Esperança – Hope on the street

Hope is the only word that comes to me when I recollect what was it that I saw today.

This morning I went to a public park in the middle of Luanda city. Something tells me it must have been a great place long time back.. there is a broken popcorn machine, some beaten benches, a taped fridge. It must have been a place where kids played, people came for walks and just sit together and chat in the evening. But now the usual scene at the independence park in the morning is children and youth lying around – mostly high on gasoline.. you can smell clothes soaked in gasoline; the park is strewn with chewed up pieces of fabric.

volunteering in Angola

But lately every Tuesday and Thursday morning this scene changes. That is when Osvaldo and Costa enter the park armed with their guitars and lots of stools. They set up their stools under one of the shades in the park and start playing..

One by one street kids who sleep in and around the park come and sit. They then hand over the guitars and slowly begins the music class. They are still high on gasoline… it’s difficult for Osvaldo and Costa to do anything but they continue… The first thing they ask from the kids sitting in the circle is to throw out their gasoline soaked fabric.

Naama tells me that that Osvaldo himself was a street kids and was struggling with the drugs, but he found himself in music and brought himself out of it!

Some kids start listening.. some don’t care, some are fighting and some keep playing with the guitar. Most are more or less under the influence….Osvaldo and Costa know all this.. they know and they have all the patience in the world. They then start to teach them how to sing and how to play the guitar…

I had always wanted to be a part of this wonderful morning and finally it happened today. As soon as I entered the park I smelt gasoline and then I saw the class going on under a shade…It was beautiful. Osvaldo and Costa have their own ways of controlling and yet not controlling the kids… The only thing they ask of all the children and young to sit in the circle, is that they throw out their drugs.

music classes for all

Today looked so promising… of the 15 children that were there at least 5 were sober… For the first time there was a girl in the group… There were smiles and there was respect for each other. There was laughter. After almost 2 months, in terms of music, the group is still learning that a guitar has 6 chords but they are learning there is more to life than the street and drugs. They are seeing that they can be someone else.

They were creating a music of their own. The music of hope.

music of hope

I first shared this experience on Volunteer Weekly.

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Feito com Amor

It started at a morning tea session, when a friend of mine said “For Christmas, I want to make a nice gift bag for the ladies with dry food items like rice, milk powder, oil and some sweets”

The ladies here are the patients of a local maternity hospital. Every two weeks, my friend makes 100 sandwiches and goes to the maternity hospital to feed the ladies waiting for their labour and their families who all wait and live outside the hospital on the road for days.

I started thinking of how we can raise funds for this. The easier option was to just ask in our immediate circle but I wanted to do something more and reach out to more people so that they can all be a part of it. And I just didn’t want to ask money. What was it that I could offer?

Paper. I love paper. I love the way I can turn it into something beautiful. And I was at it. For almost a week, I made gift bags, cards, gift tags, quotation cards, fortune cookie stars, bookmarks… anything that I could think of. My whole room was full of craft material everywhere :)

feito com amor, made with love, wisdom crafts

Then I gave them to friends who I knew hosted many gatherings and offered them as wisdom crafts – no price tags; the price of the product is what the buyer is inspired to offer. I put up a paper explaining what they were for and asking people to give from their heart.

What was amazing was how more and more people joined in. One girl came up and said, I know you are making those bags.. I had these felt sheets at home, can you use them?

Another one came and said “I have these glitter tapes I haven’t used for months.. I am sure you can use them for your cards..”

Ribbons, more craft paper, sequins, paint everything started coming from unknown friends!

 

Naama, who runs a non-profit organisation, came to know of it and asked me if I could make 30 bags for their Christmas gifts for their supporters.

At first I thought I will make all of them the same. But as I started decorating the bags, something came over. Each bag spoke for itself and each was different. Before starting I didn’t have any set idea on decoration but slowly every bag’s decoration unfolded as if they were speaking for the person who is going to receive them.

Naama then insisted I create a tag for all of them and thus was born “Feito com Amor” [Portuguese for Made with Love].

feito come amor, made with love, art with heart, craft activities at home

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Of new years and resolutions

Let’s start with a happy new year! At least till the first month we should be allowed to say it :)

This last year went so quickly. It seems like just yesterday when I landed in Angola. And said hello to a new country and a new life. There were lots of new things in 2014 – new land, new home, a new culture, lots of new friends,  a new language, a new volunteering opportunity. I still haven’t been able to absorb all fully :).

I hope 2015 will bring in as much opportunities. Actually one of my resolutions is to see each day as an opportunity – 365 opportunities to learn and grow! Wow

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Last year, inspired by my friend Shalini, I had taken the resolution to not buy anything new for myself. And surprisingly it was pretty easy to keep that resolutions and one year later I feel I really don’t need so much. What I have is so much more than what I need!

This year what are my resolutions? In the first week the resolutions change every day and so I refrained from writing this post :).

This year, I want to meet as many friends and family as possible. So many incidents happened last year that brought me face to face with the uncertainty of life. When I thought of a resolution, I asked myself that if this year is all I have, then what is the first thing I want to do? And the answer I got was that I want to meet the people I love. So I want to try doing that :)

Another is to attempt trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro. More than the real trek, I think the training is what my resolution is. By the end of this year I want to get back to an exercise and food regime.

As far as resolutions go, I would stick to only two. But if I want to write down my wish list, it would be an endless list…I want to get back to the morning meditation practice; I want to learn salsa;  I want to learn how to make a website from scratch; I want to learn photoshop and lightroom; I want to write more regularly on all my blogs; I want to do more with Feito com Amor (Made with Love)….

For now I will just say it’s a living list. I will keep adding to the list as time goes by :)

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South Africa road trip: Post trip

The road trip is over.. we are back into the daily grind. In fact now it’s been so many days that it feels like south africa was ages ago. During the last days on the road I had started jotting down a few points I wanted to share with friends who were planning a road trip in South Africa in January. And though I finally ended up telling them these in person, I still hope these will still be helpful for someone planning a similar trip :)

1. The roads are very good all the way from durban till Cape Town.  People follow lanes and all highway rules so driving is a pleasure in South Africa (at least on the route we took!)

2. Restrooms and gas/petrol: there are convenient gas stations on the highway with good restrooms and also little food outlets.. depending on the town, you might find just a small pick-and-go thing or a proper food court close to the gas station. Restrooms are mostly free but at some places there is a fee of 1 or 2 Rand.

3. Along smaller towns the highway food options close early.. by about 6 pm.

4. No matter what the season you are coming in, do bring your rain jacket and a warm jacket.

5. If you are planing to do treks, don’t forget your insect repellant.

6. Another must – sunscreen. The sun is pretty strong here..

7. For vegetarians: I didn’t have any problem finding vegetarian food all through the trip. All restaurants have 3-4 veggie entries. On the highway, I found Nando’s  veggie burger/pita and wrap the best!

I shall add more as I remember more. :)

Bon Voyage 
Love

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Day 11-12: the last leg @ Capetown

I am back in Luanda now… I am back at work but my mind still feels like it stayed behind in Capetown. We left capetown yesterday morning with a promise to return. And we have to return because the city has so much and we experienced so little.

We reached capetown around 6 pm. .. got late in leaving from Somerset mall and then got stuck in the traffic outside the city. We arrived at Blackheath lodge,  and were greeted by, Godfrey, one of the friendliest of faces :). After checking in and a warm shower we decided to walk to the V&A waterfront. We had just two days and it was also the end of vacation so we wanted to take  it slow and easy… capetown is flooded with things to do and it’s difficult to choose but we had decided that in this trip we wouldn’t stress ourselves in going from one point to another..

First evening was a leisure walk along the beach road from 3 anchor bay to waterfront and then a bit pub hopping and a quiet dinner.

The next day we wanted to go to table mountain but the cable way was closed and we had no enthu for a trek up right now. We did the drive along the cape peninsula, stopping at the beautiful bays in between. The drive is amazing (and with well placed viewing points to get the best views of the scenery). We stopped quite often (again!), just sat watching the ocean and the mointains and the city from a distance and of course clicked a lot of pictures :).

All the way to cape point, we felt like stopping every few moments and take in the beauty of this place. At cape point, there is a lighthouse which is also called the ghost lighthouse… When it was built, it could hardly ever signal the ships of the approaching land because most of the times it was covered in clouds. Much later a new light house was made a little below.
Cape point is also the point where ‘the two oceans meet’. That’s the tag line as well! Standing at the lighthouse and looking towards the ocean one can see the difference in the colour of water on two sides. It should be due to the difference in depth but I am not sure if that is really the boundary. Actually how are the boundaries of oceans determined anyway? I would love to read more on that.

For us the most striking  or rather beautiful feature of cape point was the views of cape of good hope from there..The most stunning views we had seen on the whole drive.

From cape point we then headed to the cape of good hope and I said I would have preferred spending more time looking at it from a distance than being there. But you do check on being at the southwesternmost  point of the African  continent. If that matters :).

cape point and cape of good hope

On our way back, we stopped at Simon’s  town for lunch and then went to see the penguins at boulder penguin colony. As soon as we entered the park we saw two penguins and got crazy with clicking their pictures only to be super awed by a whole colony of them just a few steps ahead. Super cute animals… i just enjoyed them dping their different tactics… and they swim so so fast! And once on shore they will try to dry off by shaking all the water. Amazing.

boulders penguin colony

Then we headed to signal hill – the view point for table mountain and in a way for the whole of capetown city. We saw the sun set from up there, walked around a little. The beacon of hope that shines over capetown is also right there. It’s a solar powered huge star that is made from the recovered railing around Robben Island.

For dinner, we went to an Indian restaurant – Bukhara. It’s right in the city center. Our hotel owner had suggested it and I really wanted some nice dal makhni and butter naan! :). Sikander enjoyed his nihari. I think we over ordered because with some more rice or bread two more people would have eaten. Sikander decided to do just that :). He ordered one more plate of rice and asked our waiter to make two take aways – one veg and one non-veg. On our way back we gave one the guy helping cars park on the street and one to our taxi guy. Our taxi guy was so moved that he didn’t even start his meter. He said “what can I charge you when you have already given me dinner. You give me what you feel like.” :) the guy was from Congo trying to make a living here.

The next day – our last day – we just wanted to explore the city center. During breakfast we checked the cable way and it was open.. but with some difficulty we decided to let it go and keep it for the next time…

After breakfast, we first finished all our packing so that we can have a relaxed evening and as our flight was at 6 am there wasn’t much time to sleep also. Then we left for the city center.

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We first went to the district 6 museum – a museum dedicated to the apartheid history and people’s  struggle to have a place and rights on their own land.
A sadness enveloped me as I walked through the personal pictures and texts in the District 6 museum.

“You are now in Fairyland”
The handwritten text that one of the residents must have painted echoes what the neighbourhood meant for them. What their homes, their neighbours’ homes, the families all shared together. A fairyland.
Photographs of girls playing with skipping ropes on the streets outside their homes, of mothers with their babies, of daughters with their dolls, of family dinners, of boys making mischief – all of them transported me to that time and place. And slowly I felt anger and pain on being asked to leave my home. My fairyland being destroyed and grazed down to become a white neighbourhood. Why is this suddenly a “whites only” place and people who have been calling it their home for generations have no longer any right to call it so.

District 6 museum

After district 6 museum, as we were walking in the city, we came across the slavery museum. Another sad encounter with our history. Pictures and accounts reconstructed from what was told. The sad thing about slavery is it still exists.. In my own country, bonded labour is still practiced openly… family members are still sold…trafficking is a whole racquet  and in so many more invisible ways..

By this time we were hungry so we walked along.. and came across a sign of masala dosa hanging on our heads :). And masala dosa it was. The place is mentioned in lonely planet  but seriously there wasn’t much to it. The dosa were good but the chutney and the filling all were bland and lacked a flavour. But for me, who hasn’t had a restaurant style big dosa in ages, it was good. :)

Afterwards we went to company gardens.  Sat on a bench where sikander read his book and I took a siesta. There is a cute cafe as well inside the garden…

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Later in the evening we went to Beerhouse, a place that prides itself for having 100 types of beers. Another waiter at a restaurant had earlier suggested us this place. What was great for me was that they had 100 ml size as well so one by one, I could taste many :P.

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From there we walked to the waterfront and a mohito later our last evening in capetown was over.

The next morning we boarded the flight making a promise to the city that we will be back.

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Lots of love

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Day 9-10: all the way to capetown

…With a little wine detours ;)

Beyond knysna we drove along some of the most scenic coastline. We were practically stopping every 10-15 min to click a picture until sikander said we will never reach stellenbosch  in time for wine tasting if we keep on like this! :D

So we headed on. At one point I was looking in the paper map we had and felt that Route 62 will be a more scenic  route than N2. Route 62 is also the longest wine route so that would mean a lot of tastings on the way. At Swellendam we left the highway to join Route 62.

As soon as we hit the Route 62, the landscape completely changed. From wide open grasslands and roads running to infinity, we came into rocky mountains and zigzag roads. It’s an idyllic drive. Amidst the mountains and vineyards, the roads curves along without stressing the traveller.

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On to route 62

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Driving through the mountains on route 62

Our first stop was Mantagu. Only because lonely planet said the main street of the town is flanked by 28 national monuments… It’s a beautiful, almost manicured town but we didn’t really find the period houses that have been renovated and called national monument worth the stop.. we then headed to Robertson.

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In robertson town.. The roads are decked up with beautiful flower rows everwhere

A lot of SA wines we knew of come from the Robertson wine area. There are many wineries here and you should just stop by whim… unlike Stellenbosch, most regular wine tastings are free. We went to Van Loveren. I chose to do the chocolate+wine tasting and sikander went for the free regular tasting… I think he had a better time because I got a questionnaire to fill after each of my tasting and he was pleasantly busy in conversation with the lady behind the bar and enjoying his wines while I was wondering if I should mark the taste as woody or nutty? Is it garnett or deep red? :)

Afterwards we went to Cristina’s@Van Loveren – a Mediterranean bistro inside the vineyard. Lovely food and lovely atmosphere.

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Cristina's@Van Loveren

With all our stops, by the time we reached Stellenbosch, it was already 5:00 pm. Our first question as soon as we entered the estate where we were staying for the night was “when does the tasting close?”. We still had half hour so we headed straight for the cellar instead of the reception :).

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We had chosen this estate to spend one night in luxury of a 5 star, amidst the vines and scenic beauty of stellenbosh. We didn’t have the best of stays there due to service issues at the hotel and by morning we figured we are more suited to places that have a more personal approach than hotels that have next to nil human interactions. In lodges and B&Bs and backpacker places, people are more open to talk and share their travels… The owners are right there having breakfast with you, giving you a little about the history of the area, helping you plan the day and taking care of anything that doesn’t work. In hotels, one the guests usually keep to themselves and two when things don’t work, the staff can sometimes be very careless about it without worrying about business. They have and 100 rooms what if one traveller goes back dissatisfied? That was somewhat our experience at Asara wine estate. The views from the hotel are breathtaking and I am a bit sad that we didn’t have the kind of time we hoped we would.

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Beautiful views of stellenbosh from the wine estate

Anyway next morning we headed into town. This was also our shopping day. I wanted to buy a lot of craft stuff for my volunteering activities at the foundation and a friend had suggested a specific art supply shop in Somerset mall and we also wanted to buy some spices and groceries that we don’t find in Angola. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Stellenbosch city center but I would definitely want to spend a couple of days there exploring the city center.

Shopping was uneventful. I mean nothing to write home about..  I got crazy at the card stock counter and kept on adding pattern after pattern in my basket :).

Late in the evening we reached our beautiful lodge – Blackheath lodge – that was to be our home for the next two days.

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Day 7-8: up in the trees

We just left our nest atop a tree in an indigenous forest just outside of knysna.
Last two days were the most relaxing so far… There was not a sound other than those of birds and ourselves. There were times when I would be staring out of the window and sikander will come up from behind and ask “what are you thinking”.. and I was amazed by the fact that I was thinking nothing. My mind was blank. Rested. Quiet. I was just enjoying the scene outside the window :).

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Just staring out and listening to the birds...

After leaving Colchester, we started phase 2 of our trip.. almost midway at Port Elizabeth we changed our chevy for a BMW.. and made way towards the garden route. One of the amazing features of the N2  and also the summer days is the long range visibility. The road at times feel like it’s stretching to infinity…  right ahead is an unending road and on both sides are open fields with mountains in a distance.

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Roads stretching to infinity

Our first stop was at tsitsikamma. There is a nice highway pitstop there with both on-the-move and sit down restaurants, fuel, rest areas and information booth. We reached knysna about 2:30pm. Went about looking for places open for lunch but being a Saturday everything in the town was either already closed or closing. Picked up a few groceries as we were going to stay at Teniqua  self catering tree tops and left. A few kilometers  down the road we came across signs of a restaurant.. took the alley road and went in. It felt like we have suddenly reached Goa! Bamboo shacks… rooms behind the shack… tables on the water front, reggae  music, pool table inside the shack and assorted water games gear… After having lunch and drinks there we headed back on the highway.

The GPS brought us to a point on the road which had a sign board of teniqua treetops but there was no sign of anything far far away along the road… The board said left, a little distance away there was a gate on the left which said “private property, keep closed all the time”. Still we could not see any building inside the gate.. we went in… After a little while came to one more similar gate. Went in… saw a few ladies coming from the opposite side and confirmed that we were on the right path. Just about 500mts away hidden in the trees was the teniqua main area.
The owner William showed us around the property a little. Teniqua is a 38 hectares big resort in an indigenous forest.. There are only 8 treetops in the whole area with each being so private that you can’t hear or see from one to another… The common area has a big place for bonfires, library of books and games, a huge huge chess on the floor, swimming pool, trampoline, swings.. “enough if you ever get bored of your treetop!”.

Robin took us to our treetop. We fell in love with it as soon as we entered. Everything was so thoughtful in there… A little well-equiped kitchen; a bedroom, a covered sitting area with windows on all sides, an open bbq  area, toilet and open to the sky shower and bath tub! :) it was a lovely little house on the trees. It was almost like being tarzan and jane.

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Our little cabin on a treetop

After unpacking our groceries, we went for a little walk in the forest. They have a few marked trails. First day we just walked in the open grassland area of the forest and enjoyed the beautiful sunset and the mountain view from a mountain top. Went back cooked dinner… It was getting cold and a warm bowl of daal chawal was the best dish at that time :).

Next day morning we starting on a trail all the way down to the river bed. After going up and down two mountains we reached a pool in the river and it was jet black. Robin had told us earlier about the “Coca Cola” rivers of the region. The water is a reddish so at places where the river runs deep, it appears black and at the shore it makes interesting colours of red and orange.

We were the only ones there… so it like our own private river pool! We stayed down for about half hour and the we started to walk along the river bed so that we can climb the first mountain itself rather than climbing up and down two. At one point it was no longer possible to walk along the treetop side of the river so we crossed – with shoes tied together and on our shoulders. The other side was quite difficult and at one place we felt we can cross back. Sikander even did (and lost the water bottle to the river!) But the flow was too high and the river so deep that I chickened out.. and he had to cross back. We kept on going ahead. . Figuring out a path where we thought it looks like people have walked.. only to realise we were lost. We had no water and the sun was at its peak. We decided to turn back and go up the original way itself. But after about 200 mts  or so we saw a white painted stone on the other side… and then we also saw their board on the other side marking the 2nd place to cross…. yeah!!!! The fact that we had no water and it was getting hotter and hotter was what worrying us. once we saw the path, it was such a big relief… we climbed up mostly without much talk and drank two full glasses of water each upon reaching the cabin :). A friendly hike turned into an adventure..

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Hiking in the teniqua forests

In the evening we again walked around the open grasslands area and took in the beautiful birds and flowers of the place. We also played a half game of scrabble at the common entertainment room. I had planned a pasta meal for dinner. Though simple, it by far is the tastiest pasta I had :) eating our dinners with the views of the sun setting on one end and the moon rising on another… The whole experience made the food amazing!

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Pasta with roasted eggplants

Oh! And I forgot to mention we also had a cola bath in the open! The water in the taps is from the river.. so when you fill the bath tub it’s like going inside a tub full of coca cola.. we had bought some Epsom salt at the local groceries and we just sat in it out in the open with our glasses of wine..

Lots of good food for the mind and the body.. After two nights of bliss we now head towards stellenbosch..

xoxo

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Day 5-6: in the eastern cape

Perched on top of a treetop, the only sounds I can hear right now is the slow breathing of sikander sleeping next to me and the chirping of the birds. It’s amazingly quiet and tranquil over here. But this post is about the days before we reached on this treetop.

One thing which I think I forgot to mention about wild lubanzi I my last post was their amazing homemade bread in the morning. And the day we were leaving, Rahel, made an out of this world bread..It was almost like a farewell breakfast..

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Rahel's out of this world bread

After feasting on the bread and sikander on the very greedy breakfast, we bud our goodbyes for until next time and made way further down on the road. We didn’t plan it that way but it’s interesting how on every drive  the scenery around changed from the last time. We are still in Xhosa territory.. While the surroundings were mainly wide open grasslands from southbroom to wild lubanzi; now it was a zigzag of grasslands and forests. The forests of this region are dense wit small bushy trees. My picture of a forest would be of tall trees but as our host in Colchester explained to us this is a unique feature of this region. This feature also helped the Xhosa people to hide out 100s of years ago when they would attack the white settlers.

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The route was a zigzag of open grasslands and dense forests

We stopped at King williams town for lunch.. It was around 3. We were thinking of whether to call it a day there or drive further down. We had to reach knysna on 6th. We decided to stretch a little on that day and stay near Addo National Park and have a day of rest on 5th. It’s easier to stay for 2 nights at one place than to switch places everyday. We had lunch at Nando’s. I love their vegetarian entries. After a takeaway coffee, were back on the road. Close to Colchester, the game reserve territory starts and if you are careful,  you can see a lot of animals. The first time we spotted zebras, I made sikander go back so that I can take a photo of them. Though we soon realised that zebras are the easiest to spot along the route! We saw giraffes, buckaneers and deers as well. We reached Colchester  by 6:30pm. Checked into a B&B  we had found on the net – dungbeetle. It is beautifully situated right on the Sunday’s river. Colchester  is a small village/town with just one pub/restaurant and that too close for last orders at 8. We had a lot of wet clothes after our hikes in the rain for the last two days so we first went to launderette  and dropped our laundry (Rand 70 for one load!) And then went to Grunters.

This vacation has pleasantly been about early to bed and early to rise, till now. The sun rises at 4:30.. by 5:30 the room is flooded with light! Sikander is a little under the weather, so we decided to take the day easy. Many would be disappointed  with us, but we decided not to do either the Addo National Park or the biggest sand dunes of the southern hemisphere.

Coming from India, seeing just elephants didn’t really excited me so much. Even though they are bigger here in Africa, we were sure we going to do a safari later in the year. Instead we decided to do a little drive around the eastern cape towns.

We started towards Bathurst. On the way saw an interesting farm stall – nanaga, and stopped for a quick bite and also purchased some farm produce like jams and sauces and to sikander’s  dismay I spent a lot of time in their knick knack counter as well :p.

Bathurst has the oldest licenced pub of South Africa – The Pig and the Whistle. It has never closed it’s doors except during renovation. It’s got an interesting history (which is there on their website too) and the building is currently much the same as it was in 1820s.

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Entrance to The Pig and The Whistle Inn, locally known as The Pig :p

Bathurst itself is a quaint little town. After our lunch at The Pig, we walked around the town, walking into art galleries, old book shops, antiques shops selling curios.

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The town of bathurst

We stopped at a giant pineapple! It seems this region is a big pineapple producer and the farmers paid their respects to the pineapple by making this monument! :)

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The big pineapple at Bathurst

From there we drove through Port Alfred and Kenton on Sea. Kenton on sea was a perfect time for a coffee but by 5pm everything in the town was closed. Surprisingly everything on the highway was also closed… One stall was open but they had no electricity and so no coffee…

By the time we reached Colchester back it was already 7. We had a drink with our hosts – etta  and derry, who told us a lot more about the history of the region. Back in 1800s the Xhosa tribes were attacking the whites in Port Elizabeth and to counter that the government gave Britons huge farmlands that acted like a warning system. The government was not able to catch many as they would hide in the dense forests nearby but this definitely reduced the occurrence of attacks in Port Elizabeth.

Etta then talked about the nature around. The sand dunes right next to the river are an intriguing feature after all.  And the significance of the dungbeetle and the unique characteristics of the African elephant.

What I love about staying at B&Bs  is the cozy interaction one can have with the hosts. This is typically absent in hotel stays.

After another dinner night at Grunters we called it a day. The next day we were leaving for knysna, excited about living in a tree house! :) 

PS1: we were stopped by traffic police twice during the two days, both the times they said we were not allowed to drive on our Indian licence. That we needed an IDP… but both the times they let us go with a warning. Thank you officers! xoxo

PS2: as before more pics when I get back home and can download from my camera!

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Day 2-3-4: south broom to wild lubanzi, wild coast

I think it’s 3rd today.. my feet are cold and numb and my body is tired but I feel so so rested. I am sitting in this quite corner at wild lubanzi backpackers, sipping a cup of hot water and thinking where should I start to share the last three days..

So on 1st we left southbroom and headed southwards on our journey. Beyond southbroom, the road goes inwards and even though we need to go along the coast, there is no road. The scenery completely changes from coastline to vast empty grasslands with villages scattered at distances.

I loved the way the sun and clouds played to put random shadows on the grassland. (I realised I haven’t got a great picture of that on my phone.. but once I am back home I will get all the amazing pictures from my camera and upload!)

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Durban and the surrounding  area is zulu territory and now slowly we were moving into xhosa territory. The difference was quite visible as the style of houses slowly changed to round homes with straw roofs.

But the most amazing thing of that drive for me was to see the moon and the sun together at the same time. It was around 3:30pm and I looked up and saw the moon. I pointed it to sikander “look the moon is up already. But it’s just 3:30.. and I looked out of the window on the other side and there was sun.” I can’t even explain the excitement. It was childlike… I had never ever before seen the sun and moon together! At first I couldn’t even understand how it is possible until sikander explained. It felt like going back to the revolution and rotation class :p

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It's not a great pic as the sun's light is kind of hiding the moon but that's all I could get

Around 5pm we reached wild lubanzi backpackers. We had to park the car around 5 km away and then they came in their jeep to pick us up. The wind that day was high and it was so so cold… nobody had prepared me for this.. I was thinking December, southern hemisphere! It would be summers :) but no its cold and it’s raining.. I started complaining but as soon we entered our room, just the view outside was enough to forget everything.
Rightly as they say on their website, wild lubanzi is at the end of the world. The Indian ocean stretches as far as the eye can go… and the coastline is beautiful. Our home for the next 3 days, lubanzi, is a warm cozy place created by Rahel and Aidan. you can see the labour of love that went into creating this little corner they have. That evening we had warm dinner of veggie stew, rice and vatkoel cooked by Aidan with veggies right from their garden.

Next day morning after breakfast we did a short trek to a hidden beach two mountains beyond… we were back by 11 am  and then we volunteered a little in their vegetable garden. Then we picked some veggies from their garden, made ourselves a lunch sandwich and slept off the afternoon. Evening we went to another beach which was just one mountain away :) (I love the distances in mountains) one of Rahel’s dog was our guide and protector on this one.. While sikander went for a dip in the cold water, me and the dog slept on the beach. Today Rahel cooked beautiful fish (for non vegetarians) and eggplant for vegetarians… For the next day we volunteered to cook some Indian dinner :)

That night I kept waking up in the middle and look out my glass door to see if it’s sunrise yet.. and suddenly at one time I saw the golden glow coming up in the sky. I jumped out of the bed, woke up sikander and went out.. It was just 4:30.. way too early but it was worth it.. The most beautiful sunrise I have see till now..

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After the sunrise, we slept again :p. After breakfast we left for a little longer trek to the hole in the wall. Sarah and Luka who were also staying at wild lubanzi joined us. When we started it looked like it would rain and rain it did. The route was beautiful and the rain added to it. The bright green of the mountains, the slight drizzle and the rocky coastline. For a moment you would think you are in Scotland and not South Africa!

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Hole in the wall was about 5 or 6 mountains away. After about 3 mountains, two little boys joined us.. “we will direct you to it” :) I wish we could have taken more pictures long the way but it started raining pretty good so we couldn’t get our camera out too often. When we reached there, for the best views of the wall, one needed to cross the river. Me and Sarah were fine with a little less than best views but sikander and Luka swam across. There were some more scholarships kids there who came across and told us “we can swim and take you across on top, if you want” :)

Soon we started our trek back. At one of the mountain top we took a break and while we were looking out in the sea suddenly one of us shouted “there are dolphins out there!” There was a group of 5 dolphins so close to the shore! It seemed like we were walking on the edge of the earth.. There was only Indian ocean as far as the eye would go.. I believe the landmass due East would only be australia, so in a way yes we were walking on one the edges :)

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The way back, rain made it pretty difficult. At one point I my shoes started pulling me down and I saw that they were about an inch above the ground due to the mud sticking to them… For sometime I tried cleaning them on the grass and walking again but it was just crazy. I was walking 4 steps and stopping to clean them so finally I decided to walk barefoot. And it was so much easier. It’s amazing how initially I was trying to step clear of dung and slowly it stopped to matter where I stepped. :)

In many ways the trek and wild lubanzi  reminded me of the month I spent volunteering in uttarakhand. Lubanzi was so much like shyamavan. Everything was handmade, everything was done together.. There is not really a difference between staff, volunteer and guest.. everyone is pitching in, in their own ways to keep the place running.
We got back cold, wet and with sore muscles. There was nothing like a hot shower at that point but the sun didn’t shine the whole day and so cold shower it was! :) again a reminder of uttarakhand  and my 5 min cold baths everyday :).
After the shower I fixed a lunch from dinner leftovers and veggies from the garden. Lubanzi runs a ‘free lunch’ project. You can pick up any veggies from their garden and use it along with dinner/ beakfast  leftovers and fix yourself a lunch. We had a well deserved afternoon siesta and at 4 we started preparations for our bollywood night :). The first thing I made for everyone was the Indian masala chai with cloves and ginger and cardamoms. Nothing kills cold better than that!

And then sikander became the DJ for the night and put on some peppy bollywood music. I love their kitchen.. its open, it overlooks the ocean and you are part of everything going around if you are in the kitchen.. It was the kind of kitchen that would make you want to cook :)

We made a simple dinner of potato curry, mix veg, rice and hot chapatis. The chapatis were the hero of the meal :). Imagine warm chapatis coming from the kitcheb as you eat! After dinner we all staff around the table, talking everyone with their drinks or smoke. After some time I came in this corner, tucked myself in a blanket and started writing this post :).

Tomorrow we leave from here !and continue our journey southwards.

PS: I will put up pictures of the warm cozy wild lubanzi and the hole in the wall when we are back home after December 15th

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Day 1: Durban and let’s hit the road baby!

Durban has a lot to offer to a regular tourist.. There is a beautiful port, aquarium, sea world.
But all these places need a lot of commitment. Sikander said “if we go to the aquarium,  it’s at least 3 hours there.” So we decided to skip that part. We have seen enough big aquariums for now.
Food on the other hand was the biggest thing on our mind. It’s been a long time we had Indian street food and durban being the biggest Indian settlement outside of india, I wanted to have samosas and poori bhaji :). sikander wanted to have bunny chow – a durban Indian speciality where they serve mutton or chicken or veg curry inside a big bun.

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Durban Indian speciality - bunny chow :)

We went to Victoria Street market. It’s chaotic, but it’s the perfect place to buy souvenirs, if you are looking for some. Sikander had to buy a spear for his client… I was just looking at some knick knacks and picked up a few gifts for friends and family. In the shops we also spoke about our road trip plan and how is the route and what should be careful about. The main advice we got was to not drive at night on the highways. There are a lot of erratic taxi drivers at night and the chances of an accident are very high.

After our shopping and lunch we walked back to hotel and as we were walking back we saw a flea market :). I picked up an African shirt, a friend had asked for. And then it started to rain. But not so much to need us to stop. We walked around the downtown area and came across a wall full of graffitis. Graffitis about rights – right to education, right to health, to fair trials, to equality.. It was quite interesting to sit and read through it all. Later I read it was part of a community wall mural project. As we walked along the wall, at the end we came to a stone on which it said this wall was part of the durban central prison. It’s interesting how just this one wall from one light post to another has been preserved in between the swanky downtown as a reminder of the past.

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Durban central prison wall

As we left from durban it was still raining and that added to the beautiful scenery all along the highway. At one point we left the highway and went on a parallel road inside that was along the coast. We had planned on doing only about 100kms for day 1 and stop for the day at a town called south broom. There were estuaries along the way and you could see the brown and the blue waters meeting. We entered into the driveway of our beautiful guest house – white shores. The hosts – Vivian and Trevor were there to welcome us and show us the place. And we had the whole house to ourselves for the night as there were no other guests! For dinner we went to a local bar called Mariners. It seemed like th place where all the local south broom people come for a chat at the end of the day, discuss their catch, have a beer.

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White shore guesthouse in southbroom

After an evening of drinks and dinner, we headed back to our room and to an early night.

Categories: Gen | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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