Monday, May 17, 2010

East London, South Africa

East London
May 4, 2010

Monique had arranged for a taxi to pick us up a the port and drive us for the day. We went first to Khaya La Bantu, a replica Xhosa Village 20 miles west of East London. East London reminded me of a town in the Western U.S., with flat buildings and wide streets -- a clean, neat town. In recent years, a huge, gleaming new shopping mall has opened west of the downtown area, taking most of the business from the downtown stores. The town was not busy early in the morning, and there was little traffic. The road west was the N2, an expressway, and the countryside was green with rolling hills. It was beautiful.

When we arrived at Khaya La Bantu, we found a welcoming party of about 25 girls, all under the age of 14, along with 8-10 women and a half-dozen boys. The troop was a singing and dancing group, there to perform for the guests. We were the first to arrive, and later, two bus loads of passengers arrived for the performance. As we stepped out of the taxi, we were shocked to see that many of the girls were topless, which was the usual “dress” for village girls. The girls performed a couple of singing/dancing numbers for us, and then we all waited until the busses arrived. They seem to have performed frequently, because they were very good, and completely at ease topless. We took photos of them as they danced, and later they posed for more photos. After the busses arrived, the ladies gave an explanation of village life, and then the ladies and men were separated, and the women were taken into a hut to hear about cooking, while the men were taken to a separate place to hear about the rite of circumcision. This rite was performed as boys reached age 13.

After the lectures, a traditional lunch was served -- beans, squash, lamb stew, and several other items, along with bread. All of the lunch was prepared over open pit fires on the site, and it was quite good. Following lunch, the girls performed more dances, and then the busses left. The owner of the land, and the performing show, then invited us to see his farm house, which was not modern, but quite nice. He was Canadian, and he had purchased the land and developed the replica village and performances as a way of remembering a cultural way of life, much like Williamsburg, Virginia.

After leaving Khaya La Bantu, our taxi driver took us to Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve, a private game reserve. We were surprised to see an ostrich in the lobby of the main building, which housed the office and restaurant. Then the ladies who were working the office took us out back to see some cheetahs in a large pen. There was not enough time to go into the reserve to see other animals.

We then drove along the coast back to the ship, stopping for photos along the way of giant termite mounds and an eland standing on a hilltop. Along the coast, we stopped to take photos of a beautiful flower, called a “Red Hot Poker”.

We were happy to pay our taxi driver 1000 Rands for the day, about $140.

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