A spiritual world

Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
Trip End Oct 25, 2010

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Flag of South Africa  , KwaZulu-Natal,
Sunday, October 4, 2009

We, that is three young girls and myself, come to volunteer at a project with children. Most of them orphaned, traumatised and sick.
This, of course, is a story within itself, a profound and stirring experience I shall not go into too much here.

However, on our days off, we were encouraged to recharge, go on trips, see something of the country.
Not that I needed any prompting, I was raring to go.
Ah, but I could not go alone. Strictly off limits, dangerous, we must stick together and only venture out at daylight. We were given the names of two 'safe' taxi drivers, no other means of transport. What?!
To my surprise and shock it seemed there was no public transport to speak of in South Africa.
So what about the masses pouring into the country next year? 2010, it's advertised everywhere, you can't miss it. Soccer, I believe. A stadium being built, regardless of the costs, everyone high on excitement, but how are these people going to get about, I wonder?
It baffles me - it took us a good deal of organising just to get from Amanzimtoti, or Toti, as the locals call it, to Durban.

First call was at the Kwa Muhle museum, set in a beautiful building, a big old house, with a lovely garden.
I was told the topic was Apartheid, but we never reached that point, or got past the first couple of rooms downstairs, as our museum guide, a slightly effeminate, civilised young black man, was anxious to educate us on other matters.
Religion. After going over the ancestor thing, the traditions and culture, he was obviously relieved to move on to Jesus.
Christianity is very much alive in S.A.. Flying in from Johannesburg, a charming lady sitting next to me struck up a conversation, beaming and smiling, she eventually produced a large self-help book, based on the bible.
To be converted high up in the sky, now thats a thought.
I've come across it many times since; happy, sincere people wanting to share their joy.
It was nice to see that side of religion for it seems a rather sober affair here up North and it can take a while before anyone will admit they actually believe.

Next stop the Victoria Street Market, arts and crafts, indoor, mostly Indian tradesmen.
I fell over myself marvelling at the beads, the sculptures, paintings, you name it, it was there and for unbelievable prices. We had been told to bargain but how mean can you be? I was not about to insult these people.
I soon found out I was paying two, thee times as much as others; you were expected to haggle till both parties were happy with the deal - good feeling all around.
I never got the hang of it. Too unconvincing, too apologetic and they kindly shook their heads as they took my money.
I loved the place anyway, the bustle, the smell of food, the colours, music, the people and the stuff. Same stuff I practically tripped over on my later travels, often better and even cheaper - I just walked past, wondering where it all came from.
From the townships, I was told, but I had seen no such activities when I was there.

Anyway, I needed some fresh air and wanted to be by myself for a bit, so I  wandered out on to the busy streets. They were packed, so I reckoned I'd be safe there.
Here the market continued,  in a fashion. At first I didn't recognize what was on sale. Lying on the pavements, no stalls, was a grimy, brown/grey, collection of what looked like bits of bones, hooves,skulls, hair, herbs and dirty bottles of some potion or other.
I soon realised what it was.
Muthi, used to heal and ward off evil. It gave me the creeps and I thought, for all the apparent 'normality' of the place, the modern, the glam, the dilapitated areas, part of this world was abstruse, something I knew existed but didn't expect to find out on the streets like this.

Back at the project I was severely reprimanded for going off by myself. I was told an observant market guard had followed me for as far as he was allowed - a fortnight ago a tourist was killed on those very streets, no one tried to help her. So much for safety in numbers.
I still had a lot to learn.
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starlagurl on

I had no idea it would be that difficult to get around in South Africa without your own car. Thanks for sharing that tidbit!


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