Through the Transkei

Another day on the Baz-Bus, this time for 13 hours in a row, I passed some really nice beaches and sometimes I just wanted to jump out of the bus to join the others that where leaving. But lucky me, about half way through I met a Australian girl, Kim from Cairns, again, who was travelling with me on the Baz-Bus when I first left Cape Town. She had been in the Transkai for a couple of days to teach at a small school and now was also heading for Durban. We where the only passengers on the bus, so we had plenty of space and lots of time to talk and watch movies.

The Transkai is a very hilly area, with little round huts virtually everywhere. At one point of the trip, Kim and I where just jumping around in the bus, filming and taking pictures of the beautiful scenery. She had a video-camera and a Rexlex-camera just as me and we started laughing at each other because we felt like Japanese tourists. The driver (Jetty) was very friendly and since neither Kim or I had made a reservation he called Banana Backpackers and made the booking for us.

Funny little storie upon my arrival in Durban:
Can you tell the nationality by someone else’s shoes? A German guy thought so and when I entered the Banana Backpackers claimed that I’m Scandinavian. Well, I might be tall, and at the time I was in South Africa I even had bleached hair, but that doesn’t make me Scandinavian.27th May, Durban
After the 13 hour trip on a bus on the previous day there was nothing to keep me away from spending the day on the beach, doing nothing but watching surfers riding the waves and catching a tan. At night I went to cinema with a South African girl. First the bar-keeper told us to not go to the cinema and take a taxi instead, but then the receptionist told us that it would be fine and we should just carry the money for the movie’s. I guess thats kind of a South African paranoia… Instead of taking a 2 minute taxi-ride we decided to run to the cinema. We left the hostel and started running when a truck stopped next to us and offered us a ride to the cinema. We hopped on the back and arrived at the cinema in no time. Since there was no one selling tickets at the cinema, we just walked into a movie called “Half Past Dead” (I did not talke that as a bad sign) and didn’t pay at all. That’s what I call a cheap night out. Unfortunately, two English travellers got mugged that night at 4 am in the morning, just outside the hostel. But they where also lucky, the robbers where friendly, told them their names and asked kindly for their money and even gave them back their drivers licence.

St. Lucia

What a day! Fist I thought it would be just another boring day on the bus, but boy I was so wrong. As I previously wrote, usually there weren’t lots of people on the Baz-Bus, but this time was different. When we left Durban, all of the seats where already taken and almost everyone was heading for St. Lucia Backpackers. An American girl (Katherine) was supposed to leave the bus just outside Durban but decided to stick with us since we were already having great fun just after 30 minutes on the bus. A group of eight complete strangers from around the world who didn’t know each other when getting on the bus. So the whole bus ride. was just a “Where are you from, what are you doing etc. kind of thing. Soon after my arrival in St. Lucia I realised that they probably picked the wrong name for the hostel since I would rather call it St. Weed Backpackers then St. Lucia Backpackers. But that’s about all I’m going to write about this subject since I don’t want to get into legal troubles. The hostel was an excellent choice, not only the location was great and the facilities were in good condition, but they also offered different activities during the day and some times also at night . Right after our arrival they took us to the beach and organise a volleyball game. And at night you could hang out at the bar and “get pissed” as Katherine called it. And there was braa (South African for Barbecue) every night. You just had to buy some steaks (incredibly cheap) at the local supermarket and grill it.

Morning walk with Zebo, Beach time in St. Lucia

One of the activities offered at the hostel was a two hour morning walk with “Zebo”, a guy from the Transkei. But only for those who survived the drinking competition from the pervious night. It was a nice walk but we didn’t get to see lots of animals except the very common antelopes and a few zebras from the distance. Not to forget about the skeleton of a hippo. Afternoon was beach time, including the usual beach-games, some swimming and plenty of exhausting tanning in the sun.

St. Lucia was a save heaven in terms of getting mugged at night but instead you could easily loose your head if you would get into the way of a hippo. Hippos might look nice, but you better run when you feel that they don’t like you. Not to mention that 90 % of the crocodile population of South Africa live in and around St. Lucia. So going for a swim in the river behind the hostel also might not be a very refreshing idea.

Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park

My only intention to go to St. Lucia was to see the Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park. Many fellow travellers had told me that it was much better then Krueger NP and since I was short in time I decided to skip Krueger NP. Hluhluwe Umfolozi is a Malaria area, just like the Krueger NP, but since it was Winter in South Africa there were no Mosquitoes and the risk of getting an infection was pretty low. And as we speak – I wasn’t bitten once during the entire three weeks in South Africa.
To get to Hluhluwe Umfolozi was an arctic nightmare, not only getting up at 3:30 am in the morning, but also sitting on an open truck and fully exposed to the wind with just a thin blanket to protect you, was a real pain in the a**. The freezing morning aside, the day in the park was breathtaking, with lots of elephants, water buffaloes, giraffes, antelopes, warthog, well, pretty much everything South Africa has to offer expect lions and leopards, which didn’t show up at all expect on postcards.

Sanddunes and Crokodiles

What is a crazy bunch of people doing on a wonderful morning on the beach? Watching dolphins pass by, go snorkelling and catch crayfish, hell yeah. And – as I would call it, downhill-sanddune-running! It was on our way back to the hostel, when someone suggested that we should climb up the dunes and run down again. The dunes where quite high, maybe 60 to 80 meters and very steep. It took about 10 minutes to climb up and then you would just let go and start running downhill. Fortunately no bones were broken and we had plenty of fun.

In the afternoon we visited a crocodile farm, to see those nasty animals, which where only waiting for some stupid tourists to put an arm or leg within biting distance. There was a very funny and informative tour with a Steve Irwin look and behave alike, who would constantly use “as far as this species concerned, to explain things to the visitors.

Durban and Ballito Bay

After a final visit at the beach and many “good bye’s” it was time to leave St. Lucia, and get on the Baz-Bus for the last time. This time I was heading backwards, to get back to Durban. But I didn’t want to stay in Durban and decided to stay at Ballito Bay instead.

The hostel was realy small, situated right at the beach and even had its own shipwreck. The view out of my window on the first floor was breath taking and at night I visited the “Gateway” which is the biggest mall in the southern hemisphere.

Flight back to Cape Town

Alltogether it took me about 29 hours on the bus to get from Cape Town to Durban, not including the trip to St. Lucia. To get back to Cape Town by plane only took me 4 hours, with a short stop-over in Port Elisabeth. For my last days in Cape Town and South Africa I had chosen the “Ashanti Lodge”, which advertises itself as the best hostel in Africa. I did not see all the other hostels, but I have to admit that this one was quite good. It is probably also the only hostel in South Africa where you have to enter a pin-code at the main entrance to get inside. The “no drugs on this premises” was nothing more then a joke. When I first walked into the TV-room I saw a guy who was rockin’ the ganj, and that’s about all I would see him doing for the rest of my stay. He never left the room, slept on the floor, even when I walked into the room at 7 am in the morning he would already be lying on the couch and “puff the magic dragon”. That’s what I call a flying vacation.

Wine tour to Stellenbosch

I love wine, and Stellenbosch is an infamous wine region, so there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to taste some South African wine. “Groovy Grape Tours” seemed to be the right operator, with such recommendations as “we sang our way back to the hostel” it was deemed to be funny. I ended up tasting around 20 different wine and even had some Champagnes, oop’s – I mean Kaapse Vonkel, the South African version of Champaign. By the way, I did not sang my way back to the hostel, but I was indeed very pissed.
Stellenbosch is also home of some great Universities and has a six female to one male student rate. Perfect conditions if you are male, single, and looking for an gorgeous time, of course, that is, only if you are not too drunk.…

Final Days in Capetown

4th of June, Victoria Waterfront, Hiking up Lions Head
The Rand had lost more then 20 % of its value compared to the Euro since I arrived, which was very good in case of shopping. So I spent half the day at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, a shopping mall in the centre of the city.

In the late afternoon I was joined by Liz and Jim, two English travellers who I met on the wine tour the other day, to hike up Lions head. This time I made it up the top and was rewarded with a breath taking few. The only bad thing was a very cold and strong wind which forced us to climb very carefully.

5th of June, Township-Tour District 6
My last day had finally come, and I wanted to end my trip with something special, so I decided to do a Township tour. The first stop was at the so called District 6, once a flourishing multicultural area, where all cultures and religious, black and white, would peacefully live together. But then came “Apartheid”, and all races had to be “divided” and where moved to other areas, like Cape Flats for black and coloured people, 25 kilometres outside of Cape Town. The whole district, expect some churches and mosques was then bulldozed, with new street signs and new buildings, and white people who moved into that area.

But with the end of Apartheid there is a new history written for district 6. The government is allowing and funding former citizens to move back and District 6 is reconstructed, even the old streetnames. We also visited the museum of District 6, which offered lots of pictures and information. The history of District 6 reminded me of the history of the German people called “Sudetendeutsche” who where forced to leave the Czech republic after the second world war.

We then went to the Township, a very impressive place. And surprisingly strong organised. Every “street” has its own council and they decide for example f new people can move in and build a house. Our guide also told us a story about three guys who raped a little girl, the police wouldn’t charge them because of little proof, so the local people brought them down to justice in their own way, by punishing them with whiplashes made with long wooden sticks.

Our first stop was a privately funded school. A local woman had taken education in her own hands and organised teaching for more then 600 kids, because government operated schools where to crowded. She showed us around the classes, it was amazing to see 40 to 80 kids in those little rooms. When ever she entered a classroom all of the kids would jump up and scream “Good morning teacher, how are you teacher?!” which was very funny. At the end of our tour, two classes even sang a few songs for us, including the South African anthem and a song about Nelson Mandela.

We also visited a hostel right in the middle of the township run by another woman and a kitchen to feed the kids who would life on the street, also run by a woman. I think the new South Africa is born in the streets of these townships, and it is built by strong woman.

After we finished the tour, my guide dropped me of at the airport where I said “Good bye” to this wonderful and interesting country.

South Africa, you will see me again!