Friday, April 27, 2007

Lily of the Valley

Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates, I've been really busy writing an assignment.

We arrived at Lily on the Monday, early evening, just Warren, the manager, and all the volunteers were leaving, they literally drove out as we drove in.
So we had the first evening for Esther and Katherine to get reaquainted with the children and house mothers, and for me to be introduced. Strangely, on learning I was Esther's boyfriend, they all laughed...

The kids at Lily are unlike any I have ever encountered. They are very tactile, crowding round you, jumping on you. They are very trusting of visitors, something which could be a problem later, but they are in a very good environment, with a strong Christian basis.

On the Tuesday, Sung Min, Warren's new bride, made her return from Korea. The welcome the kids and housemothers gave them was quite something to see, with banners and a Zulu song.
Sung Min was a volunteer at the same time as Esther and Katherine, so they were happy to see her again. As part of their wedding gift, we presented them with a framed satellite image of Lily.

We also got the chance to visit Makaphutu, the childrens village which has recently come under Lily management. They have had many problems there, but the new manager Wade, one of Warren's brothers, has many ideas on how to improve things.

I was made to be useful during my time there, I was mistaken for a volunteer by one of the staff and ended up driving the Kombi to Pietermaritzburg on an errand. My computer skills came in handy also.

It was a great time, I finally got to experience what I had been told so much about, and it has definitely confirmed my desire to serve abroad, should the opportunity arise.

We were there from the Monday, to the Friday. When we left, at around 1PM, we had little idea of the journey we faced. More on that later.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lesotho and the Drakensburg

On Thursday 5th, we drove into the Drakensburg. We stayed in a backpackers hostel at the bottom of Sani Pass, the mountain road into Lesotho. On the Friday we took a trip into Lesotho, where we got to experience a traditional dwelling, complete with home made bread and beer. As we were leaving Lesotho, the clouds descended, remaining til the morning we left.

We did manage one short walk to a nearby waterfall, and on Easter Sunday we visited a local church then drove into the countryside for a picnic. We then went to a local posh hotel for dinner, only cost 85 Rand ( 14 to the £1).

On Easter Monday we packed up again and drove to our final destination, Lily. More on that later.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

St Lucia

On the Monday (2nd April), we spent the morning looking around the shops in St Lucia, and in the afternoon we went on a boat around the estuary, where you can see hippos and crocs, as well as a variety of birds.
The next day we drove up to Sodwana Bay, which is supposed to be a very secluded quiet beach. Instead the beach was full of people who had driven onto the sand in 4x4s and set up gazebos. We looked pitiful perched on our towels between them. Shortly before we left, we went for a walk along the beach, only to discover a section of beach that was completely deserted.

Wednesday we decided to go to the beach at St Lucia. We were just starting down the road to the beach when a man in a pickup offered us a lift.
We discovered, as he drove us, that the beach road is about 3 miles long, so we were fortunate. We weren't at the beach long as the weather turned bad. We began the walk home and were offered another lift, which dropped us right outside where we were staying. Riding in the rain is actually pretty fun.

Thursday morning we left and drove down to the Drakensburg.

Sadly I forgot to take my camera with me every time we went out in St Lucia. I'll hopefully get some copies from Katherine.

Monday, April 16, 2007

South Africa Part 1 - Outward Bound

I'm going to split this into sections, for easy readability.

First up, the journey there.

Esther and I met Katherine at Heathrow on 31st March.

We flew Iberia, via Madrid, to Johannesburg, uneventfully. However, the food was awful, you had to pay for it on the short haul flight, and the meals on the main flight were manky - grey chicken for dinner, nasty looking cold meat for breakfast.
And the flight attendants were grumpy. And old. Hollywood lied to me.

We arrived in SA late, and we rushed from the international terminal to the domestic, to be told our connecting South African flight had closed. The man then tried to check us onto the next flight, only to discover the tickets we had were blacklisted.

We originally bought our tickets from MAS Travel, who took money from people, issued tickets, then ran off to Pakistan with the money, without paying the airlines. In December, Iberia contacted us about it, and they honoured the tickets, issuing new e-tickets, including the last leg with SAA.

However, SAA blacklisted the tickets without telling us, and we were forced to buy new tickets to Durban, hopefully we can claim back from the travel insurance.

We got on a later flight, picked up the hire car, and I drove the 300KM from Durban to St Lucia in one hit, arriving at about 7pm on the Sunday.

Morals to the story:

Beware of cheap tickets from small travel agents
Don't fly Iberia
Don't travel on April 1st