On the 10th of February I got into my little Corsa Lite and started the long drive from Joburg to Durban with everything I needed and more. I am not a light packer.
Beauty- the voice in my GPS accompanied me with instructions about how to get to Durbs and a few random comments like: “Keep left, keep left, left is best ….you know what the communists say.”
I made it Durban and then Northern KZN thanks to Beauty’s fantastic directions. Although she really doesn’t like dirt roads and doesn’t want me to start journeys from one.
Had I listened to her I would still be at Casa Mia, a Colonial style guest house in Pongola, refusing to drive 1km on a dirt road to get onto the main one.
It was at Casa Mia I met my first contact Cathy who connected me to the two other women who provided me with accommodation and endless stories of life in the bush.
Cathy is passionate about E-pap and talks about it from the time one arrives at the guest house till the time one leaves. She manages to insert it into every conversation and has emailed me about it frequently since I left Pongola.
E-pap is a nutritious cereal for malnourished people and anyone else who wants all 29 vitamins and minerals in a porridge form. It was designed by a Joburg based Industrial chemist to help weak, ill and malnourished people eat- even when they are so sick that their bodies struggle to digest food.
Those you use it- swear they have nursed people back from AIDS-related- almost-death and starvation with the porridge.
I just kept wondering why it was called E-pap as “E” usually refers to the recreational drug Ecstasy- hardly the drug one would give a dying, malnourished person.
Then I realised when interviewing someone about “E grants” that E was for the Zulu sound put before many words. “E” as in Ethekwini, Emali, Egoli”
After 2 days I left Pongola with my bright yellow plastic bag of E pap and a car full of everything else and went off to the Ubombo mountains above Mkuze. And no, I haven’t braved any E pap yet.
I stayed at Overwin Country Lodge opposite Bethesda hospital and would recommend you do the same if you are ever planning to visit Mkuze Game reserve.
It was so beautiful at Ubombo and the orphanage next door to the guest house embodied the word hope. The 19 orphans were visibly happy despite tragic case histories including rape, abuse, near death from AIDS and abandonment.
The orphanage was started by Dawn Irons, owner of the Owerwin Country Lodge. She is seriously impressive woman who is 70 years old but has endless energy and time for others.
After my time at Ubombo I headed off to Ingwavuma to stay with the Medical Superintendent of Mosveld hospital Dr Daniel Heese, his wife Maryna and family.
Here I spent a week with people who are open, generous and not class conscious. They ate dinner at the same table as their workers. This for me was a life-changing experience that shed light on my values, class consciousness and general materialistic-ness.
I was exposed to utter poverty and sheer generosity. Ingwavuma is filled with children, more children, babies and their Goggos looking after like 7 at a time. It is very devoid of men.
In Ingwavuma I had three days of bad gastro (blame the rain water) and then managed to break my foot.
I am now recovering in Cape Town and will use this blog to reflect on my time in KZN and the lessons I learnt- while drinking good quality tap water and enjoying Mom’s home cooking.