September trail – Nkandla and Msinga

 

By Sandile Masondo

The trail guides:  Sandile Masondo, Sipho Msiya and Philisiwe Masondo.

Area:  Nkandla, Qhudeni, and Msinga, Ngubevu Village

On 24th September 2017, a group of German students visited KwaZulu-Natal to be part of the Zulu Trails experience. This marks the 7th trail we we have run since we re-started the Zulu Trails five years ago. The students arrived at King Shaka International Airport on Sunday, 24 at 09h00. The group consisted of 12 students.

On their arrival we gave them a warm welcome.  We took them in a 15-seater taxi to Nkandla Qhudeni village, a journey lasting 3 hours and 15 minutes. Along the way we diverted to Msinga because there was a ceremony at KwaJali, home of the Jali family. This ceremony is called “ukubuyiswa komuntu”, – bringing of the spirit back home. (When a member of the family dies elsewhere as with the Jali Family, a delegation takes a small branch of the buffalo thorn tree to the location where the family member’s spirit enters the branch. The branch is then taken to the home kraal whilst being reassured the whole distance so that the spirit is not lost. Arriving, the branch is placed in the cattle kraal and a cow is slaughtered in celebration of the arriving of the spirit).

 

This was our lucky day because it was the first time we witnessed this practice with students. After the ceremony we were entertained by the “Hunting Dance” as this was Mr Jali’s favorite dance. This dance imitates the actions of hunting and the bravery it requires. This fiery dance is danced using sticks instead of spears to avoid injury and was danced before the hunt began. The girls were dancing their own version which is called “ukukhinka” or “imvunge”, a dance to welcome the men back to the homestead.

 

After the ceremony it was getting dark, so we then took a decision to spend the night at Ngubevu village. We slept next to the uThukela river, where we made a campfire that burnt for the whole night. We then did a reflection on what occurred during the day and we spoke about the aims and objectives of the trail. We also drew up a roster so that each person would do a night watch for an hour throughout the night.

We woke up at 8h30 so that we could continue with our plan to start at Qhudeni. I drove the first group of seven students to Qhudeni, then returned to collect the remainder. On our arrival to Qhudeni the weather was very cold, wet and misty which made it impossible to hike Qhudeni Mountain, We could only stay indoors and play traditional games including “umlabalaba”, which the students found interesting.

On the 3rd day, the weather was 20 degrees and that was good for us because we walked 15 km. We left Qhudeni village at 9h00 accompanied by the local guide Mr. Ntuli’s two sons. We had a break at the Dinuntuli homestead, where we connected with Mr. Mbatha, who joined us to cross the confluence of two rivers (UThukela and UMzinyathi). Our walk ended at Sibonginkosi garden, one of the Zulu Trails projects. We enjoyed our late lunch at the garden, and then later we walked less than a km to Mr. Nkomo’s home.

Day 4 was very exciting because the visitors and the local students were exchanging ideas about education systems of both countries. There were lot of other topics which included “ilobolo”, virginity testing, scars on the faces of local students, and much more.

When locals asked about the culture of the Germans there was no story to tell. I did not spend much time at the school; I had to rush in to town to buy paint that was going to be used to paint the kitchen and the school library.

By the time I got back from town, Sipho, Philisiwe and students had left the school to swim at the river next to Mr Nkomo’s place.

Two days of work have paid off!

 

It is important that we always make partners and friends through activities. Most of the schools in rural areas are very poor with limited resources, so we volunteer to paint the school for two days. We started painting at 8h30 and we had a break at 12h30. The girls played net ball while the boys were playing “umlabalaba” (Mlabalaba is a traditional two-player strategy board game; the game is similar to Twelve Men’s Morris, a variation on the Roman board game Nine Men’s Morris).

The following day we were able to finish the kitchen and the passage, but we could not paint the library because the walls were falling apart and needed proper plastering and reinforcement. The whole school was excited with the new look of the buildings. This was a fun exercise because it required a team effort from both local and German students. On that same day we played a soccer match and the local team took the victory as always, it was 3-2. But I have big respect for the Germans, as they were able to work as a team and they displayed compassion and determination.

 

The soccer match at Ngubevu sports field

On day 7, the weather was cool which made it a perfect day for our hike from uNomkhubulwane Mountain to Msinga top. This walk is significant because you have a nice view of uMsinga valley. Hiking further up you can see the place of uNomkhubulwene, “the queen of the rain”. The community of Ngubevu respect this mountain as their sacred site. (uNomhubulwane is the Goddess of rain, nature and fertility, and is regarded as the Mother Earth. She is believed to be capable of changing into different types of animals. The name uNomkhubulwane means “she who chooses the state of an animal”.) The Msinga community plough some of their small fields on top of this mountain, and from them they will select a special field which will be ploughed by the whole village collectively. On this mountain this field is never weeded or harvested right up to the next ploughing season when the cycle would resume again.

Our final day leaving Ngubevu, to travel to the Ithala game reserve, was very long. We left Ngubevu at 08h30 and arrived at the reserve 18h45 in the evening. We spent a day in the reserve and the following morning we traveled to Durban and to uMhlanga beach, where we spent half a day swimming. The student’s flight left Durban at 18h50.

 

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