Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cape Town Rest and Life on the Farm

The one constant in my life is change. About a month ago I was in Tanzania, then I returned to Cape Town, attended AfrikaBurn and now I am working on a farm. That said, the phrase 'never a dull day' doesn't hold true in my case, as I had quite a few in Cape Town. However, it was a necessary and beneficial little break which allowed me to get some important things done. The farm I am staying at is called Ikhwezi Lokusa Permaculture Farm, where I expect to spend the next month and a half and a place I am really happy to be at. Read on and you will learn all about it.

After the burn, I was tired and in need of a little downtime. Being able to return to Rassie and Susan's place was just the thing I needed. While I had the time and opportunity, I gave all my things a good clean. After 4 months on the road trust me, they needed it!

Having some time to relax in a house, I was able to do simple things you don't always get to do on the road, things like shopping at a western style grocery store. Sometimes, it's the simple things in life.

I needed the downtime, but coming off everything I've done recently I was bored. You can tell how exciting my life must have been if I'm posting a picture of myself watching TV, but the fact is when you travel for long periods you just won't have excitement on a daily basis. Honestly, that is probably a good thing.

I did have a bike I could use, and rode around a little bit, but mostly it was to run errands. I probably should have used it to just explore, but oh well...

In particular, I used the bike to visit one of my least favorite places, the shopping mall. I had to return to the Canal Walk mall to buy a few items, as well as get prices for some gear. I still have this idea about doing a bike trip out here and checked out Cape Union Mart, I guess you could say it's the South African REI. Essentially, I needed to see prices for things like a sleeping bag, pad, tent, stove, etc and decide what to buy out here and what to have shipped from home from the gear I already own. Conclusion: gear is expensive in SA.

The next day Paul and David, key members of the AfrikaBurn group I was with were back in town and invited me to come out with them for the afternoon/evening (thanks for the ride guys, sorry it's not a better photo!). We visited the beach to watch the sun go down, then heading to a small party.

The dinner party was at the parents house of Quinton from the burn group, and it was a lovely evening with some delicious food. I began chatting with someone at the party and she mentioned she had a friend who was starting a small permaculture farm here in South Africa that could use a volunteer. This turned out to be an amazing connection, because finding somewhere to volunteer was exactly what I was hoping to do after the Burn and here it was right in front of me! I took down the name of the farm, and sent them a message via facebook the next morning.

Another beautiful day in Cape Town.

This is something I see nearly everywhere in Cape Town, ads for abortion services. They all say about the same thing, 'safe', 'pain free', 'same day' etc and all have prices around 300-400 rand, or about $40. Makes you think about the conditions in the country that lead to this being so wide spread and what it might be like without these services.

The next day a package I'd been waiting for arrived, my netbook from home. This is the computer I'd taken through Asia for 6 months, and I've traveled with ever since. For the Africa trip however, I bought a full size laptop since I'd have a 4x4 to carry it and size/weight didn't matter so much. With that trip ending, it was time to swap the big one for my netbook, but it ended up getting broken in transit. I'm trying to deal with insurance right now, as well as finding a new netbook to buy and it hasn't been easy. South Africa has a Gumtree, a craigslist type of thing, but I swear the people are even bigger flakes than craigslist... haha.

The next day I had a visit by Jandre, one of the members of the farm I was hoping to join. We chatted about what they were doing up there, I told him a bit about myself and we agreed I would probably be a good fit for the farm. This was great news, because I'd been trying to find somewhere to volunteer through WorkAway, a website for connecting travelers with places to volunteer and didn't get a single reply from the 5 places I messaged...

I'd already been in the place on Woodbridge for nine days when it's rightful, owners Rassie and Susan came back to Cape Town. They were happy to have me stick around a while longer (which I certainly did) and joked it was like having Chris around again. To be fair, it also felt like I was living with my parents, and I mean that in the best way possible! They took wonderful care of me and I am very grateful for it.

Staying on the water naturally I had to walk along the beach once in a while to enjoy the fresh air, the sunset and views of Table Mountain. On this particular walk, I came across a big piece of kelp that was completely covered in little shellfish with their..... honestly I don't know what is going on. I've never seen something like it before. Feeding? Mating? Tanning? Whatever it was, it looked pretty interesting with the suns final rays illuminating it.

That Sunday was the one year birthday party for Maresna (Chris' sister) and JC's baby. I'm starting to feel like part of the family at this point!

Another big task for me while in Cape Town was to ship a bunch of things home. I'd tried to sell my scuba gear, but had very little luck. As a result, I shipped what I still had home, as well as all my GoPro camera gear, clothing I wasn't going to use, various other little items I didn't want to carry with me anymore. Due to having no need for the stuff any time soon, I sent it home via boat. It will take about two months and cost me about $80 to ship 30 pounds of stuff, not bad really. Having taken care of this I felt pretty good. It was one of the big things I needed to do in order to reduce my gear down to one bag for the remainder of my trip and was literally a weight off my shoulders!

The reason Rassie and Susan bought this home on Woodbridge in the first place was so they could come and visit their grand kid. As a result, there were frequent play dates.

Waiting for the bus. The MyCiti bus in Cape Town is recent, it was put in for the World Cup, and was a real help to me for getting into the city center and to Table View where I had to do some shopping.

Yes, it is another beautiful day in Cape Town, and a wonderful view of Table Mountain behind where I was lucky enough to be staying.

The sun going down the same evening.

This is the flower market downtown.

Street art in the Woodstock neighborhood. I was here to try and buy a used netbook through Gumtree, but when I got to the persons house he told me he sold it to someone else already.... ugh. Because I was leaving Cape Town shortly, this was my last chance to save money by finding one used, so I was a little upset.

And the sun going down on Table Mountain.

The following day I had to do two things I didn't especially like, go to the mall again, and buy a phone. I've never traveled with a phone before, and I was really resistant to buying one. Eventually however, I realized that it is something I have complete control over and can use it as a tool rather than let it be a distraction. I got the cheapest phone I could, $10, and some prepaid airtime. Not once did I wish I had one in Asia, but here in Africa and especially in Cape Town I often wished I had one just to make it easier to contact a few people, meet up with groups and so on. That said, now that I'm on the farm I turned it off and put it away. 

Anyways, at the mall I ran into Rachel and Slee, part of my group at AfrikaBurn. We had a nice little chat and I realized/remembered they lived in Cape Town, and rather than always being so bored as I had for much of the last two weeks, I could have met up with them. Oh well....

Sunday afternoon was my last day in Cape Town and my adopted family and I went out for lunch. JC, Rassie, Susan and Maresna, you have all been wonderful to me, thank you all so much!

Rassie and Susan took me to the bus station where we said our goodbyes and I hopped on the bus for what was an 18 hour ride. I was lucky that I got on the bus early and that it was a double decker, because I got one of the front seats and during daylight hours I got some great views! The ride was long, but I managed to wind up with an interesting person to chat most of the way and the ride was generally quiet and comfortable.

A small South African town along the way.

Shortly after noon, I arrived in the city of East London and was happy to get off the bus. I was picked up by Jandre who I'd met in Cape Town earlier and we ran a few errands in town before heading out to the farm.

The name of the farm is Ikhwezi Lokusa Permaculture Farm, which means bright star of the morning. It was began about 30 years ago, then maintenance stopped and it became overgrown. A little over a year ago a group bought the property to own in trust, and restore and rebuild the farm following the ideas of permaculture and sustainable living. At the moment, there are six permanent residents of the farm: Luke, Alex, Jandre, Xolile, Yoliswa and Ntsika, as well as two volunteers, Sky and myself.

The farm and property are very much a work in progress, but there is a lot going on around here. This is the large common area, which houses the kitchen, bathroom, reception, bar and common area. There I also a hot tub being built here, and from the deck there is a wonderful view of the area and the water below.

Everywhere you go you are likely to be surrounded by animals. There are three dogs, a cat, geese, chickens and pigs.

Jandre showing some of the garden.

The pigs.

Here is the outdoor fire area and the view below. Not a bad place to be huh?

This is the rondavel where volunteers, Sky and myself stay.

Retuning to the common area, this is the deck. The property here has a number of nut trees, and here you can see Luke digging in one of the bins with two year old Ntsika, Sky standing up and the dogs and cat watching the action.

Near the entrance to the property is a small dam which provides water for the farm. The wind pump brings the water up hill to large tanks, which then gravity feed down to the buildings.

I got to work right away, here Jandre and I are repairing the road into the property.

A look at the kitchen area. From left to right you can see Alex, Luke and Jandre. I haven't been here long, but I can say so far the food is excellent!

So, that is where I am at these days. As I said earlier, I expect to stay here for about a month and a half, which is the remainder of my South African visa. I really feel I've connected with a great group of people at this farm, and staying here will give me an opportunity to learn some new things, help out, meet new people, be more physically active than I've been in a while and save some money as well. I don't know what I will do after the farm stay, but with a group like this I am sure I'll come up with plenty of ideas and make plenty of new connections! Thanks for reading everyone, check back in a bit to learn more about the farm and the kind of things I'm doing out here!