|So, it's been ages since we last wrote anything, or at least it seems that way to us - feels like we've been away for months rather than weeks (in a really nice way!). We've had absolutely the best time in the last few weeks. We just read back over our last entry and remembered how disillusioned we were with SA, but now our dreams are really becoming a reality (pete's even got a sun-tan!!!!!!!!). I think that we are both slowly adjusting to life on the road - beginning to realise that really there is no point in rushing anything. Actually the lifestyle really suits us as I'm sure you all know it takes us forever to make decisions anyway! Plus it give us time to pick up the signs - little things that happen to let you know that your on the right track, subtle hints that everything will be fine (advice we took from Ian the Wise!)
We finally left Port Elizabeth nearly 2 weeks ago. We were staying at a fab place called lungile, which is the Xhosa (African clicky language) for 'good' and the guys there made it stupidly hard for us to leave, taking us out for dinner and treating us to Champagne for our honeymoon - BIG HELLO TO EVERYONE THERE BY THE WAY AND THANKS FOR EVERYTHING:)
Anyway, we dragged ourselves away to travel up to the wild coast into the Transkei region and towards a place called Cinsta, which is totally picture perfect, treetop chalets with secluded beaches and lagoons. We had a traditional Xhosa feast that included Zebu - a kind of massive antelope - my vegetarian days are well and truely over (hols). It was also our first experience of African thunderstorms, which are MASSIVE and completely terrifying. They light up the entire sky and for a split second and it looks like daylight. Also got treated to a second bottle of champagne - how long can we keep pulling out the honeymoon card?????
However, despite all this we both still felt like we were missing something. We realised that flying for 12 hours does not necessarily mean that you avoid home, (Tam - we bumped into Bodge??, posh Ben's twin, he wanted us to say hi, he was v.v. drunk!!!). Our massive, wack on the head, sign to leave came on our last night there when they held a topless-bottomless party - we hurridly made plans to leave. And while we're having a rant, the bloody Baz Bus is the bane of our lives and has completely killed lift sharing! Its like an organised tourist bus that EVERYBODY else has paid hundreds of pounds to ride on that picks them up from one hostel and delivers them safely but boringly to the next, while we struggle with local bus timetables, packed taxis and ferry canoes!
Anyway, we had heard rumours about a place called Bulungula deep in the wild coast and after a few days of asking around we hitched a lift with some English guys half the way there. They dropped us at the side of a dirt road and within minutes we were surrounded by kids and animals - one woman even brought us a beer and an umbrella to stop us from burning. The kids were a bit hassely (Give me sweets, give me money......) but mostly they were just interested Pete's hair!!!!
Since then we have learnt a lot about the 'do you give sweets/money to kids or not' debate. Apparently, years ago when foreigners turned up kids would be really excited and friendly but since people have started handing things out they begin to expect it, so much so that even really little kids rub their fingers together, asking for money when you drive past instead of saying hello. Dave (the guy who has set up bulungula) has been slowly trying to change things and he is getting there. Unless people start taking responsibility for their own lives, learning to provide for themselves rather than expect handouts, then the communities will never prosper. I think its maybe different if you give things when you're part of the community and theres respect from all concerned.
Anyway, Dave has created a kind of lodge/community centre in the village that is 40% Xhosa owned, so everything is on the villager's terms and it means that anyone coming to stay immediately becomes part of the community and therefore has a direct effect on local preconceptions and culture. To get there you have to drive 40km across dirt roads, fields and virtual ravines, avoiding herds of cows, children and pigs! The hostel is made up of traditional rondavels (small round thatched houses made of mud) exactly the same as the villager's houses - but Dave has added a few funky extras like rocket powered showers (powered by parrafin-want one when we get back!) amazing artwork on the walls and waterless eco-toilets. There are pigs and goats happily roaming around and there is absolutely no crime so no doors have locks and you can walk along the beach in the middle of the night with no worries. Everyone in the village uses the kind of community centre as a meeting place so you automatically become part of the action.
On the first day we went sea fishing with a guy called Mr Z - didn't catch anything but just seeing him with wriggly crayfish up his wet suit was worth it. Then we spent the next week lazily canoeing down beautiful rivers, spotting crazy jumping fish (and I'm sure I saw a crocodile, pete says it was just a turtle - Hols!!!!!) and chilling out in hammocks watching bottlenose dolphins play in the Indian Ocean. Every night we ate tasty Xhosa meals, things like butternut stew and beans with rice. The people were just amazing, everyone seemed so happy despite living in poverty, where pointless death is a regular occurrence and HIV and AIDS is a massive problem (anti retrovirals haven't quite made it this far.....yet!!!). The only way villagers can get to the local hospital is in Daves 4x4, when he's not there they don't go!!! We wondered how dave could possibly give jobs to some and not others when this was such an opportunity for them- but the community makes all the decisions about the lodge and who works there - usually the staff there are the most worst off, women who had lost husbands to HIV/AIDS etc. One of our lasting memories is the women of the village standing in the kitchen, with mud painted on their faces to protect them from the sun, singing their hearts out.
Sorry to rant but Dave really has done an unbelievable thing here (all before the age of 30) he's definitely left his footprint in the sands of time - and we couldn't help but compare it to our own lives. Being there just makes you want to do something worthwhile and meaningful. The only regret we had was not being able to speak much Xhosa. I think not using any clicks or tuts in a language is a real missed opportunity. Where one culture uses them to speak the most beautiful language we tut to show disapproval and click to make horses go faster!!!!!
It has to be said, Bulungula was one of the most amazing places we've ever been in our lives, a real slice of African paradise and I really don't think that any words we write here will do it justice. All we really have to say is 'please please go there if you ever have the chance'.
However, all good things and all that..........We're now in a hostel called Nomads in Durban, Africa's third largest city and the largest port, failing miserably to get a boat to Madagascar! We have a few more ideas and people to email so we'll see how it goes. Durban is a strange city that combines western, Indian and African cultures which gives it a really individual feel. We've enjoyed being here - It has loads of markets that are fantastic and perfect for honing our haggling skills (although ours are still in good shape after our car boot sale extravaganza!). Only problem is that we suffered from a strange culture shock for the first couple of days- It's such a different existence to Bulungula - its so much more hectic (although saying that Pete managed to swap a packet of biscuits for 2 pillows last night so things are already looking up!!) So, to remedy this, from here we're heading north into Zululand tomorrow, which should be fantastic. We've heard rumours about a massive wedding of the daughter of a sangoma (kind of chief healer, witch doctor) apparently she's worth 100 cows whereas I'm only worth 10 (apparently!!!!!!) Definitely would have made for a crazy wedding if John (Petes Dad) had to pay Jacqui (Holly's mum) 10 cows!!!!
So, that's about it for the meantime
Tam - skydiving sounds great, please, please be careful. How many lives do you have left these days??? Ruth - Have now finished book and am scarred for life!
Hello John and Hazel, welcome to website (eventually ;-)) Laura - make sure Barney is generous with his cows! Sarah (@ waterstones) - quicksilver book is fantastic but I have no idea whats going on!
Anyhoo, Lots of love and all things in harmony.
Pete and Holly