Immersion into a Xhosa Village
07.20.2009 - 08.10.2009 65 °F
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.
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.
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.
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.
Others cook meals for guests throughout the day and we got a special tour to learn about daily life in the village.
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.
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.
We really hope Bulungula Lodge acts as a model for other hostels and communities around South Africa and in other struggling nations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
CAPE AGULHAS - The most southern tip of Africa doesn't offer much more than a sign where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.
ARNISTON - This fishing village has some colorful boats and homes.
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.
SIMONSTOWN - home to South Africa's navy and jackass penguins!
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.
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 ; - )