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South Africa

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 Comments (3)

South Africa by daylight

Learning about Apartheid in Cape Town, plus a trip to the Winelands

overcast 18 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

View of downtown Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain. South Africa's landscape is full of beautiful mountains, valleys, oceanfronts and cities.

View of downtown Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain. South Africa's landscape is full of beautiful mountains, valleys, oceanfronts and cities.

Compared to most of Asia, South Africa is remarkably calm with a western feel, which initially led us to believe the country has made great strides since Apartheid ended 15 years ago. Cape Town was our first stop.

We enjoyed lunchtime music from an acapella group at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront in Cape Town.

We enjoyed lunchtime music from an acapella group at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront in Cape Town.

A monument of South Africa's Nobel Peace prize winners; William De Klerk, Bishop Desomond TuTu, Albert Luthuli, and Nelson Mandela. It is a source of tremendous pride that the country achieved freedom for all its people without civil war.

A monument of South Africa's Nobel Peace prize winners; William De Klerk, Bishop Desomond TuTu, Albert Luthuli, and Nelson Mandela. It is a source of tremendous pride that the country achieved freedom for all its people without civil war.

Unfortunately, behind the calm exterior is a sad history of oppression that has led to many current problems. For more than three decades the white South African government had a systematic plan, Apartheid (literally "apart system"), to separate its people based on race with an effort to ensure white superiority. Laws separated white, black, Indian and colored (the term used for mixed race in South Africa) neighborhoods. Non-whites were given an inferior education, stripped of all political freedoms and were forced to abide travel restrictions. As we traveled through South Africa we noticed it is still divided by race on many levels.

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There is a major contrast between rich and poor neighborhoods. It is common to see a complex of McMansions just down the street from a crowded township of small government built homes or tin shacks. We have not seen many middle class neighborhoods.

A few other big issues we've observed:

- Industry and jobs are scarce and the poverty rate is staggering. While in Cape Town we met many educated non-whites with jobs working hard to make a living, this isn't the case through out the country.

- Many people are wary of the current government under Jacob Zuma, a former ANC anti-Apartheid leader with minimal education and a police record.

- The government is aiming to provide every citizen with a home, but production is behind and infrastructure can't support all of the houses. In our opinion everyone would be better served if the government created jobs.

- Education is mandatory, but visibly not enforced or encouraged by many parents.

- One in four people are infected with HIV. Grants are given to people who have the disease for medications, but many use it to buy food. We're told many people are so desperate they try to get HIV so they can get the government money. Clearly the system is broken.

- Violent crime is on the rise. As a result, we've been warned to travel by daylight. We haven't witnessed anything and think there is a bit of paranoia, but we are following the wisdom of locals and stay in at night.

- Although many white people who fought for equal rights remain optimistic about the future of South Africa, many feel alienated by the current governments focus on black rights rather than equal rights.

ROBBEN ISLAND

Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated for decades. The conditions were dire, but the island became known as "The University" because Mandela and other leaders were able to educate younger prisoners about their ideas for a non-racial, free and democratic South Africa. Mandela also secretly wrote most of his auto-biography, "Long Walk to Freedom," while in jail. It is a must read! His struggle to educate himself, make a living, and then fight for freedom is inspiring. The sense we have is that Mandela's message is at risk of being lost due to the difficulty people have to rise out of poverty.

Nelson Mandela's cell. He served most of his 27 years here.

Nelson Mandela's cell. He served most of his 27 years here.

Mandela's prison garden where he hid a manuscript of his auto-biography. It was discovered a few weeks later when guards built the wall. Luckily, Mandela gave another copy to a prisoner who smuggled it out in his shoes and released it to the public sharing much information about the poor treatment of blacks.

Mandela's prison garden where he hid a manuscript of his auto-biography. It was discovered a few weeks later when guards built the wall. Luckily, Mandela gave another copy to a prisoner who smuggled it out in his shoes and released it to the public sharing much information about the poor treatment of blacks.

Our Robben Island tour guide was a political prisoner on the Island for five years until all prisoners were let free.

Our Robben Island tour guide was a political prisoner on the Island for five years until all prisoners were let free.

Picture of the prisoners leaving Robben Island after a deal to free political prisoners was negotiated by Mandela (along with his political party, the African National Congress - ANC) and the Apartheid government.

Picture of the prisoners leaving Robben Island after a deal to free political prisoners was negotiated by Mandela (along with his political party, the African National Congress - ANC) and the Apartheid government.

The limestone quarry where the prisoners did hard labor was also where most of the political debates and discussions occurred among prisoners. The limestone was so bright and the dust was so thick that most prisoners have eye and lung damage from being in this environment.

The limestone quarry where the prisoners did hard labor was also where most of the political debates and discussions occurred among prisoners. The limestone was so bright and the dust was so thick that most prisoners have eye and lung damage from being in this environment.

DISTRICT SIX MUSEUM

District Six is a neighborhood in Cape Town that was forcefully "resettled" under one of the worst of the Apartheid laws, the Group Areas Act. Every non-white by law had to carry a passbook with their racial identity and they were assigned rights based on the information. The Group Areas Act permitted authorities to move black, Indian and colored people from their home into areas away from city and business centers. Former residents of District Six now lead powerful tours at the museum.

People wrote in their family name on the map where they once lived before being forcefully removed from District Six. Some of the land is now being returned to the people.

People wrote in their family name on the map where they once lived before being forcefully removed from District Six. Some of the land is now being returned to the people.

Typical sign during Apartheid.

Typical sign during Apartheid.

JEWISH MUSEUM

At the Jewish Museum in Cape Town we learned many South African Jews emigrated from Europe, mostly from Lithuania, for religious freedom and business opportunities. In fact, Johannesburg was largely built by Jews when gold and diamonds were discovered nearby. Many moved from Cape Town to the central part of the country. The museum talked about their role during the Apartheid era. Jews were often outspoken anti-apartheid supporters as they could relate to the suffering as Jews have history of being oppressed. After university, Nelson Mandela was hired into a Jewish law firm. A black man hired into a white law firm was unheard of in those days. Also, his head defense lawyer throughout the treason trials was Jewish. This gave us an unexpected and welcome sense of pride and connection to South Africa.

However, today many Jews fall into a category with many other white South Africans who are moving to other countries for better job and education opportunities. We've been told the SA government puts pressure on businesses to employ a larger percentage of non-whites and to pay them higher wages regardless of experience. This inequality has driven many away from their homeland.

BO KAAP

Colorful Bo Kaap is a Muslim neighborhood that is full of restaurants, shops and homes. South Africa has a large Muslim population that also faced Apartheid.

Colorful Bo Kaap is a Muslim neighborhood that is full of restaurants, shops and homes. South Africa has a large Muslim population that also faced Apartheid.

WORLD CUP SOCCER STADIUM

We constantly hear discussions of "2010", the year the World Cup comes to South Africa. Locals hope it will bring positive attention to the country, as well as much needed revenue.

The Cape Town stadium under construction. There are ten stadiums throughout the country being built or renovated for the cup. Currently many workers are on strike trying to get more money out of the deal.

The Cape Town stadium under construction. There are ten stadiums throughout the country being built or renovated for the cup. Currently many workers are on strike trying to get more money out of the deal.

TABLE MOUNTAIN

Table Mountain is the most well known landmark in Cape Town, getting its name from the cloud that often lies over the flat topped mountain like a table cloth.

Elizabeth hiking up Table Mountain.

Elizabeth hiking up Table Mountain.

A view of the southern Cape from Table Mountain.

A view of the southern Cape from Table Mountain.

South Africans love their wine (a good thing, because the local beer is not very good.) Just under an hour from Capetown lies the winelands in valleys beneath the area's mountains. We visited the wine towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl.

STELLENBOSCH

View from Ernie Ells winery in Stellenbosch.

View from Ernie Ells winery in Stellenbosch.

FRANSCHHOEK

We met a lovely couple, Zaida and Isi, from Barcelona, Spain. They were wrapping up an 11 month cycling adventure through all of Africa. Their stories were fascinating. Now they are off to Asia to travel by bike there. We wish them luck ; - )

We met a lovely couple, Zaida and Isi, from Barcelona, Spain. They were wrapping up an 11 month cycling adventure through all of Africa. Their stories were fascinating. Now they are off to Asia to travel by bike there. We wish them luck ; - )

PAARL

Shiraz fresh from the tank at Fairview winery in Paarl.

Shiraz fresh from the tank at Fairview winery in Paarl.

Fairview winery is known for its fresh goat cheese from its mascot.

Fairview winery is known for its fresh goat cheese from its mascot.

Wrapping our hands around the magnitude of Apartheid and its affects has been a challenge, but we made it our mission during a three week drive around the country to educate ourselves by talking to locals of all races to learn more. Soon we'll share some of our stories.

We just hope this country can turn things around so its citizens can truly enjoy the freedoms they now possess!

- Dave & Elizabeth

* A little side note....while you are all enjoying summer, we have gotten our dose of winter here in South Africa where they don't believe in heat. It has been mostly cold and rainy, especially for two kids whose blood thinned in Asia and only have summer clothes with an added fleece, scarf and hat : - ( We know. The violins are playing!

Posted by daveliz 05:35 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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