Well, yesterday was a bit of a down day, because due to a mistake of mine I lost over 150 pictures on my iPhone and iPad…; of course I know now that it’s my lack of knowledge about those photo-apps that caused it to happen… But I was shocked and sad and irritated for about 3 hours before I could do anything else. I stayed in my room for the rest of the day, besides dinner with my hosts, which was wonderful. I reserved a B&B in Cape Town for January 22nd until February 3rd, so I got my South-African stay settled, and chatted to my friends in my next place to be after Amsterdam (where I will return to from February 4th until 7th): RIO!!! Will still have 3 days of carnaval there!
But back to now: today was a wonderful day.
Woke up at 5:30, because Baja would come and take me at 6:00 to go to Hluhluwe Game Reserve for a meeting with the big five: elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino. It was great being with her, we had a lot of fun together, and also she told a lot about Zulu culture, which I’d like to share here (please correct me, Baja, if there are any mistakes):
A bit of Durban history: Durban was founded by Zulu King Shaka in the early 1800’s, at the peninsula that’s now part of the harbour, and was called Ethekwini by King Shaka, after the private parts of a bull, because the form of the peninsula was rectangular, which reminded him of the “Bull’s balls”.
King Shaka actually mobilized and formed the whole Zulu nation in the early 1800’s.
The region is now called kwaZulu Natal; kwa being a prefix for place, and Natal because Vasco da Gama discovered what is now the harbour at Christmas day (Natal being the portuguese name for Christmas day).
A bit of linguistics and vocabulary:
isiZulu = “isi” is a prefix for language, so “isiZulu” means the Zulu language
uNico = “u” is a prefix for a person, so If you say “uNico”, everybody knows that Nico is a person…
The term Zulu actually means “people from heaven”.
Shisanyama = shisa (burn) and yama (meat) = barbecue = ceremony to welcome a guest, combined with a maize meal
Akunamatata = it doesn’t matter, take life as it is (this is probably why life is in a way (as far as I experienced it) taken so easily and lightly, because unimportant things don’t matter…).
For example time: time traditionally wasn’t measured with a clock but by the position of the sun. People would say: we will have a gathering when the sun is at that and that place in the sky. And so time was quite flexible, even today. If you have a meeting at 7:00 pm, be sure that it’s meant like 7ish… (meaning somewhere around 7:00).
Another term that is very important in Zulu- and South-African culture, is UBUNTU, meaning “humanity”; this is a general and friendly compassionate attitude that everyone has towards eachother, general politeness towards eachother. But it is more than that: it has also a certain passion behind it, a passion for life itself, for being alive, of being considerate towards everybody and everything around.
A few other facts about Zulu culture:
– polygamy is allowed; traditionally a man needed 11 cows as a dowry for one wife. The richer you were, the more cows you had and the more wives you could have. In that way cows and wives used to be kind of a status symbol for rich men and Zulu kings.
– In Zulu culture it’s always “men first” at the door, because when going out the men had to make sure that everything was safe for the women to come out, and if not, to be able to fight whatever threat was occurring outside the hut.
– You also had and sometimes still have the isangoma; he or she is the fortune teller / medicine (wo)man who got their calling from their ancestors in visions or dreams, with the aim of healing the nation, and functioning as visionary and village (herbs) doctor.
– At the Durban area there’s actually not something like seasons; it’s more summer, summer, summer and summer… Of which all are slightly different in character. When it’s winter in Europe, here it is “summer”, which means it is warm and there’s quite some rain and it is very green everywhere. When it’s summer with us, it is “summer” here, but this summer has cool mornings, hot afternoons and cool evenings, but there’s no rain, so trees and plants start drying up and becoming yellowish.
– The acacia (yellowwood tree) is the national tree of South Africa.
– There are 11 provinces in South-Africa, each of which has its own tribe (traditionally that is) and predominant language; in kwaZulu Natal it is Zulu, in the Cape Town area it is Xhosa, for example.
Till so far that bit of Zulu/South-African culture.
While we were driving, we passed a lot of sugar cane plantations near to Durban, and farther away many eucalyptus plantations (eucalyptus used here for the production of paper, because it’s such a fast growing tree).
Also along the way we came across a few villages, very simple settlements, with huts, some simple houses and constructions; but there is electricity everywhere (since 1994 the government has been trying to equalize the standards of living in this country by building free small houses for poor families, and electricity, as we saw already).
And of course there where the unavoidable sellers of fruits and of traditional Zulu products along the highways, using hut-like structures as shelter for their goods.
Nearing the game reserve, it became dryer and dryer, with lots of barren (red) earth, low bushes and dried up grass; I learnt that Hluhluwe is the oldest game reserve in South-Africa, dating from the late 1800’s. Before that it was a hunting place for known kings, because it was so rich of animals.
Now we entered Hluhluwe!
It is quite a big game reserve, covering a surface of 960 square kilometers! For small countries like the Netherlands and Belgium that’s a huge amount of space!
I personally was totally impressed anyway: as far as the eye could see, hills after hills after hills of game reserve, full of animals waiting to be seen by me…
Of the big five, I got to see the buffalo (whole groups of them) and the rhino (more like individual ones, of which one was very close!); for the rest I saw impalas, swines, hyenas, baboons, zebras and girafs (I could see them (girafs) in the far distance).
I didn’t get to see the elephants, lions and leopards, but they remain wild animals, so they choose when they show up. Baja and I were laughing, because she was always like “come on elephants, just come to us, we love you and we want to see you; why are you not coming to us?”, and I would say “They’re right! I wouldn’t come all the time to those bloody tourists!”; and in the end I just needed to say “They’re right!” and we would be howling with laughter…
Anyway, we stopped for lunch at the Hilltop Restaurant, with a magnificent view of the surroundings; incredible that we could just eat there! And it was quiet too; just a few other guests and for the rest we could enjoy the quiet of nature and bird-sounds and the wind blowing gently around us. It was cloudy with a very nice temperature, not too hot, not too cold.
After lunch we continued looking for more of the big five, but we couldn’t find them. No bother, I had a blast of a time anyway, and I was (and am) so grateful that I could/can do the things that I am doing!!!
At the exit of the game reserve awaited me a most unexpected surprise: a monument put up by the South-African branch of the Divine Life Society of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, whose writings are many in the library (that I helped to build up) of the yoga-group around my Guru! I felt so at home, and it touched me deeply (see also the picture here below). It almost felt like a miracle to find that connection here with spirituality and my life back home.
On our way back to Durban, Baja and I were singing negro-spirituals, and in that way still had our Sunday-mass in the car: Were you there when they crucified my Lord, Nobody knows the trouble I saw, Amazing grace… Wow, chills all over.
Baja put me off at Terebinte (B&B) just in time for dinner with the family; it is such a grace to be accepted by them and in a way feel part of their family! I admire their way of living and the way they are doing it.
And now I’m on the verge of my next adventure: tomorrow Gerhard will drive me to The Cavern, hotel near de Drakensberg mountain, for a few days of rest and stay in nature. It is not sure whether I will have internet connection there, so don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a couple of days.
Know for now that I love you with all my heart,
Nico – Traveller of The Earth