Today was quiet the amazing day…seems like many days combined into one. Waking up in Johannesburg was lovely. We had a nice morning with Sven and Karen, then took to the road on a 4-5 hour drive to Isandlwana. Through the heart of the “Orange Free State”, I heard more history than my brain could digest. Learning about South Africa’s history – one that is filled with beauty, violence, loyalty and hardship – while driving through the countryside, teaches more than any textbook ever could.
We stopped for lunch at the infamous Wimpy’s restaurant. Vance insisted that we eat here – a South African ‘institution’, to fully enjoy the trip to the village. It was a fun break from the road…and the neon blue milk shakes and lime green fountain sodas are something to remember
As we turned off of the highways towards the country roads, I began to see my first taste of rural South Africa. I finally felt like I was in a different country! Somehow, despite the many hours of travel, I had not yet felt the distance, both physically and culturally, that we had traveled, until now. My eyes were wide open.
We turned onto the dirt road to Isandlwana just before sunset. Each hilltop was illuminated and we could see storms moving in from the west. I saw many landmarks that I knew from memory – but only from photographs. The school, the battlefield, and, at last, the Isandlwana lodge. Nestled into the hilltop, overlooking the battlefield and village, the lodge was barely noticeable from a far. Vance asked “have you seen the lodge yet?” I could only spot it by picking up his clues.
We turned up the dirt road, toward the lodge, and Vance pointed out the many landmarks. The church, the building we are looking to renovate for craft sales, the WILD office and Elizabeth’s house, the ‘WILD’ house etc. Everyone waved as we drove past.
We arrived to the lodge, with a very warm welcome from Pat (co-owner of the lodge). Before the storm came in, we took a short walk around the village. Then the highlight of the day – a performance by the dance group. They smiled and danced…it was wonderful.
This last photo is my favorite. It was taken just after Vance announced to the troupe that WILD would make a contribution to support their hard work – learning and performing traditional dances. Their smiles will stay with me for many days to come.
Tomorrow we tour the village with Elizabeth, then drive to coast to have tea with Paul Dutton and then to Durban airport to fly to our final destination for the day, Port Elizabeth.