Monday, September 1, 2008


Sorry for the lapse, everyone. It'll get more regular- I just took some blogging-strength Metamucil.

Anyway, I went to Durban this past weekend to see South Africa play Australia in rugby. The game, at least on the score front (27-15 Australia), was sort of a letdown but we came to celebrate nonetheless.
It was about a 12 hour bus ride from Grahamstown to Durban; we left around 7:30 pm on Thursday and arrived at the Durban train station Friday morning. Advil PM took some of the sting out of the ride.

We stayed at the Banana Backpacker's, which was about a 10 minute walk from the beach. It's just coming out of winter here so the water was cold, but that was going to be no deterrent against swimming in the Indian Ocean. Luckily, the sharks were all full on Friday so I escaped with life and limbs intact. Most of our Friday was dedicated to getting acclimated, going to the beach, and seeing Durban.

This place is PeeDoubleOh!Are poor. The trip was such a confluence of emotions: on one hand, I was absolutely delighted to be in a new place (to see an international sporting competition in person, no less); on the other, I kept reverting back to 'why is so much money devoted to these games when we just walked by people hanging on by the finest of threads steps from the stadium?' The desperation is palpable in Durban; you can almost touch it.

The game was on Saturday, so our day was devoted to that (and yes, they tailgate at rugby games, too).

On Sunday we went out to Drakensburg, which is a mountain range about three hours away from Durban. The ride was easy and beautiful. We got to the trail at round 930 in the morning and met our guide, Mbu, there. It was about a fiveish hour hike with a distance of about six miles.

The beginning of the trail went through some serious brush:
After about a half mile or so it started to clear up, allowing glimpses of the most majestic, humbling, and intimidating vistas I've ever seen:

At our halfway mark, Mbu stopped us at a large stone called Boundary Rock:

Yes, the rock was THAT big.

Painted on the rocks were a number of cave paintings, some as old as 10,000 years. I have more pictures of the paintings, but here is the clearest:

This painting depicts a Trance Dance. Mbu told us at length about this painting and what a Trance Dance is as he has participated in them before. Here's a paraphrase of his talk:

'Sometimes there are problems out of human control, like when a woman in the group is menstruating and won't stop, the men of the group will sit in a circle. They sing a song, the muherb (sp?) song. All will clap and one will feel an uplifting force, will begin to shake- to feel hot- to feel like he is bleeding he is so hot, the blood rushing as if it will come out. At this point he will feel half animal and half person. All will look. He will feel as if he is growing long, long hair. The hair will feel heavy. At that time he is communicating with the ancestors. Then he will faint. People in the circle will come close, touch him- feel him, feel the rhythm of his heart.'

So the painting above shows four men kneeling in front of a man who is experiencing this animalistic, communal, transcendental state. He has long legs, a dangerous looking tail, and claws. He is at the peak of his dance.

After we had ample time to absorb these paintings, we began our trek back:

On the way back, we stopped in a cave hidden behind a waterfall. Here is a picture looking out:

The paintings in this cave were all of Boks, a type of antelope (and also South Africa's rugby team name):

After that cave, we were pretty much back to the start, and we headed back to the backpacker's to get excited for our 5:30 am wake up call to get the bus back.

I promise I'll post again before the end of the week. Thanks for bearing with me.


Oh, I'm so pumped for Sarah Palin. It was like Christmas came early.

Soundtrack for this post:

Wiz Khalifa, Say Yeah

Bob Dylan, Stuck Outside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

Matt and Kim, Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare

ABX, Everyday Ghosthustlin'

A Tribe Called Quest, I Left My Wallet in El Segundo