Thursday, 26 May 2011

Cloudy Dragon

So the last time I blogged was in Durban.. hello from Knysna! The rain appears to have followed us for the last couple of days but yesterday, I was surrounded by cats in front of a toasty fire in Wild Spirit Lodge at the Crags, which overlooked Lord of the Rings style misty mountains and forests. Rain may have been dripping from the colourful bunting, but I was pretty happy. There was Angus from Durban with his wild black hair and beard, flowers embroidered on the seat of his parka and he wore wellington boots. There was Peter, who was 91 and spent most of his time by the fire, he was originally from Cambridge and was stationed in Warwick for a while when he was in the army. The lodge was built by Germans in 1942 and he bought it in 1980 and his daughter runs it now. There was Warren, who didn't speak very much, but took us for a waterfall walk in the afternoon. Then there was a woman who was very much into her sacred fires, chakras, and eternal flames. She looked very skeptical when we were talking about how the universe was expanding.

'…but surely it's not physically expanding, I mean, it's not linear.'

She gave Lizzie and I stones to hold, and said they hold answers to our questions, they have been around for such a long time and know so much. Each line holds a story. I was a bit puzzled as mine was clearly cut and polished. It was mostly clear with a purple heart, and sharpened to a rough point, amethyst perhaps. To Lizzie's horror, the stone slipped out of my hand as I turned it a few times, quite by accident. Luckily the lady was away at the time so she wasn't offended.

We had a lovely meal of baked hake (fresh from the sea), potatoes in a creamy sauce, baked veggies and Chinese leaf from the garden. There were four of us from the Baz Bus, Angus  said he normally remember the first letter of people's names, so when it came out as 'Lucia, Lizzie, Laura and Larry' he just called us L1, L2, L3 and L4. Then there were two others, Michael and Barbara, son and mum pair travelling from Canada. It was really homely, and we had a nice evening chatting over good food, with cats on our laps. There was also baby Bungie, who ran laughing through the muddy puddle when Jenny and I when to see the horses in the stables earlier in the afternoon. She was the daughter of the African lady who helps around the place, Peter said the lady was very kind and looked after his wife until she died last year.

The beds were comfortable and the dorm was very nice, there's a sign saying that there are resident bats in the rafters though I couldn't find any. Later I was told there aren't any around this time as it's so cold. Laura was pretty glad about this. They once had a Swiss couple that 'liberated' 19 chicks from where they were sold, and left them in the lodge, as you do. So there were chickens pecking around the place, being chased by dogs. There was mummy cat, a beautiful pale sandy creature, then the ginger boys from her first litter, Bangle and something else I can't remember now, then three from her second litter, Nutmeg, Gingersnap and my favourite, Aslan. Aslan was the fluffiest.

I played with the cats and dogs whilst we were waiting for the Baz Bus, Lizzie and Laura went for a walk but I just lost track of time because I was having so much fun with the animals. We said our goodbyes, and signed the guestbook (I drew a snowflake obsidian elephant with my note, who was a bit drunk today), Angus waved and Peter blew us a kiss as the bus drove off, we all felt pretty sad to leave.

Knysna is quite unlike anywhere we've been to so far, the photos I took of the waterfront could have been from a number of places, but there are interesting shops around there and a promising-looking oyster bar. Not that I like raw oysters but they're pretty local around here. They are closed from 4pm onwards, so we'll try it tomorrow, there's 1kg of prawns on the menu for R140 which I'm looking forward to.

After Durban, we went onto Coffee Shack at Coffee Bay. We left that day at 6.30am and didn't get there until 4.30pm, we drove to the free sundower right after we arrived at the hostel before the full moon party. The moon was unbelievable. Imagine a piece of black card with a perfect round hole cut into it, and behind this hole, there was a very bright, white light.  So bright that it almost doesn't look like the moon at all, until you look closer and see the shadows across her face. This black 'card' is scattered with white stars, some of them shooting, and clouds that lit up with lightning. The waves crested silver with moonlight and crashed softly onto the shore. It was beautiful. I walked to the very edge of the water and watched for a while.

The big five of the Transkei, home to the Xhosa people, are as follows: goats, cows, horse, pigs and sheep. The language has three types of clicks, which are difficult for me to demonstrate, and people live in rondavels made from mud and cow dung bricks. The round shape to better distribute the weight, most of them are painted green as this is the cheapest paint, and the rubber tire on the top of the rondavel holds the thatching together. The shells and plants in the tire are decorative. Pay the brick layer R800 for a house.10 cows is the going rate for a wife.

On the first day, we went for a hike that took us to 'The Place of Pumpkins', everyone is referred to as brothers, sisters or mommas. Mthatha meant to 'to take', the town was named after the river, where the dead used to be taken. I jumped off a cliff to hit choppy water 8m below, as crazy as it sounds really, the scary bit was waves crashing over my head after I surfaced.    I struggled to get back to the rocks with the current and when Joseph dragged me up, I scratched my knees on barnacles and it looked pretty bad. Catherine was jumping after me and had to wait for a while after I got a bit swept away. Lizzie's mum would be glad to know that she didn't jump, probably sensible. I went first because I couldn't bear to hear anyone else scream, haha, not that I had long to think about what I did when I jumped. I was told that 'there's a big rock over there, so don't jump over there, but aim for the rock that way'. We had cheese toasties for lunch by the 'Toastie King'. All that was for R60, which is amazing.

The second day, we tried surfing, I spend most of my time face planted in the water but the one time when I stood on my board all the way to the shore was glorious. The third day, we went to Hole in the Wall, which Lizzie was quite excited about because of her surname. It was a cool rock formation with well, a hole worn through it by the waves. We swam there in front of the hole before committing ourselves to quite a strenuous 3hrs hike, where Johnny Walker the guide kept telling us that there was just one more hill. We went to a village in the evening for a bit of culture, the girls sat on grass mats and the boys got chairs, the rondavel was surprising warm and the floor was cleaned earlier with cow dung. We watched  dancing, and then to my horror, I was dragged to my feet by Johnny and made to dance in front of everyone. I worn a turban and an apron, and looked like an ambassador apparently, and it was generally embarrassing. It was in front of all our group, and there was a Belgium woman, a German girl called Bella and I. There was local beer, that girls had to kneel before drinking, and then lots of food. Maize pap, cabbage and more but it was dark and kinda hard to tell what you were eating. It was very nice, but a lot of it. The women and the children loved having their photos taken, the Belgium woman kept taking them, but the locals went up to everyone to ask them for photos. Then there was question time after the meal, where we asked them questions and they asked us about where we came from, who is looking after our parents when we are away, and how one of them had a son and whether the girl in the front row would marry him. Logistics of sending a huge box of biltong? Met some interesting people in Coffee Bay, including Todd the pilot from New York, Reuben and Vince from Holland. Reuben was into packaging and hockey, Vince mostly teased me for dancing the whole evening. As Lizzie said, they danced with their hips and bums, and I danced with my knees and elbows.

Johnny asked 'what do you guys call the cloudy dragon?' We told him that we call it the 'Milky Way'. The stars were absolutely stunning. We pretty much just chilled in Cintsa by the beach, did some body-boarding and went to the Barefoot Cafe. There was Steve the carpenter who worked there, reminded us of Bernard from Black Books. Think I've run out of things to say now, I'm typing this from Laura's mac, going to get some net time now to blog it. Phew, finally caught up.

Oh, the night following the village, I was again ambushed and had to dance in front of people in the bar to African drumming. No more dancing for some time.

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