10/5/07: So the "Baz Bus" went to the wrong Hostel, and rather than call the other Hostel (only 2 hostels in PE), they simply left. Got ahold of them when they were ten minutes out of the city and he wouldn't turn back. They also wouldn't refund my ticket. Don't use the service, the standard buses are way better anyway - Translux, Greyhound, InterCape. All much better. So the new plan was to rent a car and Drive to East London, as there were no buses out that day, and I didn't have time to wait. I arrived in EL in the afternoon, exhuasted. I headed to the pub next door and started my journal. An interesting side note, as I was having a beer and writing, a car pulled up and parked at the beach. My head jerked up as I recognized a familiar beat. I scanned the street looking for the source and thought to myself, no, there is no way that is what I am hearing. Yes it was. The locals were blasting an African mix of "Bring on the Night." With a big smile on my face I continue to write.
10/6/07: I took the Intercape bus to Umtata: (http://maps.google.com/maps?tab=wl) The shuttle to Bulungula is meeting me at the bus stop for the 3 hour drive to the cabins. As we drive through some of the poorer townships that I have seen, my mind wanders. I wonder if I had a child, and he was being raised here, without me. What would the result be? Would he do any better than any of the other children in this horrible state? I'd like to think so, but it's probably wishful thinking.
Ruphus the shuttle driver is waiting, we load up and go. It's practically offroad the entire time, thank god we are in a Land Rover. Here are some of the locals we picked up along the way:
Arriving at night, the camp looks deserted and very barebones. However when we round the corner of the last building we see candles lit and guests inside. I had a very favorable first impression, but as we round the corner I can see a mans face illuminated through the window by candle light, his dark eyes locked on our vehicle. He looked both menacing and thoughtful, and spoke of mysteries that lay within. It's one of those images that you capture in your minds eye and it never fades. You never can tell when it will happen. It's amazing what the nightime can do with an imagination. We got ourselves settled and sat down to a nice dinner.
10/7/07: I had gone to Bulugula solely on Dylan's advice, as he was so passionate about it being one of the best places in SA. In the morning light I was not disappointed. It was remote and beautiful and very different from any other place that I had been, which is really what I was looking for.
My first view of Bulungula
On the first day a few of us went canoeing, including and American couple that had been on the shuttle. Our guide was a villager, and the canoes, paddles, and life vests were his. The innovative thing about Bulungula is that the villagers own the hostel, and all of the money goes directly to them. They get the full benefit of their land being used for tourism. The downside is that they do not have access to the best equipment and technology. Don't expect a Loomis flyrod when you are down there. They also have a local restaurant in the village, where they prepare something similar to a thick crepe, filled with chicken, veggies or nuts and local honey. They were actually quite tasty.
10/8/07: Today was fishing day. The locals employ an interesting technique. Surfcasting from the rocks, they drag the sinker along the botton until it hits a rock. Then they maintain steady pressure, keeping the bait pinned in one place, despite the rough surf. The downside is that this results in lost tackle, and some frustrating snags. It really is a hardship for them to loose tackle, as replacements are not always available. Though we saw another fisherman return with a single giant earlier, my guide and I had no such luck.
Waiting for a bite
10/9/07: The Coffee Bay hike. I awoke at around 8am, as my guide and I were to set out at 9. It's about a 6 hour hike in fair weather, however it was pouring rain at times, so we delayed our departure until things brightened up a bit. At about 10am we set out:
Simon, my guide
It started to rain again almost immediately, but rain or not I had already decided to press on. Simon and I hiked through villages, rivers and mountains as the rain beat down upon us. Though I had no idea where we were going, I noticed that we were not making the most direct line. The heavy rains had flooded some of the rivers to the point of being impassable, and Simon was forced to take the long way several times. Even with his efforts, as they day wore on we were required to wade more than 12 times, in silty, dirty water sometimes close to waste deep. At one point a group of about 20 locals stopped to stare at me attempting to wade across, clearly hoping that I was going to fall in. Half way Simon threw his walking staff to me and with that third appendage it was easy. I have pictures of the dissapointed crowd moving on after my triumph!
Fording the river
It's decision time. Simon and I are about 5 hours into our hike and he informs me that it's 1 hour from where we are to Hole in the Wall, 1.5 hours to Coffee Bay, and 3 more hours if we want to hike to both. I didn't come to Africa to hold back, so I ask Simon to take me to Hole inn the Wall, and then Coffee Bay. Thankfully Natural Selection had forged a fantastic guide in Simon. He hardly even blinked when I told him we would be hiking for 3 more hours. After he lit his 19th newspaper cigarette we pressed on. Hole in the wall was spectacular, but the end of the hike was brutal. The path wound around the edge of a steep embankment for many kilometers. There were many places where one slip would equal serious injury. To fresh legs in the morning it had a breathtaking view and smacked of adventure, but to weary legs at the approach of nightfall it had an evil look. Finally, after 6 pm, eight hours or more after we set out, we arrived in Coffee Bay. I have never been that wet in my life.
A village on the way
In Coffee Bay I checked into the Coffee Shack, had a huge lasagna dinner, and washed it down with several beers, one of which I shared with my guide Simon. Outside I talked to a man that had walked from Pretoria to Coffee Bay. Crazy. But he also wanted us to foresake all technological advancement and be one with nature. Hmmmm.
10/10/07: The American couple from Bulungula, Hannah and Jeremy, picked me up in CB and gave me a ride to East London. They were working for a theater company that had been based at a game park for the past 6 weeks. A great gig, they got to stay, travel around africa, go on Safari in the reserve, all on someone else's dime. It was great to have the company, we had a fun road trip, plugged my .MP3 into the rental car radio, chatted, stopped for snacks, and had a blast. Back in East London I had dinner at that same pub and got ready to fly to Jo'berg.
10/11/07: Before I left in the morning I sat down with Richard, an acquintance I made in East London. He teaches African drumming lessons and also tours internationally playing live shows and hosting classes. We talked about the political situation in SA, now just 13 years removed from Aparthied (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aparthied). He told me about how he and his father would have to hide under the floorboards when roaming gangs of whites would come to the door, or risk being beaten to death. The quote of the day "many of the white people in East London, they are still full of Aparthied."
Flight to Jo'berg, SA