Township tour – discover the magic

2015-09-17 06:00
Making new friends at Sipho’s Tavern: (from left) Theresa (Swawel) Ruiters, Jeanette du Toit (General Manager at Fountain Mall), Lyiza Mpengesi, Ingrid Ruiters, Janina Braun (visiting from Germany) and Nadine Scheepers (Marketing Manager at Fountains

Making new friends at Sipho’s Tavern: (from left) Theresa (Swawel) Ruiters, Jeanette du Toit (General Manager at Fountain Mall), Lyiza Mpengesi, Ingrid Ruiters, Janina Braun (visiting from Germany) and Nadine Scheepers (Marketing Manager at Fountains

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THE beauty of Jeffreys Bay is legendary, but the town’s attractions include more than the beach, the best right-hand waves, mountains and farmlands. There is another side to Jeffreys Bay that visitors are immediately confronted with upon arrival, but often do no more than drive by in uncomfortable dismay.

Yet, the outskirts of the town hold many hidden gems waiting to be discovered or rediscovered. The many visitors, and locals, who do embark on a township tour will in all probability find the experience to be the most memorable and profound of their visit to Jeffreys Bay as they will discover that the dilapidated appearance belies a vibrant and vital local culture, (Ubuntu) humanity, history and fortitude.

I recently had the opportunity to enter the caverns of two local townships, Pellsrus and Tokyo Sexwale – leaving me with a better understanding of its unique culture. The township tour by JBay Adventures offers a great way to explore the vibrant informal settlements and interact with local residents. Visiting a traditional healer, ‘shopping at a local spaza shop’, looking upon the graves of the first residents of the area and enjoying a ‘cold’ one at a shebeen offer ideal opportunities to savour the flavour of township life.

The three-hour tour takes you on foot through the streets of Pellsrus to Tokyo Sexwale - all while the very knowledgeable tour guide, Mzoxolo Goodman, gives a holistic understanding of the past political history with the present struggle for social and economic freedom felt by those in township communities across the country. Goodman, who has been a tour guide for over eight years, does not plan his trips beforehand. He tells it as the different places speak to him.

Tour groups are kept small so that visits are intimate and encroachment on residents’ homes is minimal.

Expect to be pleasantly surprised by the ingenuity of the place. This is reflected in daily life as people go about their business. Where else but in a township would you expect to find a metal shipping container cleverly renovated to reveal a thriving hair salon? This is where you will get to see a salon client energetically tapping her foot in time to a lively song booming from the radio. At the same time her hairdresser bops along with her, all while dexterously manoeuvring and sewing in her lady’s weave.

Our first stop was at the grave sites of some of the first fishermen in Jeffreys Bay. According to Goodman some of the graves date back to the early 1800s. “They found their last resting place close to their first love and passion – the sea,” says Goodman. I have driven in Duineweg in Pellsrus many times, but never before noticed the white crosses among the overgrown bushes behind the high fence on the side of the road.

Just a few kilometres further, lie the dilapidated graves of some of the first inhabitants of Pellsrus, which is near impossible to see beneath all the rubbish and overgrown grass and bushes – a truly sad face. William Bell and his wife Johanna (born Ferreira) was laid to rest here in 1939 and 1953 respectively. Their closest neighbour is Bertha Hannah who was born in 1868 and died in 1922.

After a quick visit to the local spaza shop and pre-school, we headed off to the traditional healer – only known as Madlamini – in Tokyo Sexwale. While we were sitting in her small room, sunlight streamed through the small cracks between the wooden planks that make up the walls, illuminating roots, plants and herbs hanging from the roof and walls, and flecks of dust lazily spinning through the air. Here we were introduced to the ‘magic’ of Tokolosh Salt that keeps evil spirits away and Answer that will make your husband forgive and love you again after you have had a heated disagreement. Then there is also Storm – a root of which you insert a small piece under the skin of your one hand. If a bad person is approaching you, your arm will start to vibrate – warning you about the approaching danger. You will also be able to hit the person with the same arm – veering off the danger. If there is bad feelings between you and your neighbour you can wash your face with Mpendulo and all will be forgiven, or if you are speeding under the influence make sure you have some Phuncoka Bemphethe with you to make your violations invisible to the traffic cops if they should pull you over.

Appreciation for her time and sharing of her know-ledge is shown by saying very loudly Gcamagu and placing an amount as told to you by the ancestors on the ground before you leave.

On route back, we stopped at a local tavern - Shipo’s Tavern - where we not only enjoyed something cold, but also made new friends.

This is a fabulous tour for any visitor or local wanting to really understand and experience the past, the present and to get a glimpse into the future of Jeffreys Bay

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