Beginning we quest to the West, 2017. We arrived in Coffee Bay where I had the pleasure of staying for a week in a little rondavel hut. I had some crazy nights of spontaneous gallivants through the town, laughter, sizzling fire, live music, epic waves, and groovy vibes with new characters and foreign travellers.
From Coffee Bay I needed to make my way to my new home, Freedom O’ Clock. Being an active, outdoors creature, I found a companion, Gabe, and decided to hike there, a good 7 km (without our bags of course, as it was just for a visit). What a memorable initiation into the land it was. The scenery was lush as the natural environment created these morphing textures of rugged green multi-coloured mountains that sat sturdy below the still, serene clear blue sky. The smell of fresh air and raw earth was intoxicating and soon addictive as the inhale and exhale of breathe became more rapid due to the changing terrain. We hiked up steep hills, down narrow pathways and rough bushes, trekking through mud, sand, rock, ocean, and eventually hitching a ride on a little rowboat to get across a lake. (This allowed me to take my thoughts off the decision I had made, and the mind’s voice that came with it… and to just, be.
When we arrived, it was everything Caitlyn (the crazy American who brought me on the venture) had described. The Backpackers was on the edge of the valley overlooking the most spectacular view in the whole of the Transkei, nestled amongst the rural Xhosa community. A hidden treasure, it felt like something out of a dream, what my eyes tried to visually capture, there was a greater power at work here. The energy she holds, our Mother Africa, as I saw her natural land, where the sense of sight can do no justice to such an inner vibration. I had stepped through the threshold of comfort, security, and daily routines.
To my surprise, from here onwards things started shifting to be out of place for me, and the downward spiral begun. Talk about an anticlimax for the Spirit! The backpackers ran off Solar Power, which left me with very little to charge my laptop, camera, or phone, rendering it useless for me to edit my videos, or my photos, or to use my camera daily. I came here with the intention to film and create, all of which I needed electricity for. Clearly, the Universe had other intentions for me during my time in the Kei… Even if I had some battery power, there was no signal for my phone out there (MTN!), so I was stranded, alone, with rare moments for voice calls, and little time for social media as a chatting platform and feeling really disconnected from friends and family, especially when support was needed.
There was no immediate access to water due to ‘higher powers in control’, where setting up piping from the river was not a top priority, (a fight the locals and Freedom O’ Clock have been having with the municipal management for years). Coming from a farm life and living in the rural space myself, this was no crisis to me, however, freezing, ice cold showers in winter were less favourable. The closest I got to a hot shower was from my teapot and a wet cloth! It was such an experience going down the river and manually loading as many bucketful’s of water as possible onto the back of Otto’s Bucky. One becomes so aware of every single drop of water used, which taught me a deeper level of gratitude for not only the access to water, but also the process many go through to get it. We only truly understand something when we experience it first hand, and when no longer freely available.
So my role to play here was simple: I was to live at Freedom O’ Clock, run by Lu and her husband, Otto, to au pair their 8 year old daughter, Coral Bella, work in the veggie garden, and help out around the home and with guests. For myself ¬- It was to film, edit, write, spend time with the mountains and the oceans, and share with the locals, and to experience, explore, and create!
This was great; I loved my role to play, except for the fact that I had little power to charge batteries, so barely any film time. The veggie garden was already in bloom, and after fetching Coral from school she would go off gallivanting with her mischievous Xhosa crew (they were inseparable!). I tried to join them, as they were always up to something adventurous, but found it really difficult to communicate without knowing their language, and with them being so young.
And if al that wasn't stifling enough - I wasn’t going to get paid. There was a massive miscommunication between Caitlyn and Lu and yes, I should have actually confirmed these points myself and got the details in writing before leaving, but I have learned from these minor errors. I didn’t have a car with me, and we were miles away from… anything really, so I couldn’t even gallivant to another spot. This left me with a lot of time, alone, where the mind began to doubt my intuition, and the choice of leaving my home, family and friends, structure, stability, security, and well paying job in Durban. Reminiscing on the community gatherings, the warm sunlight and soft ocean waves of Durban, the comfort of family and belonging, there's truly no place like home. So there I sat, every day, with me, and my mind, trying to figure out how my intuition could have led me so far astray. Moments of tears, frustration, self doubt, and a questioning the role I was playing in my own life.
Yet somehow I knew, deep down, that this is what I needed for my own growth. It was a bitter pill to swallow. It was a moment where I had no one and no distractions and had to truly face myself.
There were moments I wanted to leave, and I could have, but by choosing to stay, I had relinquish all thoughts of doubt and regret, and purely just be in the moment for what it was offering me, and embrace every colour of it. So I soaked in as much as I could!
I walked the mountains every day, I swam in the river at sunrise, kayaked down the river at sunset, and occasionally body surfed the ocean waves, though bodysurfing waves out there were few and far between. I sat in trees, I sat in grasslands, I sat on mountaintops, I sat on rocks, I breathed in the fresh air and let it all go, the thoughts, and just meditated. I localized myself with the Xhosa tribe, I ate (a lot) of incredible Xhosa bread, I learned how to drink real beer, I ate freshly caught shad off the rocks that Otto caught himself, and made friends with the local fishermen. Further, I taught the kids how to hacky sack, and I got to spend time with the beautiful Coral Bella who still baffles me when she speaks Xhosa.
One of my highlights was the process of fetching Coral Bella and the other 3 local boys, Nondontanda, Bulela and Ncoko, from school. I would trek down the face of the mountain to the river mouth, kayak across the river, pull the kayak along a few meters of the ocean sand in case high tide came in, stroll along the warm beach sand in the sunlight, hike up this rather vertical hill and reach the destination - school, only to do it in reverse with the kids as my companions! I loved every second of it! The laughter, the naked ocean swimming, the wave diving and water splashing, the sand throwing, the games we created, carrying (dragging) all their bags and clothes along route (good thing I’ve had lots of practice in the ‘carrying of multiple bags’ department!), individually kayaking them across the river, rarely capsizing, and communicating through broken English. I had to resort to hand gestures, and using Coral as my translator, while they attempted to teach me pieces of the Xhosa language, we had many comical moments, though we probably weren’t even laughing at the same things! Often I would just be silently watching the group interactions in awe. These kids are so connected to each other, and the beauty in what Coral holds within their tribe, connects the Xhosa language with who she is in the broader scheme of things. I would listen and admire the way the Xhosa language rolled off her tongue like a melody, often more fluently than her English, and mostly, how rooted to the land she is and to the Spirit of Africa. She knows every tree, every myth, and every hidden, secret spot of her home, Mdumbi. She could pull oysters off the rocks better than the locals who were selling them!
Apart from the physical challenges I faced, I became part of their family - Lu, Otto, and Coral – a beautiful awakening for me. I got to witness a family full of so much love, who interact with and supported their Xhosa family in so many ways. It was like nothing else I had seen in my travels through the Kei and with the other back packers. I got to see a father who has so much love for his little girl, a father who goes above and beyond for his angel, and who holds both of his ladies in such high regard. Not having a father of my own, it was something I truly appreciated.
I got to witness a mother who has such a compassionate heart, so open, so giving, and with such a wicked sense of humour, blessed with a young and wild spirit. A mother to not only Coral, but the local kids too.Coral, wow, what a gem. This child – I cannot describe in words. When you meet her, you are blown away by her crazy wild nature, her incredibly free spirit, so connected to earth, to the environment around her, and to the Xhosa culture. Her vibrancy shines so bright you often feel blinded by such energy. She is a powerful force of nature, and dominating too. It’s her way, or the high way, and is forever ‘right’. Nobody else knows best, only she. But she is a change maker, and her part to play in this world is huge, still to influence many. I can’t wait to watch as she grows…
They make these delicious fish braais, curried foods, maqwinq (Not sure if I spelt it right, but they similar to vetkoeks, except Xhosa style!) and other special dishes which we ate under the most immaculate star lit skies, with this icy crisp breeze that shoots straight through the cells of the body (That’s my inner Durban speaking…) Or else we were warm and cozy by the fire with nothing but the echoes of the rumbling ocean, the crackling fire, and the gentle whispers of the winds.
Although I couldn’t fulfill the role they expected of me, or them to fulfill what I had expected, our time together was priceless. They took me in as family and allowed me the growth I needed for my own personal journey, as well as the space to setup and manifest my next few adventures to come, and for that I am so grateful. And yes, of course I made a plan to be able to charge my electronics. I got some incredible scenery footage, captured moments with the locals, conducted interviews with travellers, and so much more – documentary footage and data collected for blog – check •.
Meet a foreigner living with the Xhosa's, Pablo!
We know life always has a way of working out, but we have to learn to ride the wave, after all,
‘a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.’ ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
I had received the teachings from the Universe… There were many, but the one in particular was to find the balance and harmony with the choice I had made leaving Durban, and to embrace every Frame Per Second for what each frame holds in that moment, not just my own expectation and perception of what the moment should be.
I took it all in, and was now ready to go home… but there was one last surprise for me.
This is the where the weavings of the Universe comes in to play, and her sprinkle humor too, whom I met next, while at the backpackers, which becomes a pinnacle piece to the unfolding tales of these Travelling Toes…
"It's the little details that are vital, little things make big things happen."
~ John Wooden