Way Down South
After arriving on Sunday night after dark, i was amped to see what L’ Agulhas would reveal, i have been itching to get here for years and it hasn’t disappointed, it has exceeded expectations in every way possible.
I set an alarm, which goes against my very ethos, but i really wanted to catch some epic morning light, and set out for the Southern most point of Africa to catch the first sunrise of the Going Homeless Project.
With the iconic lighthouse set against the rising sun in the east and an angry sea to the south, the Southern tip of Africa is stark, beautiful and very cold. A cup of freshly brewed joe helped ward off the chill before i jumped back in the van and headed for a closer look at the Lighthouse.
The Lighthouse, South Africa’s third oldest lighthouse is a towering structure that sticks out of the landscape, but one look at the sea and the coastline and its very clear why it is needed. Built in 1848, it’s an homage to the Pharos of Alexandria.
I climbed the 71 one steps, actually more like rungs of a ladder, carefully, to be rewarded with a panoramic view of L’Agulhas and the coast. It was incredible. The sign inside of the final door before you exit on to the viewing platform warns of adverse weather and strong winds but I had been blessed with a still sunny day, that like my mood was starting to warm to this little village by the sea.
I then headed back South out-of-town, beyond the tip of Africa to see the famous wreck that still marks the coastline, the Melsho Meru. Wrecked back in 1982, it now is a sunny perch for sea birds. It was lunch and i was hankering for a shower, another cup of joe to recharge, before heading out for the afternoon.
On the way back through town i stopped by the Struis Baai harbor to get a gander for any photographs worth shooting and make plans for tomorrow to feed the local stingrays that hang around feeding off the fishing community.
I arrived back at the Cape Agulhas backpackers, and had a long chat with the owner Erin and her husband Malan, who were not only über cool but super happy to share a few more places to see i missed or didn’t know existed… the afternoon was getting fuller and i started pondering spending an extra night here as there was still so much i wanted to see.
The Backpackers itself is sweet as, comfy beds, great showers, a bar - The stingray that you feel obliged to drink in - beers are 11 bucks! The bar also has a massive fireplace that doubles as an indoor braai, which is very handy as the evenings get colder.
The kitchen is stocked with just about anything you could need, There is also a permanent urn of hot water which is handy for a caffeine addict like myself.
Erin is also the owner of the Way Down African Adventure Centre - handily across the road which offers a variety of mild to wild activities you can get stuck into - Adrenalin fueled boat rides, Kite Surfing, in the sea and on a fresh water lake just up the road, surf lessons, sea tubing,sea kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and bike rentals to name a few of the multitudes of fun you can get up to in Struis Baai and L’ Agulhas
The plan for the afternoon was to head to Arniston/ Waenhuiskrans to see the village and a giant cave that was recommended viewing.
Arniston is about 30 minutes drive from Struis Baai, with plenty of killer scenery to gather in as you make your way across the countryside. The village itself is tiny, but filled with some incredible places to visit - Kassies Baai, the 200-year-old fishing village - a national heritage monument is awesome, it preserves a simple way of life in this crazy connected world we live in.
The Waenhuiskraans cave is an awe-inspiring place, a little hike along the beautiful coast line with access through a hidden little hole in the “wall’ gets you into a cavernous thunderous cave - that is almost cathedral-like. It really is a place to see if you get to this part of the world.
I flew back to L’Alguhas after a very chilled afternoon cruising around Arniston to catch the sun setting over the Melsho Meru wreck before heading back to the coolest bar, way down on the tip of Africa.
After chatting to Stefene’ about what else could be seen, visited and hiked, it became apparent that staying another night was now a certainty and not optional.
If anyone ever tells you they were bored in L’Agulhas, they were doing it very wrong.
You can stay at the awesome Cape Agulhas Backpackers by checking them out on the Hostelling International website at http://www.hisouthafrica.com/index.php/hostels/hostel-cape-agulhas-cape-agulhas-backpackers
Day 23 - Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers
At 10am this morning the full day Soweto bike tour would leave from Lebo’s backpackers, so I got up early enough to have breakfast at 9.30am. For breakfast I had a couple of options, but eventually I choose yogurt and cereal, like most mornings. Before leaving I got two bottles of water out of the honesty bar, because it looked like it was going to be a very hot day.
Outside the gate our guides were waiting with a lot of bikes and we got to choose our bike ourselves. We also had a choice if we would take a helmet our not. Since we were just biking in the street and not in the mountains, I choose not to wear one. It is still very strange for me to wear a helmet, because in Holland everybody rides a bike and almost nobody wears a helmet.
After the first climb we stopped to have a look at Soweto from up the hill. In the distance were the mountains that were created by the mining companies, the Orlando Stadium where the Orlando Pirates play and the famous cooling towers that were used to create electricity for the white people in Johannesburg. Now the towers are painted to show everything that Soweto is about and people bungy jump of a bridge that hangs between the two towers.
From there we crossed the main road to the poorest part of Soweto. The guide told us a bit about the history of the area. It used to be male hostels for the man who were working in Johannesburg. The people on that side of the main road resented the people on the other part, so instead of joining the ANC they started their own party for resistance.
After the explanation we got back on our bikes and went across the road. Here we had some local beer that we drank in a shack with elders. The women used to make this beer with corn, sugar and other things and after they were finished the men tasted it. They then said AHA if the beer was good and UHU if the beer was bad. The women had to keep trying until the men said AHA. After drinking the beer the women used to dance and sing for entertainment. The men themselves now dance when they have enough beer. To show respect and show us the culture, our guide and one of the elders started dancing, one of the tourists later also joined in.
We got up on the bike again, thinking we were biking for a while, but we ended up going around the corner. There was a sort of restaurant here, where we had meat from a cows head. That meant eating the cheeks and the tongue, which could be considered a delicacy. It was good, but I did not really feel like eating too much of it. We also got some pap and black label with it to make it easier to eat. That did amount to quite some beer so early in the morning.
After the cows head we split up into two groups. One group was going on the four hour bike ride and the other on the whole day bike ride. I had chosen the full day tour. We did see them a few times along the way, but I think we took a bit of a detour. At one point we went from a poor area straight across the road into a pretty well off area. In meadowlands we stopped to get a popsicle. This turned out to be frozen lemonade in a bag. It was really nice on such a hot day.
The tour went on across the freeway, where the female hostels used to be. There were a lot less, because female labor was not as much in demand. One of the women that lived there had become a symbol for the resistance. She had been sentenced to house arrest and was not allowed to leave the house or have any parties or gatherings in the house. To support herself she started sewing. After 18 years of house arrest she died. Where her house used to be there is another house with a gate that includes a sewing-machine made to commemorate her.
We went past some churches that were having their service. The guide then explained to us about all the different churches in South Africa. Soem of the churches were held in a tent, because they had no building and one had their service on a field, which is normal for that kind of church. After that we went to the place where we had lunch. Lunch was like a Bunny Chow with the hollowed out bread, but instead of curry it had chips, salami, cheese, an other kind of meat and ketchup in it. It was good, but way too much. During lunch it had started raining, so it was really nice to go across the street and be inside a bit longer.
The Hector Pieterson Museum was the next stop on our tour. Hector Pieterson was the first kid to die during the student uprisings. He was only thirteen years old at the time and was according to his sister only there because it looked exciting. The student uprisings were started by elementary school kids that did not want to be taught in Afrikaans, while they had been taught in English or their own language so far. They hated Afrikaans because it was a symbol of Apartheid and they had no respect for their elders anymore because they had not done anything against it. There were a lot of eye-witness accounts, photos, videos and texts explaining how things went. The most impressive thing was that in the courtyard there were a lot of stones with the names of all the people who died during that time, some had the name unknown on it.
The next stop or should I say stops on our trip was the street where both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived. The people from Soweto are very proud that this is the only street in the world where two Noble Peace Price winners had lived. Nelson Mandela moved to another very well secured house after he got out of prison, his ex-wife Winnie Mandela still lives there. Desmond Tutu still owns the house, but he lives in a retirement home now.
By that time it was looking like it was going to rain soon, so we went back to the backpackers as fast as we could. Because we had done a lot of downhill by then, we had to do some uphill. We made it back before the rain started anyway. Actually I think the rain never came.
Back at the backpackers I had to decide how I am going to Nelspruit tomorrow. I first called my brother to check if he had a cheap deal with a car rental service, because he had done that when he went from Plettenberg Bay to Cape Town. Dave from Old Vic Backpackers was my next phone call, because I wanted to confirm that I would be arriving tomorrow, but also to ask for advice. He told me it was smarter to go by bus, so I ended up deciding to take the intercape tomorrow at 8am.
For dinner we had chicken stew with a lot of vegetables and something like pap on the side. It was really delicious and I could not help myself from taking a second helping of chicken stew, even though I got dessert as well. Dessert was ice-cream with chocolate sauce, you can never go wrong there.
At 6.30am tomorrow I have to leave, so I am going to try and catch some sleep.
Day 20 - Happy Hippo Backpackers Durban to Inkosana Lodge Drakensberg
This morning at 6am I had agreed to meet someone I met last night at Happy Hippo to go swimming in the ocean. It is about a five minute walk, so I had some time before the Baz Bus arrived to have a nice swim, shower and pack. It was very difficult to get up though, because I was not able to go to sleep until about 4.30am. When my alarm went off I did get out of bed and put on a bikini. But I decided that I would just lie down again and wait to see if the guy would knock on my door and otherwise I would not go. Off course he did knock. I ended up being glad he did, because that one hour extra of sleep was not worth as much as swimming in the ocean. The water was nice and warm and the waves were high but not too high. So it was a refreshing, exciting dip. Walking back to the Happy Hippo we saw a Baz Bus come by. That scared me a bit, because I thought they were going to pick me up at 8am. It was only 6.45am at that point, but there was no one at reception yet to tell me if the Baz Bus was for me. I went straight up to my room to check the schedule. The schedule did say the Baz Bus would arrive earlier than I thought, but between 7.30am and 8.30am. I still had plenty of time before I had to leave. The guy from the swim knocked on my dorm later and told me that it was another Baz Bus, that was really nice of him to find that out for me. The Baz Bus did arrive at Happy Hippo a few minutes after 7.30am, because we were the first stop. I did not get to say goodbye to anyone from the backpackers, they were probably still asleep. That was sad, because they had been so nice to me. So I told the receptionist to tell them goodbye and thanks for me. I hope they got it. Leaving with me was one of the guys that were also on the Baz Bus from Coffee Bay to Durban. We were just talking about how good Happy Hippo is and that we cannot believe that bad stories about it are going around. I hope people don’t always listen to others. After that we picked up a few people, all people I have seen before. Almost all of them were going to Drakensberg somewhere. Ed, the owner of Inkosana Lodge, came and picked me up at the drop-off from the Baz Bus at Winterton. It was quite hot outside and even though I only had to wait about half an hour I was sweating like crazy. Winterton is a nice little town where everybody knows each other. After I put my stuff in Eds car he went to do some more shopping and I could go to the coffee shop. When I got in there I was not sure if I was in the right place, it looked like a shop. In the back there were seats and a counter though, so it was just an all-in-one kind of place. I guess that is what you get in a small town. From Winterton to inkosana Lodge it is about half an hour drive, maybe less. On the way there we stopped by the side of the road and got some mealies, which is corn. Ed was planning on making some for lunch. When we arrived I first got shown to my room, after which I could come and get some lunch. Lunch was off course not ready yet, because we just bought it. But I first got a prickly pear, also known as Turkish fruit. It was really good. At lunch we had the mealies. They were cooked and just like with roasted corn you just get the corn of the row and have it with butter. It was really nice. Besides that he also had some home-made bread and jam on the table. He does know how to cook. For the rest of the day I got to relax. For me that meant taking a swim in the pool. The pool is really beautiful. It is on the edge of the grass, so it is like an infinity pool. The view from the pool is amazing with the whole of Drakensberg in the background. I got a bit of a surprise when I went into the pool though. There were fishes in there. I swim in lakes and seas and I know the fish won’t hurt me, but it was still strange to feel the fishes brush past me when I did not move. After my swim I went to my room, which is again a rondavel with a big bed in it. I am starting to really love these rondavels. The shower is in the rondavel next to me. It is sort of an outdoor shower, because it has no roof. It does have walls though, so nobody sees you. This shower is amazing with the outdoor air and the view if you’re tall enough and a really good showerhead. At 7pm dinner started. I unfortunately overslept for about 5 to 10 minutes. Apparently someone came and knocked on my door, but I did not hear it. I must have woken up from it though. So I went to the common room as fast as I could. They were already eating the soup, but it was still hot when I got there. I don’t know what the soup was, but it was really good. After that we had salad, chicken and rice. And for dessert it was ice-cream with chocolate sauce. Like I said before, Ed can definitely cook very well. After dinner I had some wine with the people I had dinner with. There was a couple from Germany, a couple from Holland, a guy from Singapore and a woman from Sydney. The woman from Sydney is actually here for her job. She writes for the Lonely Planet and every time she is in the area she stays here. She could stay at a lot of the places around, but she loves it here so much that she goes here every time and sees the others from here. Everyone went to their rooms early, so I did as well. Which was fine by me, because I can catch up on some sleep now.
Day 17 - Coffee Shack Coffee Bay
Today I am writing two blogs, because yesterday evening I could not bring my computer to the place that I stayed at. So I will refer to day 17 as yesterday.
Yesterday I had to be at the bar of Coffee Shack at 9.30am to go on the hike to Hole in the Wall, or so I thought. I am probably so used to getting up early that I figured that I had to get up early again. At 9am I had breakfast at the bar and I even rushed a bit. By 9.30am though I did not see anyone who was going on the hike with me and there was no guide. So I went and looked at the sign-up sheet for the hike. It said 10.30am!
After waiting for an hour I had to change my underwear, because I did not see that we were also going swimming there. So after being way too early I was the one actually holding up the group. But after that we left and started with a nice up hill hike. We stopped halfway to look at the sand bricks they use to build rondavels. They were drying there on the grass. The guide knew a lot about it and gave us a bit of an information overload.
From there it was just a short hike up until we went down again. After going all the way down to the beach our guide stopped again. This time he explained about some Xhosa rituals. We did not know why he stopped so soon again and all thought it would take forever if he did this every time. It turned out that he stopped there because there was some yellow stuff between the rocks which is used for one of the Xhosa rituals. You can eat it, which we all did, if you have a sore throat. Apparently that helps.
The hike to Hole in the Wall usually takes about two and a half hours, but I think we probably took three. We did not stop a lot after that, but still rested a few times. There were some steep parts up hill and also a very steep part down hill, but all in all it was a hike that probably everyone can do. And is definitely a hike that everyone should do, because the scenery is amazing and it changes every time you are over the next hill.
I really wanted to see the Hole in the Wall, because I saw it in a movie and thought it looked great. When I heard that the Hole in the Wall was actually near Coffee Shack, I knew I needed to see it. It was indeed amazingly beautiful. When you are right in front of it in the water, it is awesome. The waves just hit the side of the hole with an unbelievable power. I think we were about 20 meters away from the hole and we felt the current pulling us there. Luckily we could stand there, so it did not pull us in. The waves that came out were sometimes very powerful and high as well. It was just awe inspiring to witness so much power from the water as well as the wind. It was a very windy day that day and because of that the water was even higher than it usually is. There was no change to swim through it yesterday and someone did do it a few days before that.
Luckily we did not have to go back the way we came. Someone from Coffee Shack came and picked us up. When we got back I just wanted to jump in the shower. Before I did that though I went and talked to the people at reception about doing an overnight at a Xhosa family. It was a bit too late for that, I should have asked them in the morning. So I decided to take a drum lesson after having the shower.
The guy who gave me the drum lesson was very good. I always thought I had a good sense of rythm. That turned out to not be the case. He taught me several basic rythms, which at first went a bit wobbly. After a while, especially with a certain one, I started to get into it. But at the end I just kept getting confused, especially with the most important one. It is quite difficult to make the right sound when you hit the drum. It also does not help that your hands just start to hurt a lot after a while. But all that was fine because the feeling you get from getting it right is amazing.
At the end of the drum lesson a woman from reception came up to me to tell me that the guy from the Xhosa overnight would be there in 10 minutes. I was totally overwhelmed and did not know what to do. In the end I decided to stop the lesson and go and pack a small overnight bag. According to the woman I just needed water, maybe a pyama and a camera. I ended up taking a toothbrush and tooth paste as well.
Elvin, the guy who came and got me, is the father of one of the woman working behind the bar at Coffee Shack. That made me feel quite save. He walked on crutches, because he had a car accident a few years back. Since then he just takes care of his gardens and his animals and does the occational Xhosa overnight with backpackers.
First we had to walk about 15 minutes to get to his house, which was still good to do after the hike. Along the way Elvin talked a lot, so I did not get bored. At arrival we went went into the rondavel where the kitchen is. This is a family meeting area with kitchen equipment and four chairs. One chair was reserved for me for the evening and the others just went to the oldest people around. While Elvin’s wife was making dinner, we had a look around his gardens.
His little garden was filled with corn, cabbage, tomato plants and lots of other plants. His big garden was about the same, except there he also had banana trees and something that I was not sure what it was at first. He asked me what I thought the plant looked like. The only thing I could think of was that it looked like what you see when you look at a picture of a marijuana plant. I just thought that I got it wrong, but then he actually confirmed my suspicion. That was quite weird to see.
After I got over the shock Elvin showed me where I would be sleeping. It was in the other rondavel, where his oldest daughter and son also sleep. By that time it was getting a bit chilly outside and it was really nice to be in the rondavel. The rondavel stays warm when it gets chilly outside. Especially the one with the kitchen in it, where we went back to. His wife was still preparing our meal at the time. Meanwhile we talked a bit and they showed me a collection of bead bracelets and necklaces that the wife made. I ended up buying a necklace and an ankle bracelet, which looks really good on my now brown legs.
Before dinner a few people dropped in, which is normal there, and I got to hear quite a bit of Xhosa. It sounds so funny with the clicking noises, exactly what people imagine African sound like. Dinner was cabbage and a sort of chick pea in an onion soup, as far as I remember. It was actually really good. After dinner I was told we were getting coffee. I usually don’t drink coffee at night, so I was a bit hesitant. It turned out to be hot milk though, in which you could scoop some instant coffee and sugar. I just ended up drinking the hot milk, which was really nice before bedtime.
The kids were already sleeping on the floor at that time, even though it was only 8.30pm or 9pm. Everyone went to sleep right after coffee, so I went to my bed as well. I read for a little bit, but I was actually sleepy quite early as well. Now I will write the blog for the next morning.