12 August 2012
This is going to be a long post already, so I won’t waste much time with a reason for why it’s taken me two months back on American soil to write this. Sorry if it left any of you feeling incomplete…here’s part 1 of my final African adventure!
After an entire semester of pre-planned AIFS excursions, we had the chance to organize one of our own when school was over. Three of my closest friends and I came up with a trip that took us out of our Stellenbosch bubble and into Real World: South Africa. On May 27th, Annie, Ginny, Chris and I set out for our two-week extravaganza.
|In the beginning we were clean, so clean...much unlike the rest of the trip!|
Normally I wouldn’t bore you with details of our actual methods of transportation, but getting to our first destination was a doozy. We left Cape Town at 5 PM on an overcrowded, overheated bus that would drive us through the night to a town called Mthatha, where Nelson Mandela once lived. The 15-hour trip had one pit stop and loud African gospel music through the night, y’know, just to take your mind off how badly you had to go to the bathroom.
Once in Mthatha, we had to find our first minibus taxi. This form of local transport is one of my favorite cultural experiences. The beat-up vans have 10 seats, but you better believe that you aren’t going anywhere until at least 15 people have packed themselves in there like sardines.
The second one we took was not so much a van, but a “bakkie,” or a pick-up truck. They stuff even more people into the bakkies, but thank God for Ginny’s motion sickness, which had us in the front seat. Poor Annie and Chris rode in the back with 18+ others for 2 more hours, with crying babies and no feeling in their legs.
We kept driving and driving into the middle of nowhere, until finally we stopped at the edge of the world. We had long surpassed any form of civilization, and by civilization I mean a building with indoor plumbing. When the dirt road ended, the driver said, “See that mountain? Hike down it until you get to the river. Ask for the eskepeni (ferry), they’ll take you across and then show you how to get to the village you’re looking for.” Keep in mind, I ditched the crutches right before the trip and am still wearing my foot brace.
|What we got out of the van to...|
The “ferry” we found was a wooden canoe, and with it came two gentlemen who didn’t speak a word of English. One of them walked us up the other side of the mountain and was our line-leader for the next 45 minutes until we reached Bulungula lodge.
Bulungula is an eco-friendly village on the wild coast, right on top of the Indian ocean. It took us just as long to get there as it did to get from Orlando to Cape Town. They have posted in their lodge: “We know it’s a mission to get here, but paradise always is.”
Two of our other friends, Maureen and Elyse, met us in Bulungula later that night. We spent four blissful days here, with no internet or cell phones, just an empty beach and a bonfire every night. We went canoeing and participated in a Women’s Power Day. We made mud bricks, gathered firewood, made lunch, and learned how to carry water on our heads.
|Elyse learning from the young'ns!|
Bulungula was my absolute favorite part of the trip and semester. Words can’t describe the serenity of such a place…I tried to appreciate every quiet minute and every stunning sunrise.
Leaving Bulungula was just as much of a mission as getting there. We met a woman who was driving out the same morning we were, and she offered us a ride. She told us she parked far away, but we could walk along the beach until we had to ferry back over. When we reached the point where the ocean meets the river, we found the canoe she stashed in the trees. The tide started to come in, and Sue started freaking out. She said there was no time for multiple trips; we were going to have to put all our stuff in the canoe and swim it across. Two puppies we befriended from the Lodge simply did not want to say goodbye, and they hopped in the river and swam after us. One puppy couldn’t swim too well, and when he caught up to us, he clawed up my back and onto my head. Then Sue started hyperventilating. When we reached the rocks on the other side, I could hardly catch my breath from the absurdity of the past 5 minutes.
We rode in the back of Sue’s bakkie for two hours, and that trip alone could be an entirely different post…needless to say, it wasn’t a heart-wrenching goodbye when we parted ways.
From there we went to Soweto and Johannesburg, and our final leg of the trip was the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. I will definitely make those another post soon!