A touch of bulungula

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

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Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Bulungula story is short and sweet. I'll spare you the details of yet another extraordinary journey - I got there.
Ah, what can I say? One of the loveliest places I've been to. Like a child's colouring book; round green hills, cozy mud huts, bright washing dancing on a line, horses and oxen roaming freely, children waving at you. No traffic to mention. Everything seems to breathe peace and tranquillity. Almost at the end of my trip, and I find this exotic treasure: a place to relax and simply enjoy.

And I did. Horse riding, a Xhosa body massage, walks on the beach, where a whale had washed up and lay there decaying. Terrible smell but amazing to see how it melted over the stones and rocks, massive vertebrae protruding from the rotting flesh. In Europe the biologists and researchers would have long pounced on it, hauled it off the beach to dissect and investigate.
Here it lies like a temporary monument, a place to stand still for a moment and wonder at the magnificence of these sea creatures.

The backpacker's lodge is partly owned by the Xhosa community and it is absolutely wonderful. Colourfully decorated with happy-hippy paintings and mosaics, well, look at the photos, though they don't do them justice, you will get an impression.
The shower is an amusing contraption; you first get a little tub of paraffin, pour it into a small tea pot and trickle it over some toilet paper. Then you stuff that up the big metal pipe in the shower, use the flint to light it and when it starts shaking and making rude noises, you turn on the water that passes the now hot pipe and you have some minutes of nice warm showering.
Of course I went to the 'famous' regional restaurant, a mere clay hut out in the wilds. Just me and my horse man and we sat in the very basic kitchen, patiently watching while a well-practised procedure was performed in silence, resulting in delicious sweet and savoury pancakes.
There is lots more to do, nature walks, village tours, kayaking or you can spend time with the village women, paint your face with clay, learn about traditional cooking, the medicinal herbs. All very small projects, for the benefit of the villagers.
The women who work at the lodge are lively and interested. I must taste their food, try on their head wear, cleverly folded bits of cloth, and they clap their hands to show their pleasure. So even though we don't speak each other's language, we manage to communicate, pointing, laughing, shaking heads, and touching.

Bulungula is selected by the Rough Guide as one of the world's Ultimate Ethical Travel Experiences, what ever that may mean. 'An award winning eco-friendly paradise,' according to the Alternative Route, 'where you can challenge your beliefs.'  Well, I don't know about that, but the word paradise is not far off the mark. For all this praise you would think it is flooded with tourists, but it isn't, not now, not ever, I am told. .
Very much worth a visit and I'm sure the community could do with the income - though isn't that a paradoxical wish, for at the same time you hope the place will never change; .

Very sad to leave Bulungula and the Wild Coast but I must get back to East London, to wrap up some things there and make my way home. But not before visiting Grahams Town.
I have been invited to stay there with John and Kary, people I know through Travelpod, but have not actually met.

I have no idea what I shall find there, so I shall just let it surprise me - fingers crossed :)

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jockmcconn on

K-A, as you know, I've read many blogs of different travellers' experiences in South Africa and as a South African it seems to me that most tourists who visit these parts, judging from their blogs anyway, don't allow themselves to experience what this country is all about. They stick to well-worn routes, hardly interacting with local people and only getting the most superficial of experiences before moving on to other equally superficial experiences. They don't come close to getting under this place's skin as you have done.

katherine-anne on

thank you for saying that john - different strokes, i guess :)
but your country has a hold on me and i just feel my way around, starry-eyed and stumbling, embracing whatever i bump into. i believe some people call that plain stupid tho :)

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