You cannot call a quick drive through the township a cultural experience – you have to participate and not just be a spectator.
So say Knysna Tourism in their promotional material for the Living Local programme in this area of the Garden Route. Liesel and I decided to find out for ourselves and drove the long distance from Cape Town to meet the people of Knysna and find out what their community tourism experiences are all about.
In the Knysna Tourist Information office we met up with Mawande from Buyambo Township Tours. From the Khayelethu Township itself, he has a clear vision for his own and his family’s future – one of empowerment and education. Trained as a SASTA tour guide, he developed a unique, interactive and informative township visit. You meet & talk to locals, visit people at their homes, learn some Xhosa clicks, eat a traditional African lunch in his Roosterkoek Khaya restaurant and most importantly hear the positive stories of improvement in township life.
Mawande makes sure that all people on his tours benefit from your visit. He is a true inspiration and has great plans to expand his business. By building a B&B, next to the Roosterkoek Khaya restaurant, will enable him to combine homestays with his township tours in the very near future.
After this extremely encouraging start, we drove the short distance to Hornlee, just on the other side of the N2. Here we stayed with Magda Kock, owner of Bethany’s Homestay. A strong and brave lady, who has been battling with cancer for the past 3 years. South Africa’s homestays are mostly based around the presence of strong, skilled women, who are able to drive developments within their communities and at the same time empower themselves.
Magda welcomed us into her immaculate home, where she has three rooms with comfortable and warm beds. One room has an en-suite bathroom with shower cabin. The other two rooms share a bathroom with bath & overhead shower and a separate toilet. And to ensure a comfortable stay, all comes with clean linen, towels, warm water, flush loos and electricity.
She cooked a delicious 3-course dinner for us with a distinct Cape Malay flavour. She even catered for my vegetarian needs better than many restaurant experiences I have had in South Africa. Magda also offers a very special experience called ‘Cookup with Kammamma’, where you have the opportunity to cook with your hostess and learn more about the culinary traditions of the Garden Route area.
After good night’s rest and a lovely breakfast, we were ready for the second part of our community experience. We met Ella Mahlulo & Penny Mainwaring from Emzini Tours. Two inspiring women, who share a passion of helping the community and a desire to change the general negative perceptions of township life.
It is one of the most enjoyable and fun trips I have been privy to experience. At the same time they manage to convey the reality of township life. Ella shared her life story with us. In the Eastern Cape under the old Apartheid regime, she had an exceptionally tough start in life. However, she managed to work herself out through strength, education & determination and now embraces life to the full.
The Emzini township experience is very different from Buyambo’s, but both provide you with a true insight into township life of today with its challenges and achievements.
The day finished in Judah’s Square, housing the largest Rastafarian Community in South Africa. We stayed at the Jah Works B&B; run by Sista Kerri Mckenna. Originally from Australia, Sista Kerri traveled the world for many years before settling down in Judah’s Square with her son Sekassi. We joint her for a vegan meal and had a most interesting conversation about Rastafarian life, her travels and spirituality. Personally I learned a lot about Rastafari and their peaceful way of life.
The combination of homestays with a personalised & interactive township experiences is most definitely the way forward. It provides a slice of life experience of township communities. It delves deeper, making you realize & recognize that they are places of great strength, courage, song and dance, survival, love and yes, happiness.
For more information about Knysna Tourism’s Living Local campaign visit their website.