The Kraal - where nothing is what it seems

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


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Where I stayed
The Kraal, Mpande

Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Thursday, October 14, 2010

The people who told me about the Kraal, a lodge at Mpande, were what you might call of the alternative type. Warily eyeing me up, as if letting me into a secret, they said it was wild and remote, the owner more into animals and nature than human beings; you either love it or hate it.
They obviously weren't sure I could cut it - I was intrigued.

It žs remote, as you may have gathered from the previous entry, and as my 'taxi' pushed off I thought 'there goes my connection to civilisation.'
The lodge looks deserted, encumbered with luggage I peevishly venture in, wondering has the owner given up on guests, become a recluse - then what?
Outside I see the shapes of two men, crouched down, serious faces -  are they hiding from me, are they performing some private ritual?
A small cough to discretely announce my approach has little effect. They are completely engrossed by some puny plant and I'll just have to wait.
Eventually Dylan, the owner, looks up, a little disturbed but not unfriendly, and in an off-handish way he shows me around. When I am settled in, he asks if I am hungry. Pleasantly surprised I ask what's on the menu.
A bowl of Xhosa pap is placed in front of me. 'Same as everybody else,' he says.
I was not complaining and yet to find out that meals appear rather haphazardly and you'd be wise to take what's on offer. Self-catering was not really an option. 'Fresh' eggs from the tiny village shop had passed the sell-by date two months ago. I returned them, but later two other guests, a couple from Serbia, stood dismally watching the very same eggs float in a pan like little sulphur bombs.

The view from the hostel is spectacular, between two smooth grassy hills, forming a wide V, you can sit for hours watching the sea, a passing ship, dolphins playing and even whales. Walk on the beach and you wont meet a soul. Dylan keeps horses and you are welcome to tend to them, take them for a ride, along with the goats and dogs.
Contrary to what I was lead to believe, Dylan turns out to be quite sociable, an interesting character, studying to be a natural healer, he is a professional, and accomplished, chef.
He has lots of stories and attracts all kinds, tourists and locals, young and old, they drift by, have a drink, share a joint - all very amicable and relaxed.

It is night and the wind is howling while indoors the fire works a treat. It's amazing the heat it produces, you just sit and stare at the flames, toasting your legs, dreaming away.
It was here I told Dylan and his friend Derrek about my remarkable taxi ride. They were most indignant, swearing they would get my money back. I begged them to leave the poor man alone, and they tutted, saying I didn't understand the ways of South Africa - it would never have happened to them. Ha!
Next day Derrek has to go shopping in Mthatha. He is not looking forward to it. Rain is pouring down, not much petrol in the old car and the road will be worse than ever. 'It's going to take all day,' he sighs.
It does. Late in the evening, we were just getting worried, a bedraggled, disgruntled and slightly pissed Derrek staggers in. Dear me, what happened?
Against better judgement, he gave a poor blighter, shivering and wet, a lift to his village, only to find out later he had swiped his stuff as thanks. 'But I'll get him for that' he muttered, 'tomorrow I'll go to his village and teach him a lesson.' I look doubtful, Derrek is past his prime and surely the villagers will close ranks?
'No, you don't understand. Stealing's not bad, they all enjoyed the food he nicked, but if you get caught, you are on your own. No one will help him if he gets burnt for that.'
I reckon there's a lot I don't understand.
Late at night Dylan talks of spirits. Now that is something that scares me and I make my way to bed where I lie uneasy, alone in the big clay hut. It is dark, but my torch was casting spooky shadows, so I turned it off, telling myself not to be silly. 
I must have just fallen a sleep when a horrible crashing sound wakes me up. I feel a draft, I sense a presence, but the door is locked. No-one could get in. No-one but a spirit........
I am scared stiff.
My heart is thudding as I fumble for my torch, will a ghost show in the light? Do I want it to? Something is moving about, breathing heavily. Do spirits breathe?
Enough! I snap on the light, I am going to have to face my tormentor.

It's the dog. The sweetest, kindest dog that roams around the premises and has decided to keep me company. He must have jumped through the little window and was now looking at me, wagging his tail, wasn't I pleased to see him? I was, he actually brought tears to my eyes and I felt very safe that night, the daft dog lying next to me, grinning, I'm sure he was grinning.

Much as I love it here, I have to move on to Coffee Bay, but without the obligatory Mthatha detour - I'd sooner walk. 'You can,' says Dylan, ' if you are up to it. Will take you 2 to 3 days.'
If I am up to it? I could kiss him, nothing could stop me from going.
Dylan carefully selects a local chap to guide me and carry my luggage - you have to know the way, and besides, a woman alone, even I am not that adventurous.

But, an adventure it was. Of course.
Next entry:)




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