, and so every piece of plastic I came across received a good looking at. Then came the surprise, an old sun bleached Bonaqua litchi bottle. It didn't have any goose barnacles but it did have a letter. 'A message in a bottle!' I shouted out, the excitement taking over. I looked around and saw Aiden a bit further down the beach. I ran over to him and showed him the lucky find. 'No waaaaaays bruuu!'.

Back at the backpackers I opened the bottle wondering how old the air was that just spilled out into this new environment. I pulled the letter out and there it was - January 2007. It had been on a two and a half year journey! The ink was faded but I could make out all the words. This is the letter.

When I got back to Cape Town I began assembling my reply. How does one respond to a message in a bottle? I decided that I was so privileged to be in my position that I had to go all out. I went down to the beach near my house in Muizenberg and collected as many different types of shells that I could find. Mussels, clams, Janthina, Spirula spirula. I took a photo of each kind, wrote an interesting fact about the species, and compiled it into a key. I then put the key and my reply, which was in the Bonaqua bottle from which the flame of this literary adventure had come, and placed them into a box filled with the shells I had collected. The postage cost was R154.90, but it was worth it. This kind of adventure was priceless.

A month passed and I hadn't had a response. 'What if she had moved?' I asked myself in fear of losing out of an exciting story. Then one afternoon a bright orange handmade envelope with beautiful drawings appeared in the post-box. It was well weighted and as I unravelled it I found autumn leaves all the way from Germany, chocolates, and a CD with 'Message in a bottle' and 'Whale Rider' copied onto it - those are Lisa's favourite movies. There were also nine pages of beautiful hand writing and drawings. I had just received a letter from a girl I met through a message in a bottle. 'This is so crazy' I thought to myself.

We continued writing to each other, not ever establishing email contact for fear that we'd stop writing letters. Then she went to Malawi for a year and even though we wrote, the letters would often get lost in the mail, so we started emailing each other. It wasn't quite the same feeling of opening a letter, but it was still nice to swap adventure stories and photos. I then went to Marion Island, where posting something is completely out of the question because there aren't any ships visiting for an entire year! So our communication was now solely through email.

One day I opened up my email and read through another nice long message from her. The lines jumped out at me with excitement: "My parents are going sailing in Norway next summer and I was wondering if you'd like to join us? We could go travelling by ourselves afterwards.". Yes please.

I booked my flight to Oslo and the time of our meeting was slowly ticking down.

So fast forward seven months and I'm on a train heading south from Norway. It's 8PM and the sun is still beaming from above. I'm luggageless, but it doesn't matter.

I arrive in Halden and pass the time picking wild rasberries and photographing butterflies until my next train arrives.

I meet Lisa at the end of a jetty on a little island in the south-west of Sweden and then spend the next five days sailing with her and her parents, Holger and Iris.

The carnivorous plant Drosera on a little island off south-west Sweden.

Muddus National Park, Lapland, North Sweden.

After Muddus we hitch-hiked to Gallivare where we camped by a little river for the night.

We then caught a train to Narvik and then hitch-hiked to the Lofoten Islands.

After several days exploring Lofoten, we took a ferry over to Bodo and then a train down to Dovrefjell National Park.

We arrived at Kongsvoll train station at 2am and slept in the waiting room until sunrise, when we packed our bags and headed up into the national park to find the musk oxen.

After Dovrefjell National Park and another night sleeping in the train station, we caught a train South to Otta, where we then hitch-hiked to Sogndal to stay with my friend Sheona.

After a few lovely days staying with Sheona and Torstein and exploring Jotunheimen National Park ('Home of the giants') we got a ride with a Lithuanian truck driver through the world's longest mountain tunnel - 24.5 km!

Wind farms near Copenhagen.