It’s 30-something degrees, humid, and I’m on a bike that, admittedly, is as overdue for a service as I am a visit to my dentist.
But I love a bit of heat. If I didn’t, I’d be in Iceland. And for a tour of Kwazulu Natal’s Khula Village, this bicycle - wobbly steering, squeaky brakes and all - provides the perfect transportation.
Located a short drive from the popular tourist spot of St Lucia and the UNESCO-listed Isimangaliso Wetlands, Khula is a tucked away hamlet that provides a glimpse into rural, but contemporary Zulu life.
My tour of the village starts at WOWZULU Marketplace, the first stop for any tourists entering the area.
Here, you can learn about some of the history of the region at the Simunye (Welcome) visitor centre, check out locally made crafts (to buy or just admire) in a converted shipping container, or enjoy some barista coffee. It’s from here that cycling tours of the area also depart.
Siya is our group’s biking guide. Before leaving, he gives us an insight into some of the local culture, including how certain foods are prepared, using Zulu words we try - and fail - to pronounce, like ugqoko (a carved meat platter) and uguqa (a traditional thatched hut). Hopefully we have more luck on our bicycles.
The ride itself is relatively gentle, taking us past some of the village’s homesteads, local businesses, a church, even a court.
One of our first stops is at a roadside kiosk, where we try some local vet koek (‘fat donut’), perhaps to fuel up for the ride ahead. Or maybe just because the donut, which sits between sweet and salty, is so tasty.
At one stage we cycle past a high school, around which smartly dressed students socialise almost without a glance our way. Younger students, at what must be an elementary school, are more vocal, yelling and waving as we pass by.
Not long afterwards, we arrive at the small Simunye Creche. Inside one of its rooms, we’re treated to a song by dozens of children, while next door, even younger kids vie for our attention, waving from their doorways in excitement.
Perhaps the most interesting stop on the tour is the visit to a sangoma, or healer. Inside her ’practice’, which sits in a rustic compound, patients are assessed and prescribed treatment for various ‘ailments’, the most common of which is apparently lovesickness. No one in our group volunteers to be treated. Maybe the cycling, fresh air and friendly faces already did the trick.
How to get here? Khula is just 10 minutes from St Lucia, which is a 3-hour drive from Durban.
Where to stay? There are a number of small hotels in St Lucia, but for a location close to the lake and its hippos (who’ll even come onto the property) and main street, try The Elephant Lake Hotel.
Where to eat? Italian food and seafood seem to be popular around here. For good Italian, try Braza or Alfredos (which is directly across the road from the Elephant Lake Hotel).
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