Even in the best of travels, there is always a day when the activity and energy levels tend to drop. The rush of the trip and the sense of adventure drops off a notch or two. Hopefully, this downtime is a brief lapse before returning to high gear again. Today was that day.
We woke up in our hostess’ hut around 6:45 AM to a chilly and wet morning. It had been raining off and most of the night and ground around the buildings were wet and muddy. This is when I first really realized the lack of sewage infrastructure in this village. There was no bathroom at all. Not even an outhouse…or a private room to shower. I brushed my teeth off in one corner of their land with a bottle of water I had brought along with me. I noticed some of the children going behind the hut with a pail of water to shower there as they got ready to go to school. Still others went off into the trees at the edge of the property to use the bathroom. Fortunately, I did not have to use the bathroom at all during my time here and I could wait a few more hours to get back to the backpackers lodge to take a shower.
I don’t want to generalize and say that nobody in the village of Maphephetheni (Ma-fe-fe-the-nee) has a shower or bathroom facilities, but looking around at other huts in the surrounding hills, I could not see any dwelling that would have one. Certainly, there were some homes that probably would have such accommodation, but they were few and far between. Aside from the obvious pollution caused by human waste, there is a larger health concerns such as E. Coli. Water is currently pulled from water pumps that access the nearby Umgeni River. But, on the other hand, the Zulu’s and other people have lived on these lands for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I’m sure that they have the know how to deal with these conditions, even at a rudimentary level. After all, I did not see any sick or infirmed people over the past day and the small clinic we passed on the way to the bar yesterday seemed like it wasn’t really in heavy use.
In any case, not long after eating a breakfast of eggs and toast, our driver returned just after 8 AM to drive us back to Durban. By this time, the children were also dressed in their outfits and walking down the muddy road to the little buildings that served as their primary schools.
We arrived back to Durban by 9:30 and returned to the Hippo Hide Backpackers Lodge. There wasn’t a need to check into a room since we were planning on leaving for Pretoria by bus. However, the first order of business was hygiene. So, off to take a shower I went with a new change of clothes.
The rest of the day remained pretty low key. It rained for a large portion of it, so it limited our options from whatever few there were to begin with. I began by walking down the hill to the local PickNPay grocery store to purchase the bus tickets to get us from Durban to Pretoria. It was the reverse route that we had taken on the Rovos Rail last weekend. There are a number of bus companies that crisscross the country. We were advised by the lodge manager that the Intercape line was one of the better and safer ones. So, I purchased two tickets for the 10 PM ride that would get us to Pretoria at 6:40 AM on the following morning.
Getting back to the backpacker lodge, we chilled out for a while in their common area since we didn’t have a room and then decided to do something a bit American — go to a mall. There was another couple who had gone to the Zulu village with us from this same hostel. They were also waiting to get out of Durban and so we decided to spend a few hours checking the local hang out spot for Durbanites. A popular one in the area that we were recommended to go to was The Pavilion. The Pavilion was not walking distance and so we all shared a ride out there for R100 each way. The interesting thing about this center is that it has large oriental shaped domes that top the roofs of the building and are easily visible from a long way off. It is one of the largest shopping malls in all of South Africa, meaning that it is probably one of the biggest malls on the continent too. But, let’s not make a bigger deal out of this than it is. At the end of the day, it’s just a mall. We had a late lunch/dinner here at a seafood restaurant called the Ocean Basket, a chain restaurant found throughout South Africa. The other couple needed to get a tent for their long multi-nation journey and so we also spent some time looking for sporting good stores and checking out the tents and other items available there.
We returned to the backpacker lodge around 5:30 PM and then I spent some time repacking the backpacks to ensure that they were properly weighted with the heavier items at the bottom of the packs and progressively getting lighter to the top. Finally, at 8:30 PM, we took the cab out to the Durban bus station and got onto the Intercape bus that would take us back to Pretoria. The bus is no different from what we would expect from a Greyhound here in the USA. The Intercape departed from the bus station about 3 minutes before schedule. I guess all of the booked passengers had arrived and so there was no reason to stick around. However, the one that was a bit annoying was the television show they were playing for the first hour of the ride. It was basically a soap opera with a very religious message on abortion. Plus, the volume was set to loud. So, not only could I not sleep, but I was being bombarded by anti-abortion drama on Zulu TV. Fortunately, after this hour, the driver turned off the television and I was able to sleep most of the way to Pretoria.