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..


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.


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.


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.


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! 🙂


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!)


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


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..


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!


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 🙂


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

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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.


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.


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.


White shore guesthouse in southbroom

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

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Day1: The first morning in South Africa :)

Our first stop in South  Africa  or rather I should say the starting point of our road trip is Durban. We arrived last night around 10pm. We had earlier planned to rent a car at the airport, stay the night at a hotel and start early morning the next day. But we were advised by many not to drive in durban at night so we took a taxi for the night. At 10pm there were just two taxis at the airport and everything seemed pretty dead.

There is a fundamental difference between me and sikander when it comes to holidays (even weekends!). On a holiday I love to get up early and then I have the whole day to myself. There is no work to be done. Sikander on the other hand loves to sleep in till as late as possible!


The view from our room in hilton, durban

So right now as I am sitting in the restaurant eating my breakfast, he is fast asleep :). We have decided to explore Durban a little in the morning and hit the road by 2 pm after having lunch.
Right now I can’t wait for him to get up and the trip to start 🙂

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The travel begins..

It’s been more than a year since we decided to go on an African adventure. The main reason for us to take a posting in Angola was to be able to travel the continent but due to the inexplicable visa rules in angola, we could not travel anywhere for the last one year. And now finally after 1 year of wait, we are on the flight to south Africa 🙂


I feel like a child.
I feel like a bubbly… ready to jump around and do the happy dance. I don’t remember when was the last time I was so excited about a holiday. My be it’s because it’s been over a year since me and sikander went wandering.

Something tells me it’s going to be a special trip.
Though that something can also be the bottle of shiraz I just finished on the flight along with two very romantic movies – before sunrise; after sunset 🙂


All my bags are packed.. I am ready to go...

PS: I am planning to keep a journal on this trip.. hopefully will be able to upload them as often 🙂

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The longest 3 minutes …

It was a pretty hap-hazard and hectic morning. Sikander had a flight, I was leaving with him to go further after dropping him to the airport.. we were just rushing out of the home when I got a call from my neighbour.. she urgently needed some ground cumin. I hate saying no and I thought we’ll I will just take the lift up and drop the cumin to her house by the time Sikander keeps the bags in the boot.

I went it, took my cumin bottle, took the lift, pressed 6 and waited. The doors closed and the lift went down… down to the basement. I am already running late. So on reaching the basement, I quickly press 6 again but nothing happened. The doors opened for just about a cm and closed again.. I pressed 6. nothing happened. I pressed the open door button. The doors opened a cm and closed again. and then suddenly the lift panel started showing ’n’. I reached for my cell phone in my pocket only to realise, I left it at home. I said okay.. I looked for alarm, I pressed it.. it sounded really loud in my ears but I have no clue if it sounded like that outside because nobody came. I started shouting…

“Hello! Hello! Is there anybody there… I am stuck! Please help.. Hello! Hello! Please help”

And then panic struck. It felt like the whole lift had no air. Claustrophobic as I am, in just a few seconds I had started gasping for air. It’s amazing what all my brain processed in just about a few minutes. I remember telling myself …okay the door is at least opening a cm.. I will get air if only I calmed down. It was a saturday.. there is nobody working in the building so no one will be in the basement! I start shouting again.. I have the alarm pressed. And then what if Sikander tries calling and just leaves for the airport when I don’t respond. He will be mad for sure, but he will not realise I’m stuck until later in the day after he has reached his hotel. Oh my god! no one will realise I’m missing 😦

And then I remembered my big long key! The first time I said thanks for having such a huge key for the little door of my apartment. And I pressed the door open button. The door again opened a cm, I slid the key in and then my one hand, pushed the door a little and then the other hand and pushed with both and then the door opened and I heard rushed footsteps of the guard coming down.. He entered the basement just as I jumped out of the lift!

It couldn’t have been more than 3 minutes but for me they were the longest 3 minutes of my life.

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D-I-Y newspaper gift bags

Holiday season is coming up soon! The season for sharing and gifting. And what better than homemade gifts? There are some great activity ideas, on pinterest, to do with your kids at home during holidays.

Next week I am starting a new, once a week, project with children at the foundation where I volunteer –

“Christmas gift for my family”.

We got a donation of lots of beads from a girl who was leaving Angola and that is what started this idea. Over the next 4-5 weeks I’m planning to teach kids, how to:

  • make a gift bag using old newspapers
  • decorate the gift bag with colourful cutouts and make gift tags- we will try to reuse empty biscuit boxes, wrappers etc for this.
  • Make a Christmas card for their family. This would include writing a letter to their family as well. Telling them what it means to be together during the holidays :).
  • make bracelets or keychains or other small trinket using the beads we received.
  • make christmas ornaments for the tree at home.

Continue reading

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WWW – Wednesdays 20th August 2014

WWW Wednesday is a reading game started by MizB at Should Be Reading. A simple game of telling (every week) about the books you have read, are reading and wish to read. To play along, you just have to answer the following three (3) questions…

  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I recently finished…

A mighty heart, www wednesdayA Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl. I picked up, read a little and put down this book twice. Both the times because I was just getting sadder and sadder with each page. Knowing that the ending of the book is sad every effort made by Marianne and people trying to find Danny seemed to be in vain to me right from the beginning and thinking about how heart breaking it would be in the end, I could not continue with it. So many time I had goosebumps while reading it. But this time (don’t they say the third time is a charm!) I could not keep it down. I don’t know what was different. And I am glad I did because now I can say the book does not have a sad ending. Yes Danny Pearl is killed but that is not the ending of the book, the ending of the book is the triumph of humanity in the face of terrorism. The ending of the book is the strength that talks to you from the pages. I loved the ending of the book:

“I swear I will not dishonor

my soul with hatred,

but offer myself humbly

as a guardian of nature,

as a healer of misery,

as a messenger of wander

as an architect of peace”

I am currently reading…

Boskys Panchatantra, www wednesdayBosky’s Panchatantra by Gulzar. Continuing with my love for fairly tales and folk tales, this is the one I picked up after I finished my Classic Fairy Tales book to read right before sleeping. It’s a collection of Panchatantra tales (Indian folk tales) written as a song. What makes it special is that these are the songs that Gulzar sang to his daughter Bosky (Meghna Gulzar) when she was little and so the name. By offering them in a book, Gulzar, gves us the gift of reciting/ singing panchatantra to all kids!

Next I will be reading..

Jinnah by Jaswant Singh, www wednesdayJinnah by Jaswant Singh. This is an ambitious book for me. For long I have been wanting to read more and more on India’s partition and about Jinnah. Jinnah was once called an ambassador of Hindu- Muslim unity. What drove him to demand a separate state for muslims? I have read/ seen on tv/ heard gory stories of partition. I have wondered at why did the partition happen? Was it necessary? This book is an attempt to add to the understanding of what the political scenario was during that time.

So what’s your WWW?

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Being Palanca

This post was first published on Volunteer Weekly – a platform for celebrating volunteerism.

Palanca is an endangered species of the Angolan wildlife but it is more than just that. It’s a national symbol that represents – Peace, Tolerance, Unity, Self-esteem and preservation of biodiversity.

About a year ago, the foundation brought together 10 artists who gave a blank wooden palanca their expression of these values. The exhibition, called ‘Being Palanca’ ( ‘ser Palanca’ in Portuguese), served to raise awareness among the Angolan people about the importance of the values at hand: peace, unity, tolerance and self-esteem, and to the significance of the Palanca as an endangered species and as the national symbol of Angola.

Going through some of the old material, I found files of the “ser Palanca” or “Being Palanca” project and together Ana and I thought of doing this with our kids at the  foundation. We imagined it would be a great way to engage the children towards thinking about these values and give them an expression.

We started the day with a discussion on each of the five values — what it means, is it important and why? can we live with one without the other? The discussion went into talks of how somewhere lack of tolerance for the other is the cause of current conflicts all over the world. The children were also quick to explain by themselves how peace is the blanket under which each of the other values thrives and vice versa — that without unity, tolerance or self-esteem and a respect for our biodiversity, we cannot have peace.

being palanca, teaching values to children, volunteering with children, volunteering in Luanda, volunteering in Angola

I was intrigued by that. All the children were born in peace time but 30 years of civil war meant that each family had stories of loss and tragedy passed on from parents to children and it was clear how they valued peace more than anything.

After the discussions, each child chose one value that they most identified with and started to give expressions to their thoughts on paper. Each value was depicted by a single colour so each painting was only in one colour. In the end we brought them all together to create one big Palanca. The idea was that the density of each colour in the collage will clearly reflect which of the values the children most identified with.

Being Palanca, see palanca, teaching values to children, volunteering with children, volunteering in Luanda, Volunteering in Angola

Does it mean something that most works were on Peace and Unity?

I am Peace. I am Unity.

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WWW – Wednesdays – 16th July

It’s been more than a year since I last played along WWW Wednesdays. Of course there can be plenty of excuses given like all the traveling in India before packing up Baroda; volunteering in Uttarakhand after the floods and then the whole move to Africa and settling in. (See I just gave so many! 😛 )

WWW Wednesday is a reading game started by MizB at Should Be Reading. A simple game of telling (every week) about the books you have read, are reading and wish to read. To play along, you just have to answer the following three (3) questions…

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What am I currently reading?

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” – C.S. Lewis

www wednesday, classic fairy talesFor me that time is now and every night before going to bed I have started reading one fairy tale. Currently I’m reading from Berlie Doherty’s Classic Fairy Tales.  I love the illustrations by Jane Ray and also the way Berlie has narrated the stories. Just yesterday I read the Beauty and the Beast. And I remembered the quote that “a thing must be loved before it is lovable!” I love fairy tales and how does it matter if I’m grown up… It’s still fun to go to sleep with some magic 🙂

www wednesday, a Christmas carolAlong with that I’m also reading a classic – “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickines. Enjoying the visits with the Spirits and Scrooge but also enjoying the words and the archaic English!

“Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a doornail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a doornail.”

What did I recently finish

I recently finished I am Malala. I had picked it up at Delhi airport this time. Not that it was in my list of books to read but as I was browsing through the books, the photograph of Malala Yousafzai was almost staring from the cover and I couldn’t stop myself from picking it. Continue reading

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