There’s one shady character we met in the Transkei a few years ago who we’ll never forget… He’s a short, small man who walks with a bit of a limp. He was wearing an old, worn-out, black, biker leather jacket (in the summer heat) with a white cap on his head. He smelt of old booze and had one gammy eye…and the other eye didn’t look very healthy either.
This dodgy-looking-dude was half blind but very determined. He walked towards us and greeted us in a rough, raspy voice and spoke as if he was enlightening us on a very interesting secret: “My friends,” he said, “I’m doing the beeznis (business).” He was implying that he is selling weed/marijuana. We told him we’re not interested and went swimming in the sea. After a few hours, that same afternoon, he came to us again. He greeted us and started speaking to us as if he had never met us before. “My friends,” he said again, “I’m doing the beeznis!” And once again we said, “No, thank you!” and walked off. Later, again that same afternoon, he walked towards us again, and again he greeted us as if he has never spoken to us before, and again he starts his story. But this time Marc interrupts him and asks: “My friend, are you doing the business?” With intense joy and excitement, and a huge smile on his weathered face he responds: “Ye-es!!!”
You don’t have to travel to increase gratitude but getting out of your comfort zone can help you appreciate things more…. One of our favourite places to travel to in South Africa is the rural Transkei… It’s not only beautiful but also makes you realize how little material possessions one needs to live a fulfilling life.
The rural Transkei, a.k.a the Wild Coast has wide open grasslands with traditional huts scattered far apart. It’s also the birth place and resting grounds of former SA president, Mr. Nelson Mandela. The beaches are untouched and the place is, for now, somewhat undiscovered and untamed.
The first time I went to the Transkei I travelled with two of my girlfriends, Donne and Michaela, from Port Elizabeth to the Transkei in Donne’s gold, VW City Golf. That City Golf must have had magical powers because those gravel roads were even a bit of a challenge for our big bakkie when Marc and I drove that same road. You can also travel to Transkei (like my mom did) with the Baz-Bus. Oh, do not trust your GPS to get you there… Our GPS got us safely to about 400m from Bulungula… The problem was there was a deep, raging river between the hill we arrived at and the place we were supposed to stay that night. It took us more than 2 hours to eventually find the right route!
We’ve stayed at Bulungula Lodge, Coffee Bay and Mdumbi. Coffee Shack in Coffee Bay is a popular and very festive backpackers lodge. They offer daily hikes and organized activities. We went on a hike to hole in the wall. There’s such beautiful, untouched scenery along the way and there are random cows roaming the beaches! At Hole-in-the-Wall our “tour leaders” made the most tastiest toasted cheese sandwiches on the fire. (I don’t know if I was just abnormally hungry that day but those toasted sandwiches were amazing!) We also swam to the rocks that forms the “hole in the wall” and jumped from them into the sea. You have to perfect the timing of your jump and jump just when a swell of a wave comes in and then you need to really swim fast to get to safe waters before you get pulled back by the water’s force. In retrospect it was actually quite dangerous- don’t know if I’ll have the guts to do that again!
Bulungula Backpackers is such a cute place! Their bathrooms are particularly interesting. Not only are they very colourfully painted and have funny jokes on the doors but to shower you light a piece of paraffin paper with a lighter and with that flame the shower contraption gives you warm water for about 8 minutes.
During the evenings at Bulungula they light a bonfire and people sit around chatting, playing guitars and drums and gazing at the stars. Here you can also go on various hikes. We went on a hike with a local tour guide and Israelites who had just finished their obligatory years in the army.(The guys did 3 years and the girl 2!)So they were super fit.
Bulungula offers tours to the local village where the local people invite you into their homes and show you how they grind maize, how they make their food, what their simplistic huts look like inside and, if you are lucky they will allow you to drink umqombothi (Xhosa maize beer) with them.
Mdumbi, when we were there, was particularly rural and had a hippy-feel to it. There you also just chill, relax and live life at a slower pace. They make yummy Xhosa bread and if it’s the right season you can buy crayfish from local fishermen.
The Transkei is a really beautiful part of South Africa! Hopefully we can go visit again soon!