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Bulungula Experience, plus South Africa's countryside

Immersion into a Xhosa Village

semi-overcast 65 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Taking a stroll through the rolling hills of Ngileni, South Africa.

Taking a stroll through the rolling hills of Ngileni, South Africa.

It wasn't an easy task to get to the Bulungula Lodge in the Ngileni Village (Wild Coast south of Coffee Bay), but we are so pleased we made the trek as it was the highlight of our trip through South Africa. In the back of a four by four pick up truck with no shocks or seat belts we held on for dear life for about an hour drive through farmers' fields, rivers and rolling hills to get to our rondavel, a traditional mud round house for the next three nights.

A typical rondavel.

A typical rondavel.

The rondavels of Bulungula Lodge.

The rondavels of Bulungula Lodge.

As soon as we entered our home we said 'oh shit' and looked at the bottom of our sneakers and wheel bags to see if we accidentally rolled through some manure on the way in (cattle roam freely throughout the village.) The smell was rancid. Our host chuckled and told us how the floors of these homes are tiled in cow dung, because it is easy to clean. Although we built up immunity to the smell, we'll leave this practice in South Africa.

As soon as we entered our home we said 'oh shit' and looked at the bottom of our sneakers and wheel bags to see if we accidentally rolled through some manure on the way in (cattle roam freely throughout the village.) The smell was rancid. Our host chuckled and told us how the floors of these homes are tiled in cow dung, because it is easy to clean. Although we built up immunity to the smell, we'll leave this practice in South Africa.

The Bulungula Lodge, created and co-owned by world traveler Dave Martins, is really unique. We're told he bought the property overlooking the most untouched piece of oceanfront under the condition that the Nqileni village owns 40% of the lodge and is an integral part of its daily life. Bulungula seems to have found the right balance between improving the lives of the tribal people with education and employment, without losing their local traditions.

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Those living in the village are part of the Xhosa tribe (one of several native tribes in South Africa.) Nelson Mandela is Xhosa and grew up in a neighboring village. The Xhosa's have clung to ancient traditions even with western influences all around. The coming of age ceremony for teenage boys is something you read about in National Geographic... painted faces, circumcision without anesthesia and isolation. The language is also fascinating with the use of a click. Xhosa is actually pronounced <click>hosa.

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Many in the village have started their own businesses under Dave's guidance; one man leads canoe trips through the local river, an herbalist leads a walk through the woods to showcase natural remedies and women make cloths for sale.

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Others cook meals for guests throughout the day and we got a special tour to learn about daily life in the village.

Kalula teaches us to carry water on our heads.

Kalula teaches us to carry water on our heads.

Dave crashes into me as we carry fire wood up to the house.

Dave crashes into me as we carry fire wood up to the house.

Kalula's home. She lives with her mom, brother and son. Her sister lives with her husband's family.

Kalula's home. She lives with her mom, brother and son. Her sister lives with her husband's family.

Kalula's kitchen.

Kalula's kitchen.

Dave eats a traditional meal of maize, a thick corn meal ball that resembles Elmers.

Dave eats a traditional meal of maize, a thick corn meal ball that resembles Elmers.

After some hard labor I rest on the hillside. I am wearing a head scarf to represent I am married. The face base is to repel the sun. The dots would be painted on during a celebratory time.

After some hard labor I rest on the hillside. I am wearing a head scarf to represent I am married. The face base is to repel the sun. The dots would be painted on during a celebratory time.

Bulungula's laundry service.

Bulungula's laundry service.

The Bulungula Lodge also uses profits to run HIV awareness programs, teach organic farming practices and nutrition, and to build a new pre-school, which we were lucky to visit on the first day of class. In lieu of tuition-free education, parents of students have to volunteer twice a month. Teachers are all from the local village and have been paired with a trained teacher. They will work together for two years with the hope the local teacher will be able to train future teachers from the village.

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I jumped in to teach the kids a song.

I jumped in to teach the kids a song.

My favorite lesson was going on in this classroom. The teacher was showing them how to use tissue for runny noses, instead of sleeves or snorting.

My favorite lesson was going on in this classroom. The teacher was showing them how to use tissue for runny noses, instead of sleeves or snorting.

The best part of being at Bulungula was interacting with locals, playing with kids and just watching Xhosa life from a distance. Here are a few of our favorite photos.

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During a hike we communicated with some local children on a hill across from us using a common language - dance!

During a hike we communicated with some local children on a hill across from us using a common language - dance!

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After teaching the kids how to use a camera they put it to use.

After teaching the kids how to use a camera they put it to use.

Another photo opp!

Another photo opp!

Beach side happiness!

Beach side happiness!

We really hope Bulungula Lodge acts as a model for other hostels and communities around South Africa and in other struggling nations.

A beautiful sunset at Bulungula Lodge, a place where there is certainly a ray of hope!

A beautiful sunset at Bulungula Lodge, a place where there is certainly a ray of hope!

Bulungula was just one stop on a three week road trip around the country. Here are some highlights as we travelled through the Garden Route, Sunshine and Wild coasts, as well as inland to the mountains.

TSITSIKAMMA NATIONAL PARK - It was worth the wait. After sitting inside during three days of rain, we finally got to the beautiful Tsitsikamma. The half-day hike we did was stunning.

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Boa Duiker looks like a donkey-deer.

Boa Duiker looks like a donkey-deer.

WILDERNESS NATIONAL PARK - This park wasn't as exciting as Tsitsikamma, but we did a great walk leading to a much talked about waterfall, that literally could fit into the palm of Dave's hand.

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View from our hostel window at the Wildnerness Beach House.

View from our hostel window at the Wildnerness Beach House.

DRAKENSBERG MOUNTAIN RANGE - The Drakensberg Mountains lie between South Africa and Lesotho, which is a country completely surrounded by South Africa. Dave and I took a bumpy ride to cross the border via the Sani Pass to get one more stamp on our passport and to learn about the country we had never heard about. Lesotho has natural security as it is completely surrounded by mountains.

Sani Pass through the Drakensberg Mountains.

Sani Pass through the Drakensberg Mountains.

We made it! The first village we came upon in Lesotho.

We made it! The first village we came upon in Lesotho.

Village store at the Lesotho border. The highest bar in Africa is located here.

Village store at the Lesotho border. The highest bar in Africa is located here.

A toilet with some privacy! Lesotho is one of the most barren places I have seen.

A toilet with some privacy! Lesotho is one of the most barren places I have seen.

Boys in their teens and twenties get sent to these remote areas to shepherd sheep.

Boys in their teens and twenties get sent to these remote areas to shepherd sheep.

Local shepherds double as drug dealers trying to sell us a bag of marajuana. Not so smart as we were less than a mile from the border patrol.

Local shepherds double as drug dealers trying to sell us a bag of marajuana. Not so smart as we were less than a mile from the border patrol.

A local girl made us maize bread under hot cow dung coals. It actually tasted pretty good!

A local girl made us maize bread under hot cow dung coals. It actually tasted pretty good!

PORT ALFRED - In Port Alfred we were lucky to have another home stay. When we were in Argentina we met a fellow traveller from South Africa. Kath now lives in London, but set us up with her parents for a little TLC. They own a holiday park and gave us are own chalet for the night. They also spent a lot of time talking with us about growing up in South Africa and how it has changed. It was eye opening.

Our home at the Medolina Holiday Resort.

Our home at the Medolina Holiday Resort.

Port Alfred is a beach community with crazy sand dunes.

Port Alfred is a beach community with crazy sand dunes.

Derek gives Dave and I a tour of the local township.

Derek gives Dave and I a tour of the local township.

Like most towns we drove through, Port Alfred has a large township of ad hoc houses. It is still divided by race with blacks living on one side of the neighborhood and colored (South African term for mix race) people living in another area. You do not see any white residents.

Like most towns we drove through, Port Alfred has a large township of ad hoc houses. It is still divided by race with blacks living on one side of the neighborhood and colored (South African term for mix race) people living in another area. You do not see any white residents.

Just down the street from the township is this wealthy seaside village, with mostly white residents. Compared to Boston these houses are extremely inexpensive, but compared to the township, it is another world, which is definitely dividing the community. Dave and I can't imagine living in a home like this knowing that people a block away barely have running water, electricity, and a roof over their head.

Just down the street from the township is this wealthy seaside village, with mostly white residents. Compared to Boston these houses are extremely inexpensive, but compared to the township, it is another world, which is definitely dividing the community. Dave and I can't imagine living in a home like this knowing that people a block away barely have running water, electricity, and a roof over their head.

CAPE AGULHAS - The most southern tip of Africa doesn't offer much more than a sign where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.

Dave at the most southern tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, South Africa

Dave at the most southern tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, South Africa

Flowers are starting to bloom.

Flowers are starting to bloom.

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ARNISTON - This fishing village has some colorful boats and homes.

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HERMANUS - This beach side village is best known for some of the best whale watching from land and for interesting wildlife. We also caught some surfing under the most powerful and scary waves. Many people go to Hermanus to dive with great white sharks. Although we found that unappealing for several reasons, we would have liked to take a boat ride out to sea to view the sharks. Unfortunately, the water was too rough for boats to go out on the days of our visit.

We're surprised he made it out alive!

We're surprised he made it out alive!

Southern Right Whale. We saw dozens of whales. Unfortunately they weren't interested in jumping for the camera!

Southern Right Whale. We saw dozens of whales. Unfortunately they weren't interested in jumping for the camera!

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Long Tail Sugarbird

Long Tail Sugarbird

Rock Daisies

Rock Daisies

SIMONSTOWN - home to South Africa's navy and jackass penguins!
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CAPE OF GOOD HOPE NATURE RESERVE - This area is known for its coastal walks and wildlife. I will remember it for the baboon that jumped into our car. I was so freaked out that I didn't act quick enough to take a photo, which is a huge bummer, because it was quite a sight. The baboon went right for our cooler bag. When he couldn't get it, he left the car.

There was ample warning of baboons in the area, Cape Point.

There was ample warning of baboons in the area, Cape Point.

This was the baboon that was in our car.

This was the baboon that was in our car.

Cape of Good Hope.

Cape of Good Hope.

Cape Point lighthouse.

Cape Point lighthouse.

Beaches line the coastal drive between Cape Point and Cape Town. Camps Bay is on the back side of Table Mountain.

Beaches line the coastal drive between Cape Point and Cape Town. Camps Bay is on the back side of Table Mountain.

Next stop is Johannesberg. Then we're off to Victoria Falls and will embark on a three week safari through Nambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya.

In true Chernack form, I am leaving South Africa with a souvenir - tick bite fever. Google it to find out more. Let's just say it is painful, but after a week of antibiotics and pain killers I should live to tell about it ; - )

- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 04:41 Archived in South Africa

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enjoyed see your latest entries. keep them coming luv linda

by linda e. greene

Elizabeth and Dave- We have been enjoying your pictures and comments so much. It is unbelievable what you have seen and done. What a way to start off your new life together. Love, Susan and Jim

by susan harris

VEry nice blog entry, and very nice photos. I was working at Bulungula exactly a year ago (horticulture volunteer) and miss it immensely. Isn't it one of the most gorgeous places you've ever seen? Hope the rest of your journey goes well.

Gene

by Gene Gage

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