An easy morning really kicked off today with a bang, as all of us rose at a later time! A whole hour later in fact! However, due to heavy rain during the night our clothes and things in the mesh part of the tent were totally drenched. Nonetheless we all had breakfast and got ready for the taxis.
The objective of today’s tour was to give us a bit of the local history and culture. This area is the historical settling area of the “Venda” tribe. The area of Louis Tricardt is made up of largely the Venda and that is the predominant language of the area (and thus the reason for us having communication problems). Up until 1993 this area was its own Republic with its central Government being located in Thohoyandu.
First off, we headed north to the Hendrik Verwoerd tunnels. These tunnels are part of a Trans African highway which stretches all the way to Cairo. Amidst the windy tunnels, the railing on the side of the road was quite wobbly, below which was a considerably large drop. On the surrounding mountain sides, amazing trees grew in unthinkable places, where things that grow are few in quantity. On the road, we stopped to see a river that “defied” gravity and flowed towards the mountain. Also we saw many baobab trees and stopped to get a picture by one. We also learned that the largest baobab tree is forty-three meters in diameter. It is located approximately 80 kilometers further on and therefore we did not get to see it.
We also went to the Dzata Museum and saw a replica of the sacred drum with magical powers. Apparently the drum warned the Venda tribe that enemies were approaching. The drum was never allowed to touch the ground, or be seen by public eyes. The museum had many Venda artifacts, such as tools and weapons. Unfortunately, to the girls’ disappointment, their bathroom was out of order. So, the guys were kicked out of their bathroom and sent to the bushes.
Next up, the Sacred Forest, the journey to the forest would be disappointingly foggy and rainy the whole drive there, so we skipped it and the sacred lake, and instead went to the Phippidi falls. We paid our fare, and took the taxis down to the path to the falls. We climbed down the rocky stairs, through damp ground and over log bridges to reach the fantastic vista. Interestingly, regularly at this time of year the falls would have flooded the area we were standing in.
After a clearer drive through the windy mountains, we came to a scenic viewpoint of the Makhado village. Some took pictures, and soon after we were at the Arts and Cultural centre. Outside the cultural centre, there were two large wood carvings of Mandela. Inside there were many crafts (as expected) and a few of us bought souvenirs. Vhutsilaavhutibi culture and arts centre was next, and here we met a seventy-five year old lady who has been a wood carver since nineteen seventy-four. Within this centre were also many carvings and interesting works of a wide variety, ranging from animals to pots, to jewelry.
From there we went on a long car ride to visit the “Bead Lady” who has a rare disease in which she is hunched over at the waist, measuring at around two foot tall. She had many bracelets, traditional sarongs, key chains, and head bands made of beads. The theme seemed to be South African colours; lots of green and red. After some of us purchased a few beaded things, the group got back into the taxis for our final destination: a government funded pottery house. Here over fifty women in the community make pots, plates, cups, large bowls, even larger bowls, and other sculptures. All were made of clay, and we had the opportunity to watch the pottery making progress in a live demonstration done by one of the ladies. Many of us, if not all bought these fine clay specimens, it was a good end to a great day.
Due to a tardy arrival at the campsite and restaurant (some would say because of the very lax taxi drivers) we bustled our way into the dining hall, and ravaged on the bread and salad. Quickly we were served with a decadently-cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu, and for the vegetarians a delicious, crispy and creamy Mac and Cheese. Following the dinner, we devoured a luscious lemony ludicrously-tasty lemon-Morang pie. Good stuff!
Driving through the Venda area it becomes clear how important Religion plays a part to the people. It was Sunday today and everyone that we saw was dressed in their Sunday best either heading to Church or from Church. Some of the services were simply being held under a tree with 75-100 parishioners taking part. Our taxi driver was hesitant to take us today because he would miss his Church. Many of the taxi’s have stickers of their vehicle windows with a religious quote. Most of the churches are Christian based.