The Defence of Rourkes Drift, the wire/bead business and shopping

Tuesday 30th

It was the final day, both for us and those involved in the battle of Isandwlana.
The 0830 breakfast was again appreciated as, while being more than rewarding, the three weeks of early starts was being felt and before long we were on our way to Rorke’s Drift. Rorke’s Drift is the location in Natal that the British Army were using as a permanent base and so the first to be attacked after the defeat at Isladwhana. Reggie immediately transported us back to the January night of 1879 and around us buildings that were since erected dissolved leaving only the buildings defended by the British and the history in their foundations.
Even the two buildings on which we focused showed us the true nature of SA. In the past it has been inhabited by Dutch and Germans, both of whom formed amiable relations with the Zulu tribes before the site was commandeered by the British. This is typical throughout what we have seen of the country as not one but many differing peoples have shaped its history.
During the next hour or so we followed Reggie around the site as battle cries filled the air and the ground became soaked with blood while the 110 remaining, isolated soldiers fought for their lives. He described the noise and fever of battle as each room fell to the advancing Zulus. 11 Victoria crosses were won that night while only a handful of Britains died and we heard each story. The battle was won and we were awestruck with the events. The ramifications of the battle stretched further still, it strengthened the resolve of the British invasion of Zululand, but more significantly, the different groups in the local community have come together to commemorate their shared past.
The afternoon was highly anticipated as we had been promised a shopping trip, and the first stop was not far. We visited a small farm where the owners had set up a business which was uplifting the whole community. They gave the local men and women the chance to  earn a income making bead and wire decorations. We were amazed by the many different designs which brought traditional skills and patterns to the modern market with the products being shipped as far as China and the USA. The enterprise allowed families to work when they could, balancing production with other commitments within the community. The owners worked hard, the business taking time and money to set up, and the workers sometimes vanishing for weeks at a time, but their work has greatly benefitted the area.
We then went on to the sprawling urban scene of Dundee, where the shops ranged from Chinese markets to salons to a Spar, where everything from chocolate to knives could be bought provided you are able to cross the hectic highways.
Back at camp the evening was winding up with our final braai of the trip. Having feasted ourselves on the “traditional”  food of the nation a round of fireball  hockey was certainly in order.
The eventful game concluded (once the fires were extinguished) a brilliant final day to what has been an incredible and thought-provoking trip.
Magnus

Isandlwana Battlefield and walk

The longest lie inn of the trip, a half 8 breakfast luxury for some.The day started with another story from Reggie finding out about the Zulu culture was fascinating. A half an hour drive down to our first stop,  where Chief Sikhayo’s story came to life creating the scene for what was a sunny day. We were introduced to the Zulu culture including their thoughts of wizards death.  The second stop ‘the heights’ showed us fascinating views over the battlefield. At 4,300 meters we could locate the main areas of where the war had broken out and where specific skirmishes occurred.  It’s fascinating to see the village from a high distance, being able to imagine and identify areas, but also learning visually makes you appreciate Isandlwhana for what it is.
After a short visit to the Isandlwhana museum and a cheeky shopping spot, before heading into the Isandlwhana battlefield, seeing the land upon which the war began and ended. Reggie headed us up half way of Isandlwhana, to white rocks which represented deaths along the way showing different stages of the battle. Reflecting and describing the stages of the battle, between the British Army and Zulu Army. Due to the British ultimatum to demand the Zulu king to disband their army or British will start war. The war began on the 22nd January 1879, and within 24 hours the British would be defeated. Reggie described the main events including the strategies of both armies and how they had completely different defence and attack methods. As we listened, the battle came alive on the ground below. Play by play the men fought their timeless war and the significance of each motion became apparent and as we learnt more, it also dawned on us the battle’s effect on the country’s subsequent future as well as the effect on the British Empire as a whole.
After a interesting talk, it was time to climb the Isandlwhana, which I had been eyeing up for a climbing session. The walk was a steady climb, ending with a small scramble to the top where the views were stunning, being able to see for miles somewhere I could let the world go by.  A group photo was taken before a decent started, although we had a few people scared of heights the scramble down the ‘chimney’, was a challenge although they passed their fears.
The time had come to say bye to the minibus, to start our walking phase across Fugitive’s Drift, adding time to see more views across the valleys. Crossing the ‘batshy’ stream before a gradual climb over the hill to down to ‘ The Mighty Roaring Buffalo River’, where we cooled down our feet across to lunch.
A filling lunch strengthened us up for the final steep climb up to the monument. It was fascinating to see where the last two British solders trying to save the regiment colours died. You can see how respected the war battlefields, graves and areas nearby are by both the locals and the descendants of those who fought. Seeing a family of giraffes and zebras across the view on the way back to camp finished the day off perfectly.
Another amazing day of indescribable moments and views, although we might only have one more day in this amazing country, there’s always something new and surprising to see, TIA (This Is Africa)!
Gemma

Travel to Elandsheim, history talk and fireball hockey – Sunday 28th

After finishing up our trip on the Pongola river, we began our journey to Elandsheim. Five hours later, having climbed several feet in to the mountainous landscapes we arrived to find our accomodation was even better than the last. Two storey cabins were definitely not expected; with the beautiful scenery and serenity of the site, it really is a great place to finish up our final days in South Africa.
We began our time here with a good old English cup of tea from Reggie and a  lesson  as to the history of South Africa, providing us with the introductory knowledge to assist our site-seeing tomorrow. After filling ourselves up on a lovely meal, we were ready for the famous expedition game of fireball hockey. Splitting ourselves in to teams, and a quick on the spot risk assessment from Reggie we began our game. It is extremely ironic we cannot snorkel, however a hockey ball soaked in fuel seems to be acceptable, guess Health and Safety doesn’t cover Reggie’s hobbies! After a very short, but very excitable game we ended for the evening, looking forward to the days ahead.

Pongola Kayak Trip

Pongola Kayak Trip - Friday 26th

After bidding a final farewell to Amangwane we visited the school to handover the finished classroom. We assembled in the hall and were presented with the entire school crammed into the room. What happened next will stay in our minds forever. The children sang and danced filling the small hall with an energy which showed the spirit of the community. The Grade R’s presented their songs and dances in both languages, poems and rhymes in English were read by the Grade 3′s.

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Then, to a cascade of claps and shouts, in came two lines of dancers in a bright orange get-ups performing traditional songs and dances. Again the noise and energy from the chants and stamps reverberated around the room and left us all in awe.

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After more songs and dances from the students we met the Grade R’s to whom the revamped room was being left and departed to a chorus of “sala gachle’s”

Upon arriving at the Pongola we drove to the riverbank where 8 two-man canoes were waiting. We paired up and took to the water where we immediately were faced with the challenge of paddling upstream towards the towering dam. Walking with canoe in toe definitely proved most effective.

The going was much easier (or at least with fewer capsizes) until we came upon the death-defying, 3ft drop which formed the weir we needed to pass. Shrill, high pitched screams rang out in the gorge as Jared went over the edge (the rest of us took it in our stride)  but once we had passed that mountainous challenge the following rapids and currents caused little hesitation.

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We arrived in our own little camp, situated in roughly the centre of nowhere, and promptly set about bathing and mud fighting, all the while on the lookout for hungry crocs.
As the darkness closed in we cast rods out into the river and now 40 minutes later we are hoping for more than seaweed for dinner and sat around the campfire while the sounds of millions of insects fill the air.

STOP PRESS-1816: Finished writing the blog and went to practice casting with the spinner. Was told that the spinner wouldn’t work at night but reeled in to find a sharp-toothed catfish on the line.

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Too small to eat but still an achievement.

Magnus

Kosi Bay Ecological Education

Thursday 25th

Last night Katy made a big mistake… She told us she and tommy were going to see the sunrise at the beach this morning. To her disappointment all nine of us were up at 5.45 to join them (instead of lying in until they got back) so her peaceful morning on the beach was ruined. Tommy power-walked us to the coast 3.5km from camp, we made it in under half an hour and surprisingly it was worth the rush to get there just as the sun was beginning to peer through the clouds on the horizon. Eventually we all braved an early morning dip which turned out to be amazing and well worth it. The quiet paradise at the mouth of the estuary meant we all thought we were in some kind of movie (well they will be if my head cam recorded it all). We power walked back for breakfast, only stopping briefly to look at the ruins of the old villages and school.

Fed and watered we headed back to the beach.  The tide was still going out and in the 3 hour gap between leaving and returning to the beach it looked completely different, so much water had gone that there were little islands dotted around in the estuary mouth.  Tommy demonstrated how strong the currents leading out of the estuary by standing in the water and looking like he was about to be swept away. Whilst we paddled in the calmer waters we found all sorts of organisms from blue bottle jelly fish to sea urchins (although we only found the sea urchin because it was attached to Will (scarlet)).

Before lunch we headed over to the fish traps. Tommy taught us about how they are built and the way they ‘accidentally’ practice conservation. The traps are designed to allow small, juvenile fish through but trap the large fish. The fish are trapped in a small, high walled part of the trap where they are the speared, in our case by Jared. 

This evening we were treated to a braai by Tommy as it’s his last proper night with us and our last night at Kosi. As it is his birthday soon we have given him a card featuring the Mega four. To say thank you we had also pitched in to get a bottle of wine and his favourite tequila. 

Successful day with an interesting evening, the details of which I cannot tell you. 

Susan 

Day 4 of school project and day 3 of teaching in rural school

Today started off like the others, a cold morning but soon to warm up. I was rather nervous when we went to the school, however after we saw them sing in the morning and disperse into their classrooms I was very emotional but also my nerves had faded.

Susan was soon dragged off to teach maths leaving Sophie and I behind. Shortly after Sophie left to meet her English teacher and I met the technology teacher. Sophie and I spent and spent the next hour prepping for our first lessons.

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Teaching English

When I first walked into the classroom there were so many eyes just looking right through me, however when I was introduced I soon started to teach and got into the flow. Teaching these kids what such an amazing realisation, as before my eyes were closed to teaching. When the kids started to understand me it felt like such an achievement, not for me but for the fact I was able to help them understand more of their syllabus and open their eyes to more topics. Seeing them smile and laugh during the lesson was also a tremendous feeling and satisfying. I can honestly say today has been touching to the heart.

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Teaching math

As for the project everyone was working so hard to get the job finished and looking stunning, that’s just how it came out!

IMG_0378With everybody in the building, we finished off cleaning the floor and finished painting the animals inside to add our nice touch.

After the building was finished with the equipment packed up we put on our war paint and headed over to the football pitch where we stretched out ready to play the amazing south African school team! With blood sweat and tears an hour past, a goal here and a goal there, barefoot running sprinting panting!

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However in the end England reigned victorious with a 3-1 win! As well as that the girls also won in their netball team with a 7-4 win!
HOORAAH! Tonight we drink in victory!

I also have to try carving another few monkey apples.
Goodnight England don’t let the rain spiders bite!

Will P

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Teaching At The School And Visiting A Student At Home

Today was another early start on our amazing adventure across South Africa. Today I was part of the first group that were going to assist with the teaching of the children at the school we cleaned yesterday. Me, Jen and Kayleigh had to go a bit earlier than the others in order to meet the teachers. We got to the gates and I was already nervous it was like starting your first day at school again as stupid as that sounds but I was going to be meeting a lot of new children and felt the butterflies in my stomach turning already.

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A little bit nervous is perhaps an underestimation…

Once we met the teachers it was at this point that I learnt that we were actually going to be teaching the children which practically sent me into overdrive as I had never taught science and Maths to kids before and really didn’t want to make a bad impact on their education.

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Ms Chabo

The first lesson I was going to teach was physics and, in specific electricity and circuits. I didn’t realise how hard teaching especially of physics is (hat’s off to Julian you legendary physics teacher) this was mainly because most of physics is actually visualising your mind things you can’t see and so it is hard to convey this message to younger people. It did not help sometimes when they would look at me blankly mainly because I spoke to quick for them as English was probably their 2nd or 3rd language. It felt amazing though when they actually got the questions I set them right and was probably one of the most satisfying feelings that I have ever had.

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Meeting Julian the Physics teacher

I think the sink or swim metaphor definitely came into play this morning especially when you prepare a lesson 10 minutes before its about to start. I then went on to teach more physics and Maths for the rest of the day. At the end though it made me realise how lucky I am to have been born where I was as most of the children here at roughly 4-5 years behind us in their educational knowledge and when it came to IT even the teachers were asking for our assistance mainly because we use technology on a 24/7 basis.

After school we went back to the homestead home of a girl from grade 6 who was age 13.

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Telling Tommy, Katy and Lacey about the homestead visit

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Still smiling from the homestead visit

We got speaking to her uncle (who spoke very good English)and it was privilege to be in their company and to hear more about the lifestyle of the people that live in kosi bay and the daily challenges they come across which we take for granted such as food and fresh water. It puts your whole life in perspective when you see someone who is as happy or even happier than you with the simplest way of living life. It also make you question some of your own ideologies when you learn about the politics, education and health care system that they are more than happy with even when it is very simple and they have to pay for when we get it pretty much for free in comparison.

Jordan

Kosi Bay Traditional Tsonga Homestead Visit

During my time at school I did an exchange project with a school in Poland, we visited their school for a week, like south Africa was moving. During my time there we learnt how they live life there, we learnt heavily about their religion and country and it’s history.

Visiting the homestead has blown that out the water, I’ve never been the history or religious type of person, but seeing stuff like this really interest’s me!

It was an honour to be welcomed into someone’s community, were they work, sleep, eat and so on, they  explained to us how it works, how their every day life works, how they do there jobs. Listening to the story’s were been told, imagining the story in your head, imagining the picture of it happening.

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The hut we entered to learn about the Tsonga people

 

To us it sounds a hard challenges doing that day In day out but to the Tongan it’s a walk in the park, they wouldn’t think twice about it been hard, you compare it to the English walk of life and think to yourself how different they are to us.
Jared

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It was very interesting how fast the palm wine is prepared, as it only takes two-ish days!  Palm wine also has very few ingredients, and in the words of Tommy “we had it from there as its pure, and doesn’t contain battery acid for a stronger kick.”

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Washing our hands before eating

The peanut and butternut leaf dish was actually rather tasty, it had a dull colour of murky green. However don’t let it’s looks deceive you. The creamy dish was smooth on the tongue and excelled in its release of flavour. The texture was also slightly bitty but that made it have that edge that normal dishes in the soup department don’t have. I think the best face was shown by Katie as when she saw it, it was a questioning face that she displayed, however even she was pleasantly surprised.

Finally the monkey apple jam was rather bitter, this was mainly due to the fact that no sugar had yet been added to the jam.

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Not to everyones taste!

The texture was rather bitty but that’s just because it’s the way it is, (maybe we could donate a sieve) overall it was a very pleasant experience and I wish I could see and taste the jam when it’s finished. Might just have to come back for it!

Will

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At the homestead I was pleased to see the traditional hut building along side the more modern house. It made the Novel ‘Things fall apart’ by Chinua Achebe  come to life in the sense that I finally tasted palm wine in the man of the house’s hut which is mentioned endlessly in the book.  The  drink itself tasted very yeasty and a bit salty it also had quite a kick to it, I didn’t drink much. Coming from a school that is all about empowering women it was very different being considered a second class citizen where women were served a separate, smaller jar of the wine (not to mention being made to sit on the floor rather than the benches, the latter being for men) but both of these became blessings in disguise when the smaller jar was still a bit too much for us women  and there were quite a few spiders in the low roof of the hut which were increasingly decending towards the boy’s heads. The women of the family then brought us a interesting looking concoction of butternut squash leaf with peanuts, despite its looks it was delicious.

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Making the palm wine

This was followed with the women (again!) demonstrating how they make the palm wine. They tend to make it a day or two before they wish to drink it as it cannot be stored and continues to ferment until it is served. Given the warm climate (to us at least! The locals were walking around in jumpers and coats) it ferments very quickly and is what gives it such a kick.
Continuing to follow the process backwards we went to look at the palm they were currently harvesting. Given the plant grows to around 2m in height to harvest it has to be cut back to less than a metre high.

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Cutting the palm stem to harvest the sap

Very little sap was extracted at a time and the stem of the plant had to be cut at regular intervals throughout the day.
Overall I enjoyed the cultural experience.

Susan

Wilderness Trail Day 1

The camp is a small and comfortable lodge, surrounded by a single fence. Inside is the  main building which reminds me of an old cabin, a simple building which serves its purpose.

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The premises is full of vibrant and colourful plants, and an amazing open toilet, by open I mean it’s literally a toilet with three sides… Man when having a no.2 it gets breezy!

The view from the toilet

The view from the toilet

The shower is next to it and is warmed by paraffin. Over all the camp has everything we need, complete with a watch tower which I will be using tonight at 10.30-1am.

The afternoon bush walk was taken by two new guides, Tommy took the afternoon off and cooked tea for when we got back… Nothing like warm food after a long wet walk. The warm chicken stew [potjie - pronounced poy-key] made me feel like I was in france sitting in a gourmet restaurant.

The walk started off fairly wet but it was still a road rather than path, as the walk developed the road disappeared and thickness of the mud developed, which in turn stuck more and more to our shoes. Hopefully the weather will be a lot dryer tomorrow.

During the walk we found the tracks of a black rhino! That built up hopes as we followed them for the next 20 minutes or so, however we never did see any :( in total we saw wildebeast, a dead monkey ( poor ill dude), guineafowl , warthog, and impala.

Half way though the walk we were all given a nice taste challenge, Zee (one of the guides) picked off lots of leaves off one particular tree. The leave tasted salty bitter and sour, not the best thing I’ve ever had… Anyway the plant was called elephant pudding and to be honest I think I’ll leave it all to the elephants, wouldn’t want to steal their pudding!

Over all the walk was long and tiresome but definitely worth it. We’re all looking forward to tomorrows walk.

Hope Everyone is having a good time back in England!
Regards Will. :)

Educational Elephant Interaction

Yesterday we encountered elephants from various distances including 10 to 20 meters away, but today we took it to a whole new level!
When I heard elephant interaction I thought “the reserve staff will feed them and give us demonstrations ” we got there, weather still poor so the morale was running a little low, then little Jabulani appeared and put smiles across faces.
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And I was completely wrong about my interpretation of elephant interaction.  We were sat waiting for a short talk about elephants which turned out to be one of the most informative and enjoyable talks I’ve ever heard, the elephant  history and it’s mechanics is mesmerising. But…
Who would think such a large, heavy animal would be able to function how it does, the way it’s body has similarity to ours, how smart some of its bodily functions operate. It looks so ruff and ragged then but it’s not, an elephant is a mammal of many tricks….
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We went to see Rambo in three’s, we’ve seen plenty animals up close and personal but the elephant tops It all. Moments like placing food onto his tongue is one going to be  with  the group for a life time, south Africa is a place that never fails to surprise, the opportunity of a life time that will never come about again.
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Highlight of the day has to Katy being splattered with mud by Rachel :p
Jared