I received a call from Amos just before I started walking on my way to his accommodations, he’s one of the owners at Unjani Arthouse and Backpackers in a township called Kwanokuthula by Plettenberg Bay. A township is a place where mostly displaced black people as well as colored (mixed race) live in free but cheap and undermaintained homes. Poverty levels there are high and more than half the people there will never find employment to cover their essential needs.
I wanted to switch things up so I began my walk later than usual. It was a lovely walk, seeing the entire galaxy along the whole route to the township was quite astonishing. I arrived at 1:30am though I was scheduled to show up for 11:00pm. Hardly anyone was walking about at that time. Never did I really think my life or safety was endangered, I was more worried about waking people up by startling the dogs as they barked at my presence.
I finally arrived at Unjani Arthouse And Backpackers. At least I thought so based on the pictures I saw on the website. Understandably no one answered their phones so I rested my rucksack and laid there on the streets under the beautiful stars. Some would say that’s crazy, but I was never bothered other than by the chickens in the morning.
I finally met with Q early in the morning, he found me laying there in the dirt road.
Q is a great guy, always happy and social, although I worry for his safety when he told me he always loses his wallet or phone after a drunken night with friends. I stayed with him and we became instant pals. He showed me around the township, we grabbed lunch and must have walked for another 6 hours.
The number one problem in townships is unplanned pregnancy amongst underaged girls. You look at each one – so happy and free from these adult responsibilities that they shouldn’t have to experience for at least another decade but most of them will inevitability fall victim to premature parenthood.
What I really enjoyed in the township was the diversity of life, style and personalities. It was humans to their fullest characteristic potential. I met Q’s friends during a lunch I’ll never forget.
Q’s friend after com from the beach. We shared our food with him and he told us some interesting stories and perspectives of the town their living in. Never once did they complain about one thing. They are great at accepting what ever they have in the moment and use it to their fullest ability.
After we headed to the clinic, I wanted to have a look at the living conditions here, but also the health conditions. I met with the clinic assistant manager Noelle, everyone else was on holiday. Noelle gave me a fantastic tour of the clinic. Unfortunately I could not take any other photos but as you can see the clinic is well maintained and very up to date. It’s 5 years old and their sisters (nurses) have some of the same responsibilities as doctors since doctors are short staffed.
The number one problem Noelle said is the dealt mix of AIDS and TB. TB can be dormant in the body until the body’s defense system weakens from the AIDS virus, this can cause premature death. The second worst cases at the clinics are rape cases amongst young girls. On a brighter note there’s hardly any cases of malnutrition or starvation. Noelle couldn’t understand herself how that is possible since most people in the township are unemployed, however Q an answer. The settlers of these townships work on a basic barter system, where one would help his fellow Neighbour with certain tasks in exchange for food or shelter. It’s worked perfectly for Q who doesn’t have a job but helps out through the township.
Homes and ghettos
The townships are categorized by phases, there are 4 in this particular township. The first can be considered a ghetto where there is no electricity for most homes. The buildings become better moving up the phases. In order to get to phase 4 you or a family member would have had to live in the previous phases plus have a family. It seems like a complicated system but the growing poverty line is booming and homes are hard to come by, even though they are free for the settlers here.
As we walked to the ghetto which was across the national road from the township it got really hectic with sights of poverty and children bearing children. Q looked at me in admiration and told me that I am the first known foreigner to enter this particular ghetto. I didn’t feel special or brave. If I feel like I need to see it I go out and see it, that’s all. We climbed mounds of garbage debris just to get into the ghetto. It was a sad sight to witness, we always ask how people live this way. But what I witnessed is that no matter how hard the living conditions, man, woman and child always finds a way to deal with it in their own way. It’s not right, nor fair to not help them. Nobody wants to climb garbage debris just to get to their bed for a good night’s rest.
Heading back to the Kwanokuthula township all of a sudden this place seemed like a major step up compared to where I just walked from. Later that night I was invited by the Neighbour for a dinner, I was thrilled but just hoping it wasn’t goat insides again. Their food and company was warm, welcoming and beautiful. Q is a really cool guy and I enjoyed my stay at the Unjani Arthouse and Backpackers. I would definitely love to visit again.
Photos taken with Sony RX100 and story written and edited on iPhone 5
Mario is an explorer currently embarking on a voyage to walk across Africa by foot.