Saturday, 8 August 2009

A Little Piece Of Heaven

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend some time in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. More specifically, in the area surrounding Isandlwana - Nhloya, Nqutu, Rorke's Drift and Fugitive's Drift.

We were able to stay at Umzinyathi farmhouse for a night, courtesy of Nicky Rattray. Fugitive's Drift Lodge was amazing. The people there were fantastic too - Nicky, Rob, Grace, Margaret, Joseph and everyone else.

The view of the Buffalo River from Fugitive's Drift was fantastic.

We spent most of our time in the village of Nhloya - 40 minutes drive from the nearest paved road. The village had no sewerage, no electricity, communal water pumps and a school.

People from the village all came to say hello to us and took us down to see the river. I spoke to a boy called Thembiso, and he told me that he was 14 years old and that he had never seen a white person before.

As we were wandering back to where we were camping, we had accumulated quite the following.

We did see poverty in South Africa, but the people we met in the village did not seem unhappy with what they had.

People tended to live in big rondavel huts. There would be a large hut for the man of the house to live in and additional rondavels for each of his wives. Zulu customs allow polygamous marriage - as long as the man has enough cows. Lobola is the dowry that a man must pay to marry and it is usually 11 cows.

Base camp.
Note the very English colonising of the goalposts to string up a washing line and the bush shower.

We had the camper van because we needed a way of storing water. The camper van's name? Lance Armstrong.

We saw tons of wildlife. The goats came to visit us every day.

As did the cows.

Just driving along, seeing a giraffe. As you do.

Or a zebra.

Or a kudu.

Or some ostriches.

Or a dassie in a tree.

This is the real reason we were in Nhloya.

The school playing field. How safe. And note the green toilets, which provided hours of fun playing the 'do I REALLY need to go?' game.

Lending a helping hand.

Some villages had water pumps which were attatched to roundabouts, to make pumping water more fun. We went and had a go on one. And scared the local children off in the process.

Sunrise over base camp. You don't realise how much light pollution there is in the Western world until you go somewhere with absolutely none. In Nhloya, we could see the Milky Way every night.

Morning mist.

At night it was freezing cold - as evidenced by the ice on the tent.

And the fact that we went to bed wearing 143 layers of clothing. And a headtorch.

Rush hour in Nhloya.

We went to Rorke's Drift and listened to a lecture by the fantastic Rob Caskie. If he is ever making a speech near your town, go. You will not regret it. There wasn't a dry eye in the house by the end of the talk. 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded at Rorke's Drift. Two of the recipients were from Manchester and Preston, so even thousands of miles from home there was a local connection.

Rob also took us to Isandlwana and gave a very moving talk there. We were lucky to have Rob give us the talk at Isandlwana as he does not often do them since the murder of David Rattray.

Isandlwana held great significance for a lot of people on the trip. I was glad that I got to go there.

The white cairns are grave markers. They mark the places where the bodies of between 8 and 20 British soldiers were found following the battle at Isandlwana.

The classrooms at the school were in reasonable repair. A lot of the windows were broken though, as the school had only just got a fence put around it.

Liverpool FC, Man City FC and Warrington Wolves all donated shirts to take out for the children.
Manchester United proved that the 'biggest club in the world' could also be the biggest bastards in the world.

People were fascinated by the camper van - or the moving house as they called it. They were even more fascinated by the tents [or little houses] and were horrified when we told them we were sleeping in them.

A lot of people went on the camper van-tent tour circuit.

The school had a creche for the really young children. The little fella in the hoody at the front was almost kidnapped and brought home with us. He was the most adorable thing in the world. Ever.

When we went to leave, they all started shouting 'bye bye!' and shaking hands with us. Once we had closed the gate they started climbing up the fence, still shouting and waving at us.

I had a breakfast epiphany in South Africa. Bokomo flakes. Purchased in Nqutu [pronounced clickutu], in the supermarket which had a bird flying around in it and a lot of meat in black bin bags, these flakes were so much more than just cornflakes by another name. Bokomo flakes and chakalaka sauce should be available in every country in the world.

The view from the tent in the Drakensberg on the way back to Joburg.

If anyone wants a charity to support, please consider this one.

Having seen first hand what excellent work has been done in partnership with the David Rattray Foundation, the money is most definitely needed and well spent.

The people we met in Nhloya were amazing - Simphiwe, Tiny, Miriam, the crazy nightwatchman, Victoria, Imbali, all the kids at the school.

I can only speak for myself, but I returned home feeling so uplifted and so thankful for everything that I have at home.

I ♥ Africa.
I also ♥ the Syms' family for allowing me to accompany them on this trip.

♥ Bye bye, Nhloya! ♥


Val said...

Ah, Jess, that is truly a slice of heaven, and thanks so much for sharing your pictures. Also, thanks for the link to the charity...I shall look into that.

Jess said...

Thanks Val :)