Thursday, 6 December 2012

My Final Adventure in South Africa Part I: Bulungula

I know this is about 5 months late but I was telling this story to my boss Laurie and I had to tell it to all you faithful readers, before I forget it....
So, my 4 friends (Shana, Brooke, Hallie, and Sammy) and I decided that we wanted to go explore the Eastern part of South Africa before we left the beautiful country, so we planned a three part trip to Bulungula, Lesotho, and Durban for approximately 10 days.
Part I: Bulungula

We booked a bus leaving from the Cape Town bus station that would go through Port Elizabeth, and eventually drop us off in Mthatha, which was two hours outside of Bulungula. We got on our bus, after almost getting on the wrong bus from Cape Town. The bus was completely cramped and had absolutely no air conditioning whatsoever, so the bus ended up being 90 degrees. I tried to fall asleep (cause I can sleep in any moving vehicle) and within one hour of my sleep, the bus driver decided to play an African gospel concert on the TV's on repeat. I'm pretty sure it repeated a good four times before we got off the bus, so I was not able to sleep for 90% of the bus ride. We arrived in Mthatha, and was dropped off in the middle of this taxi rink where taxi drivers were pulling us every which way to try and get us to use their transport. Luckily Brooke friended this nice lady who helped us negotiate with a taxi driver who would take us as far as Elliotdale which was about an hour closer to Bulungula.

The back of the flatbed truck
When we arrived at this taxi rink, a guy named Marvelous approached Shana, and asked her to marry him so he could go to America and visit her, and asked for her number a few dozen times. When were then piled in the back of a flatbed truck with a mother, her husband, and her infant with all of their monthly groceries and shipped off to the coast. The trip is calculated to be about an hour, but since the infrastructure is pretty rough in this part of the country the drive probably took another hour. When we arrived to the bay, all of our stuff was dumped out and the driver said he had to "go grab the boat." We sat around for about twenty minutes when our driver arrived with our "boat". And no the boat was not a motor boat, but a full-out canoe. I can clearly remember the faces of shock on all of us, when he was loading the luggage into the canoe for the luggage's trip across the bay. When we got to the other side of the bay, we had to drag all of our lugguge (poor Shana had a rolling bag) down two miles of shoreline. Finally we arrived at Bulungula, an eco-friendly lodge overlooking the stunning Indian Ocean.
Our lovely Canoe ride

The lodge was overrun with stray cats, dogs, cows, donkeys, and horses, and their was a stray dog that would follow us around everyday, and sleep outside of our hut at night, waiting for us to wake up. The lodge was brightly colored, and had a couch area, a kitchen for guests who cook their own food, and another kitchen for the isi Xhosa workers who would come in and cook nightly meals, that you could buy for a small fee. Also, the tribespeople made small crafts and trinkets that were also being sold in the lodge, as well as a sign up sheet was on a bulletin board, listing the various activities that was offered by the lodge.

The bathrooms were vibrantly painted, and completely eco-friendly. One half of the toilet was for #1 and the other was for #2. The shower was a pipe with a hole at the bottom, where you stuffed toilet paper and dump kerosene on the toilet paper then light it, to give you 7 minutes of hot shower water. The huts contained 6-8 beds and were lit by a single eco-friendly bulb.
The lodge was a 1 minute walk away from a beautiful, completely desolate beach, away from all of the chaotic world.
The Bathrooms

The "yummy local beer"

The first day at Bulungula, we relaxed and walked along the beach all day, after a long day of being crammed in buses, trucks, and canoes. That evening we signed up for a "village tour" of the local isi Xhosa village, on the tour we met the town's medicine woman. She is in charge of providing healthcare to those tribespeople who do not believe in any form of religion such as Christianity. Then, we bumped into the headswoman (the chief's wife) who was very intoxicated and coming back from the Shebeen (the local bar). She would not take a photo without one of our water bottles in her hand or doing the Nazi salute, she was quite hilarious,  and such a character to meet. Then we went to the local store, where this Afrikaans woman in our group asked the shopkeeper if "the peanuts were fresh or not?" she was very degrading to the tribespeople, and we unfortunately had to live in the same hut with her. Then, we finally got to go and check out the Shebeen, where they sold cartons of "local beer" for 5 Rand a carton. The process was to shake the carton and dump the beer into a plastic pitcher and then pass it amongst one another. The beer was in all honesty the WORST thing I've ever tasted, it was a mixture between body sweat and vinegar, so we gave it off to this guy who was missing a mouthful of teeth, but continued to try and talk to us. After ten minutes of sitting in the Shebeen, our guide noticed a small feud going on across the hut and told us that we should probably leave. The milk crate that Sam was sitting on was knocked over and piled on by drunk, fighting men and women just pounding one another, literally 10 seconds after Sammy got off of the crate. We quickly left the Shebeen to head back to the lodge.

Sporting the local sunscreen, head-wrap,
 and cutting up our squash for lunch
The full moon sunset
The next day we signed up for the "woman power tour". This tour was specifically designed to allow visitors to experience the everyday life of a isi Xhosa woman, and the day to day chores they perform. We first arrived at the woman's house who was giving the tour, the house was about a mile and a half from the lodge up this beautiful hill overlooking the valley. We passed many sheep and chickens on our way to her house. When we arrived she mixed a soil/water concoction that is used by the women as a form of sunscreen and applied it to all of our faces. Then, she wrapped our hair in head-wrap cloth material. Then she lead us to the well where they draw water and we were each given the task of carrying a bucket of

Brookie and I watching the sunset.
water upon our heads, uphill and back to the house. Then, she sent us into the woods to collect firewood (again balanced on our heads) back to her house. Finally, we were brought to another house where we used a larger version of a mortar and pestle to grind up the corn to create cornmeal. She then instructed us to chop up the squash while she cooked the chicken and Mili-Pop (a corn version of mashed potatoes). Finally we divulged on a delicious meal of chicken, squash, and Milli-Pop. We then headed back toward the village with the local children who were leaving their lunch break to head back to school, some of the children were wearing

Toms which proved that the organization actually does donate pairs to African children. That night was a full moon so we ventured down to the beach to watch the sunset, and it was absolutely breathtaking to see a sunset over the Indian Ocean! We then sat around the fire circle and played the bongo drums with some of the local guys who hang out at the lodge at night. The next morning we woke up bright and early to head off on our next (crazy) part of the journey, and oh boy does it get weirder.

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