Purple Trees

Trip Start Sep 10, 2008
Trip End Sep 03, 2009

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Where I stayed
The Coffee Shack

Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Travelling on the Garden Route, you could be forgiven if you occasionally forgot you were in Africa. In case I had been in any doubt as I headed into the Eastern Cape, I was definately reminded of where I was.

The almost sterile, Westernised towns and cities that are surrounded by the shacks of the slums were replaced by the mud and brick huts in the Transkei. Round or rectangular, most were painted green or peach with a patch left bare, always facing the same direction. I later discovered that this is because the weather nearly always comes in from the same direction, and they leave the bare patch so they don't have to keep repainting their houses. (It also looks pretty cool!).

Travelling over rolling rugged hills the road occasionally bursts into towns full of life. This is traditional South Africa. People are everywhere, at first it seems chaotic. Women walk in all directions carrying loads of rice, potatoes, anything and everything on their heads. Minibus taxis pull into and out of the road, rooves loaded full of loose shopping and bric a brac. Somehow the bus manages to continue on its way through the slow-paced chaos. Past people sitting, standing, walking and chatting. No one is in a hurry, and as such there is a strange sense of calm amongst the busyness. Just another day in the town. Vividly purple trees shine like beacons amongst the vegetation. Then just as suddenly as it started, it all disappears, back into the winding hills.

An image sticks in my mind of two children sat in a wheelbarrow in the middle of the field, watching the passing traffic. I saw this on a few occasions. A minbus sits on the outskirts of a sparse village. The roof that had been burnt away from fires lit inside the vehicle for warmth was replaced with hundreds of tiny scraps of plastic, forming a jigsaw that doesn't fit.

This is where Nelson Mandela grew up, and where he has a residence. We passed his house (where Ground Force came to do up his garden a few years ago.) In some of the villages, next to every square shaped house, a round house sits.  The round house is used for special occasions, births, celebrations, marrige, death etc, at all these times the villagers pray to their ancestors. The shape of the houses means that there are no corners for the evil spirits to hide in. For the same reason, Xhosa people raise their beds on bricks, high off the floor. They believe in an evil entity called a Tokoloshe, but he is short and so by doing this they protect themselves from him.

People here are poor, but know a happiness that we will never have. Surviving off farm land, cattle and craft they earn their keep the hard way. Educated folks move into the city and if they make any money, the send some home.

The horses, cattle and goats that feed on the grassy banks wonder into the road as cars race past. Somehow, none of them are hit.

Once I arrived at coffee bay, I met a great group of people. We spent a day on the beach surfing and watching the random cow wondering about. We also went on a hike around the area through remote villages of just a few houses each. It was a challenging hike with a lot of steep uphill, and very steep downhill, and involving almost rock climbing in parts. Most of us fell over at least once. The views made it worthwhile though. We walked into some smelly bat caves, but didn't really see any bats.
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