a mini but substantial adventure

July 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm (Uncategorized)

So I set off for Zimbabwe pretty anxious and rather sad because the trip symbolised me getting near the end of my stay in Venda.. It had been Thama’s birthday so everyone was happy and I didn’t want it to end! Anyway, I packed up.. not many things, only one bag to avoid looking like I was a good mugger target.. and set off from work to Makhado where some lovely ladies who were friends of Mupo let me stay overnight at their house. I got a new name here; Lufuno, which means Love! It was a really fun night actually, watching the TV going in and out of signal, and we ate the most amazing fish stew, Daucus had a rock that looked just like ‘Tshidzimba’, a sort of bean/peanut meal.. was quite amazing! At 1am in the morning, they drove me to the place where the Greyhound bus was to pick me up, Daucus gave me a big blanket to wrap around me, it was freezing. They stayed with me until 3, when the bus finally came.. I was so grateful, and they were really fun to be with, it was a good start to my journey.. I got on the bus and they waited and waved til I left.

Great Zimbabwe

The border crossing was fairly uneventful, lots of waiting. I got talking to a guy and girl from Zimbabwe who were very nice, and from that conversation on I realised I had nothing to worry about; they were agreeing with each other how much safer they feel in Zimbabwe than South Africa and were surprised that I have been living in South Africa for so long with no trouble.. we drove on, the landscape became more rocky and full of baobab trees, donkeys and rondavels. I got dropped off in Masvingo 4 hours and one Kevin Kostner film later.

I was the only one being dropped in Masvingo and I walked out the big coach with my one bag whilst everyone was watching me. I felt quite bold. So my instructions were to find directions to the taxi rank and then find a taxi to the place I was staying. I asked in a hotel. Masvingo felt like quite a forgotten place, somewhere that once used to be prosperous maybe but was now just waiting for that prosperousness to come back. There were some old buildings from colonial times, and some new buildings with Chinese shops. I found the taxi place, and lingered only 5 seconds before someone asked me where I needed to go. I sat in the taxi and answered the usual questions, asked a few.. and a guy then took me to buy a sim card from a shop down in the town, which was very helpful. He was going to the same place as me. When we got there (they really pack people in these taxis! 21 people in a 15 person taxi.. nuts) this guy took me round the village (a Mission settlement), showed me his house.. the shop, was very helpful!

So I stayed in the Mission for 2 nights, I went to see the Great Zimbabwe ruins with a guide called Melody, a girl my age and we talked and talked all the way. Great Zimbabwe is a truly beautiful place, a maze of rock walls in between biig rocks. Saw a few monkeys and aloe trees. I met a really nice man there who showed me the area and I had dinner with the descendents of the Mission founders round a lovely big fire and a swivelling table in a house that was mysteriously long. Then early ish morning on the 3rd day I headed out in misty cold weather on what I thought would be a half day journey to Chimanimani.

cave drawing!

Taxi to Masvingo, to catch a taxi to Mutare, we were stopped by the police with guns at least 3 times.. all of us getting out so they can look inside.. the landscape was beautiful, so many baobab trees! At least 4 hours later, and after several nuisance questions by me to the taxi driver asking ‘are we there yet?’, I arrived at the junction of Wengezi. It was HOT and dusty, and there was some sort of hustle and bustle going on around some cars. This was the point that I was mostly stressing about before I came here because I’d been told I need to catch a lift from this place to Chimanimani. But I found that I felt pretty safe so I just sort of wandered around, bought some bread for my avocados until someone asked me where I was going. In the end it was a taxi that took me to Chimanimani. We drove past quite a few people all wearing white and sitting under trees listening to a pastor. We went up and up and up, when we stopped once I wanted just one orange from a lady at the window, but in Zim everything is 1US dollar, or 2, so I had to buy a dollar’s worth of oranges! Turned out to be a good idea since I was getting a cold. So finally we got to Chimanimani; it’s a little bit like a Swiss village in the mountains, but African, and there were dramatic clouds and some of the most stunning mountains I have ever seen peering through the trees, and that (if I may say so) is saying something.

A man called Mufaro was waiting for me in Chimanimani with instructions that if you see a white lady she is coming back to the same village as you.. so he let me sit in his hardware shop then went with me in the 4th taxi of the day to the village down in the valley. Beautiful drive and about 15 small children were singing in the back so very loudly all the way. It was dark by the time we got there, and I was grateful to sit by the big big fire and to be given some food. This place was COLD.

Chimanimani

I spent 3 days in this village, a most beautiful peaceful, green village. I was able to join some people going into the national park, amidst such crazy dinosaur type vegetation and we saw a cave drawing! ..A cave drawing!! Just there on the rock with no fences or signs or souvenir shops! I was taken into the village one day to learn some things about permaculture from the people, and each night we sat by the big big fire and ate traditional food. I loved it very very much. On the 4thday I was given a lift to Mutare (a little bit like Bozeman, but perhaps Bozeman in the 1960s.. crossed with Makhado) and then another taxi took me onto Nyanga over Christmas pass. Wow! Such a beautiful drive, and the sun was setting on the mountain tops. A guy passed me his phone with a message that said “where does a stunning beauty like you hale from” I said “I’m from Britain..” (and hale is spelt hail right? ..didn’t say that, but I wanted to). I

me on the mountain in Nyanga

was picked up from Juliasdale and spent 3 nights and 2 full days in this gorgeous place walking around and playing scrabble by the fire. One of the days we climbed a big rocky mountain… and after so many avocados and pap in Venda, I found I was pretty shockingly unfit. New (but actually very old and repetitive) resolve to shape up by August.

On the last day we drove to Harare and stopped at a traditional food fair where I ate baobab yoghurt and millet cookies, and in the evening I took the coach overnight back to Makhado. The border this time was somehow quicker, although the man stamping the passports fell asleep when I was at his window, had to remind him he needed to actually stamp the book!

Got back to Vuwani around 11am, Thama ran out to give me a hug, it was nice to be back.

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Muofhe blogging

July 5, 2011 at 11:56 am (Uncategorized)

It has been a while since my last post. I have been staying in a kind of suburb of Thohoyandou called Makwarela. It used to be a village and they used to have a forest, but now it’s all houses joining them to Thohoyandou.

Madudu, a really bad photo of me, and Vhoni

I was staying with my friend Mashudu T (Toli, or ‘Madudu’ as given by her small nephew) and her family who have 3 vicious dogs that all walk on only 3 of their 4 legs. There has been electricity in Makwarela for a long time and they have a TV. We spent many evenings watching scary horror movies (Saw VI!), and Venda dramas under thick woolly blankets (very very cold at night now) with her 4 younger sisters; Vhoni, Azwi, Livhu and Andan. The scary movies really freaked me out, I’ve never been good with scary movies! and a couple of times when I went out to pee, if they caught me on my own, the dogs would come and growl and bark at me! Had to run away from them biting at my heels more than once. At the weekend we went to see a beauty contest.. which is another story.. I had a really great time in Makwarela and I hope Mashudu will come and stay with me one day!

Birds on sticks in Mashau

It was Youth Day a few weeks ago which meant it was a holiday from work and I thought I would spend it back in one of my favourite places so far; Mashau. Mashau is a small sprawled out village between Vuwani and Elim.. on the way to Makhado and it is in such a beautiful spot with amazing views of mountains, and forests (for now). I was there for a weekend in June with Mphathe, Thama and Mashaka to visit their family there and Mbilu took me to see the reservoir so I got to go bush whacking in the bushes. I was slightly scared of the cows. To get there, there is no taxi from Vuwani so we had to hitch hike. The first time I have hitch hiked in my life, one man in a fancy car picked us up and was interested in the Mupo Foundation, but could only take us so far.. then a red truck picked us up and we sat in the back with some logs that were covered in creosote.

Grasses in Mashau

So on Youth Day I went on my own, the taxi dropped me too early and again I ended up taking a lift. But the full moon was out and it wasn’t too dark. We walked along the dirt road up the hill to their house in the moonlight, it was beautiful. On that first night there was a lunar eclipse, we stayed up until midnight by a massive fire watching and waiting for it to go back to normal, we saw about 5 shooting stars when the sky went black. We spent the next day walking to another reservoir that some Afrikaaners people once made to irrigate the land, before they were removed for the land to be given back to its original clan owners. We came across some empty European looking houses that looked like they had been burned down a while ago.

Last week I was invited to attend a traditional funeral of a brother of the Chief of one of the places I stayed at a few months ago. I wasn’t expecting it and so wasn’t dressed appropriately, eg I was wearing trousers, so I had to borrow Mphathe’s traditional cloth to wrap around me. I went with Johannes from the office and we arrived when someone was giving a kind of speech. We waited at the back. Then everyone started moving, we were headed to the sacred site. Johannes and I didn’t have transport so we got in the back of a seriously BIG truck with lots of other people. Some women really wanted the mukuhuwa to sit with them and for me to sit on this lady’s knee. So I did, it was a pretty funny journey, people laughing and shaking my hand, I was trying not to be too heavy though and succeeded in giving myself cramp the whole way. At the sacred site everyone was silent. Usually I wouldn’t be allowed in the forest and I was told I too should not speak. I sat quietly at the back. Some women brought the traditional basket in (mifaro) wearing only the Venda skirt and necklace. Men then filled in the grave with soil and then passed rocks in a human chain to place on top, silently, and then the makhadzi (who took me up the mountain that day) sprinkled the grave with seeds and water. Then it was over, everyone said “aa” or “ndaa” as one and silently left the forest. Johannes and I got a lift back to Thoho in a car (actually the hearse the corpse came in) with a crazy product of Jesus the almighty “God owns this whole place, and until you find Jesus in your life, you will cry until you die” Amen.

Thama and the cake

Yesterday it was Thama’s birthday and we had a party! Mphathe bought the ‘things for the party’ including simbas and Marie biscuits, marshmallows and ‘chappies’, balloons and party trumpets! Everyone spent the day preparing, mostly cooking and tidying. I took a trip to the Spar at the other side of the village to buy some wine. It is quite a ways away so it was a good chance to get some sun, and found that it was quite strange to actually be alone walking around.. as it doesn’t happen so often. It was a nice walk, and I got a customary proposal from a man who ‘just wanted to make love to a white woman’.. really I couldn’t resist. I got back to the house and people started arriving, some elders who brought sugar cane and kids who took the balloons 🙂 I was set the task of setting the table with biiig bowls of aforementioned party things, with help from the kids. Muofhe – the kids party entertainer. Then it was time to eat, we had chicken and pap, the cake was brought out, candles lit, candles blown out.. did some dancing to the radio the kids managed to acquire for 2rand. Then as it got dark and the nail like moon was shining and setting, everyone left. Done. We were left alone to sit by the fire, I popped the cork on the wine and gave Thama the drawing I drew of him for his birthday, and we ate 8 squares of fruit and nut chocolate each. Mashaka said she had 10 but I don’t believe her. Also we found out that this was Thama’s 9th birthday, not his 10th as we all thought!

Tomorrow I am going to Zimbabwe for 10 days, then returning to Venda for my last month.. time is going fast!

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