My first night in Coffee Bay, I went to visit the local Jonga tribe to eat traditional food and partake in the traditional Xhosa dancing. The Xhosa language is the African language with the clicking. I have tried to do it, and it is much harder than it sounds! They brew their own beer for special occasions. One of the men showed us how they get down on one knee and pour a few drops on the ground for the ones who have passed. We call this “pour one out for the homie” in the states. The women were very friendly, painted my face, and even taught me some of the dance moves. The “mama” that led the dancing and singing reminded me of my mom. My mom would have fit right in with her dance moves and singing.
I went to the beach and surfed the next day with some people from Coffee Shack. Andre and Danie were only staying a couple nights, so my task the next couple of days was to find someone to walk to two villages and stay the two nights before Christmas with me. Apparently you can stay along the coast, see the countryside, and hike for four or five hours in between villages. Not that I need anyone to do it with me, but it was recommended that a female should not go alone. This contradicts my independent “I don’t need you” attitude, but I decided I should play it safe. Walter stepped up to the challenge, and we decided we would leave the next day.
The transai area, where Coffee Bay is located, has large green cliffs with stretches of beach in between. On Andre and Danie’s last night we hung out on a a cliff close to the backpackers. Danie played the guitar, Andre played the harmonica, and I sang. We said our goodbyes the next morning as Walter and I took off with a group from Coffee Shack to hike to the”hole in the wall”. It was a three-hour up hill and down hill hike. There is a reason they call that area the “wild coast.” You are literally out in the wild with nothing for miles except random huts, cattle, sheep, goats, cliffs, beaches, and stretches of grassy hills. I realized as we were walking that I had what appeared to be chicken pox on the lower half of my legs. It didn’t take long to figure out I had been bitten by bed bugs. Although I don’t even compare, I felt like a tattered and torn person of war. The left side of my body was scraped up, I had a fat ankle, and bites all over my legs. Talk about a hot mess.
We rested at the hole in the wall for a while before the group went back to the bay in a shuttle, and we carried on for a couple more hours. We finally reached the village of Lubanzi. There is nothing there except a beach, a backpackers (aka hostel), and a few huts. We were literally in the middle of nowhere. We checked into our dorm room, and the receptionist showed me how to use a rocket shower (you pour paraffin into the base, light it on fire, and get hot water for about seven minutes). This place immediately felt like home. We all ate dinner together at a large table then hung out by a camp fire. The majority of the staff were volunteers who love this place so much that they didn’t want to leave, or they keep returning seasonally to be a part of the Lubanzi family.
Walter and I were supposed to walk to another village the next day, but since we could not get a hold of the people to stay with in Bulungulu, we just walked towards it for a couple hours and then returned to Lubanzi. The fresh air filled my lungs and revitalized my soul as I looked over the green hills, vacant beaches, and the waves lashing at the rocks. We stopped at a beach to take it all in.
I wrote prayers in the sand of the things I needed to release. Just as I finished my prayer, a wave washed over my words leaving the sand blank as if saying, “I got it. Let me take it. It’s no longer yours to hold on to. You have a clean slate.”
I looked forward to walking back to Lubanzi. I really clicked with some of the people there, and I looked forward to the good company. Ben, a guy from Boston, and I volunteered to go on an errand to get a couple things for the backpackers. I borrowed a rain jacket and got directions. “Just go around the hill and you will see a house with a pink hut not far from here. That is the house.”
We walked around the hill, and I could see about three different hills with pink huts on them. We heard chanting in the distance and looked to find someone who was performing some sort of ceremony. We made it to the right house, collected the items, and sat on the hill for a bit. I told Ben to zip up his pockets and asked if he was ready. “Yes.” He replied. I took off rolling down the hill on the wet grass picking up speed as I tried to see if he was following. Ben and everything around him was spinning in circles. I lied flat with my eyes closed until everything came to a stop. I looked up to see him just staring at me. I thought he knew what I was doing and would follow suit. Not the case. We both laughed and eventually made it back to the backpackers. That night we sang and danced around the Christmas tree, and I contemplated staying another night. I would have stayed if they weren’t fully booked Christmas Eve.
Walter and I left early in the morning on a shuttle to Coffee Bay. Coffee Shack had put up Christmas decorations and made a delicious Christmas meal. The food reminded me of home. I Skyped my family to see the kids ripping open presents and holding them up to the camera as tears rolled down my face. I longed to be there, but I knew my journey wasn’t quite over yet. There was something keeping me in Africa. My mind and heart wanted to be with family (at least for the holidays). There were times I needed them in this journey, but the determination of my spirit knew I couldn’t face home yet. I was still searching, still waiting. It was a bittersweet duality that I faced the first eight weeks of my trip.
Yaya, Jerry, Billy, Garrett, and I left the Christmas party to check out the stars and watch the moon rise. We walked up to a hill overlooking the ocean, and I sought a place of solitude. The ground was soft and damp as I reclined back into a bed of grass. My eyes were closed as I said a prayer. Opening my eyes I focused on the ocean and lifted them slowly to the sky. Chills ran down my spine and tears filled my eyes as I gazed at the luminous heavens. I softly sang Silent Night as I sent my questions out into the night sky as the stars received them and sang back. Fours hours later, I heard their song: the answer for where to go next came in tune my soul recognized. I was ready to leave Africa. I would continue on my journey and go to Israel.
I left Coffee Bay the day after Christmas. Durban would be my last stop in South Africa. I needed a few days to plan my next week (yes, I only get a week planned at a time), book a flight out, and do some research for the next few weeks.
I feel like that last week in South Africa was my toughest one so far. Although I am honestly having the time of my life, I have never fully sought after something so hard, and I won’t stop until it comes. What you may be wondering am I searching for? Peace. The peace that surpasses all understanding. Guidance. The guidance that says “This is the way, walk in it.” Healing. The healing that is transformation for me and those around me. Beauty. The beauty I know the Creator put in me and all around me.