Two cool guides and the art of sharing

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


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Where I stayed
village hut

Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Friday, October 15, 2010

We set out early-ish, my guide Ntokoze and I. An hour later than agreed, but that is well within the limits of African time. Fortunately the weather was good. Ntokoze effortlessly slung my heavy backpack over his shoulder and I carried a holdall. Up and over the hills we went, looking down at the sea, and all was fine except I soon realised the bag was going to be a problem, bashing against my legs and getting heavier each step I took. My escort wasn't taking much notice, in fact, he reminded me of myself and how people always complain I just charge on without thinking. Now it's me trailing behind. Hmm.
Outside the village a boy stands waiting. Without introduction or explanation, he joins us. (I'm trying to figure out the South African etiquette and it seems putting you in the picture is not cool.)  Cheerful and willing to please he not only takes my bag but is good company, larking about, making us laugh. In due time he tells me his name is Terron, he is Ntokoze's cousin, hoping to sell his beads in Coffee Bay.
I think I'm getting it :)

We walk down the beach, tides and rocks permitting, or follow the goat paths over the mountains. Strenuous, to say the least, no wonder you never see a fat goat!
After a while a small, crummy hut dooms up and a bunch of unkempt people smile in welcome. Inside it is dusky and shabby; it must be some kind of shop, though by the looks of it, more of a shebeen. We plonk down on a rickety wooden bench opposite two ladies who are drinking beer - drunk or well on their way. They are a sight! They obviously think the same of me, giggling, pointing, making loud remarks I can't understand. I ask can I take their picture and they love it, laughing their heads off, they are not used to cameras or foreign ladies.
Ntokoze translates - they want a drink. Beer or whisky. One of them spits on the floor when I suggest Fanta, oh dear, what now? I compromise and get them a big bottle of beer to share. But the woman who grabs it won't part with it and it ends up in a fight and me wishing I hadn't given in.
Meanwhile my boys have bought soft drinks and fresh Xhosa bread, passing me some, and I never knew plain bread could be so good. No alcohol? Not when we are hiking, says Terron seriously, while rolling the umpteenth joint of the day. When in Rome......

We still have a fair way to go and the weather has taken a turn, the wind is ferocious. High up it is almost impossible to stay standing and the very breath is knocked out of you.
When I ask: 'How far yet?' the answer is always the same: 'Almost there now.' People say the Xhosa will tell you what they think you want to hear. Well, I supposed it worked because if I had known we still had miles to go I might have lost my pluck. But what if I had a heart attack or simply sprained an ankle? I decide not to look up any more but just put one foot in front of the other and think about sitting around the fire tonight, making light of this little endeavour.
Anyway, we do, finally, reach Hluleka, where we will be spending the night. Sitting regally in the back of a pick-up truck we enter the little town. On the road to the village the driver took pity on us - lucky, lucky!

My abode is humble, nothing more than a mattress on the floor of a mud hut. Kind of ascetic though, I liked it.
Ntokoze is busying himself with food, bought in abundance 'so we'll have some for tomorrow' he explained gruffly as he asked for money. 'That'll be a lot of extra weight to carry' I thought, but I needn't have worried. That night we had the best meal I ever had in South Africa, beautifully cooked, as his grandma taught him. And when I say 'we' I don't mean just these 2 guys and myself, but anyone else who cared to join in. And they cared. It was a heart-warming experience to see how all was shared without reserve or distinction. Touched I went to thank my guide. He shrugged his shoulders and said: 'That's what we do in our culture, we share what we have.' 
I was duly impressed and thought: 'Maybe there's a lesson to be learnt here.'
Later it dawned on me that I was the one who actually paid for the food :)

                                              .......to be continued

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Comments

Rui on

You are the most incredible chameleon that I know: you can live and be happy in England, France, Holland or Africa, and always with a smile!
What made you so strong and loving?
Also your texts remind me of Hemmingway, as with his books I did live the moment when I read your texts!
Thank you for sharing your adventures and photos on your blog!

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