Monday, September 08, 2014

SA TRIP - Durban, the Drakensberg and Lesotho

So once arriving in Durban we ditched the huge roadtrip van and went our separate ways for a few days. Liz, Paul and Becca did some couchsurfing with an Indian family and I met up with my old digsmates for one of their birthdays and spent a few days reminiscing before joining them in the Drakensberg.
So in Uni I lived with the most awesome 7 people that I had met in Res/Hostel (Nemesia). One of their birthdays happened to fall over the time I was home and was going to be in Durban so we decided to have a little reunion and celebrate little Glovers birthday. Out of the 8 of us, 3 of us now live in Johannesburg, 2 in Cape Town, 2 in Durban and then me in Vietnam.
We managed to get 6 of us together in the same place for the birthday weekend which was a huge success!
I stayed with Emma and Glover for a few days since I arrived in Durban earlier and then we met up with Lool, Jess and Mia on the weekend who had flown in from JHB. We spent the first night catching up and talking a LOT of crap about not too much.. as we do.
The next day we went off to a local market which had some great food and craft beers, it was a really stunning day and just being back with the crew felt so great! That night we spent celebrating and talking about everything we'd all missed out on the past year or so, catching up with old friends like you have never left may be my favorite part of coming home. I know that no matter what, they will always be there and no matter how much time goes by our friendship will always be as hilarious, ridiculous and special as it was back in University.
Here are some pics of these crazy kids.

Back together again :)

The following day I took the BAZ BUS out to the Drakensberg. For those of you that don't know what the baz bus is, its a shuttle bus that picks up and drops off on a route from Cape Town to Durban to Johannesburg. It makes multiple stops along the way and all of the stops are at hostels so its a completely backpacker friendly bus and if you don't have a car its a great alternative, However it doesn't pick up everyday, sometimes every 2nd or 3rd day, so you have to have quite a flexible schedule,

In the Drakensberg we stayed at a hostel called Amphitheatre Backpackers. It was really beautiful and in a great location IF(and this is a very big if) you have your own car. If you don't have your own car you are left to take the tours they offer at the backpackers to see and explore the surrounding mountains, which at about R500($50) a trip is in my opinion ridiculously overpriced. Also, there are facilities you can use to make food and cook for yourself but there is no grocery store nearby and you have to pay for a shuttle to take you to one. This leaves you with the option of eating at the backpackers which would normally be fine except for that the dinner menu was a 3 course meal of which you only had a meat or vegetarian option and the chef was 5* which I am completely not complaining about, the food was delicious!! BUT as a backpackers it turned out to be a VERY expensive trip and as far as I am concerned should not really be advertised as a hostel but more of a self catering B&B.
The room prices were reasonable though and I stayed in a tent on an amazing open grass field which was fantastic and had panoramic views of the mountains.
Besides for the price, this place was really great and I would recommend it to anyone, they should just advertise it for what it is. For example we were told we could get everything we needed there but not told that we had to pay a R100 shuttle to and from the store because if we had known this we could have come prepared with the things we needed.
For more information on this backpackers click here.

Beautiful sunrise from my tent

The hostel had a great pool

The view from my tent :)

My little baby tent, he served me well.

I did end up paying for one tour, the tour into Lesotho because I thought the price for that was ok since we were technically entering another country and had to go through border control and they told us that part of the price goes to the school they built in Lesotho. Also, I have always wanted to see it so I thought I should suck it up and pay for it.
The landscape in Lesotho was beautiful, it was so untouched and unspoiled. It is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1000m elevation. Its lowest point (1400m) is the highest in the world. It was a lot colder in Lesotho as its so high up and you could really feel the difference in altitude when walking up the mountains. Our guide took us on a hike up one of the mountains to an old rock painting and gave us a short speech on the history of Lesotho which I found very interesting! Seeing as though South Africa completely surrounds this country you would think we would know a little more about it but the information he was giving us was completely new to me!
Before going there I had never known that it had the highest, lowest point in the world, nor that it was the poorest country in the world. Its very hard for the Sotho to obtain a passport to get out of the country and find work and that's why people are trying to get more schools and education into the country to give its people a fighting chance. Its a sad history and one I hope becomes brighter in the future. We were taken to the house of a local sangoma(healer) and he taught us a little about the work that he does with plants and herbs he can grow in Lesotho since its so hard to get Western medicine and a doctor visits the capital maybe once a month so he can't possibly see everyone that needs him. There is a lot of superstition in his work and many people see it a little like witchcraft but he does have results and can cure a lot of common ailments.
We also had the chance to sample some home brewed rice beer and it tastes a lot like something we had in Korea called Makkoli. I liked it but many of the other people on the trip did not. They also have a beer brewed and bottled in Lesotho which is fantastic but made on a small scale so its not exported. But I think that if they could brew it on a larger scale and export it they could make some serious money out of it.
The locals wear blankets around themselves as their traditional clothes and it seems to have come from when the British still had control over Lesotho and their tribe leader asked the queen for supplies to keep his people warm so she sent many blankets and since then its kind of stuck as their traditional clothes even though there are now jackets and other such things available. I envied them of their blankets because we all didn't realize how cold it would be up there and mostly all under-dressed!
We also visited a local school that the backpackers we stayed at helped to build and fund and had the chance to interact with the kids. They were so adorable and it opens your eyes to see how they make do with what they have and how they can still get an education without textbooks and hardly any desks or chairs. These children are SO eager to learn as they realize without an education they cannot get out of the situation they are in and here we are complaining about how our parents are forcing us to go to school everyday and how our bags are so heavy from all the textbooks and stationary we have been given. It really makes you realize how much you have and how great full you should be for it!

She was telling us she was 7 years old 


They were so excited to get their photo taken and then be able to see it right away on the screen of my camera.

After the Lesotho trip we had a day or two of relaxing and lounging around when we met an American guy who had been living in Botswana for the past few years. he was taking a day trip to Clarens and asked us if we wanted to join, so we all piled into his landrover type car for a day trip. Clarens is a really quaint little town with great views of the surrounding mountains and a fine selection of restaurants. We did some walking around followed by a beer tasting and dinner before heading back to the hostel.

Amazing views while driving
Again South Africa ceased to amaze me.
Next up is the final installment of our trip, watch this space.