Tag Archives: outdoors

Bulungula Lodge: Green and Serene

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BULUNGULA LODGE: Green and eco-friendly

THERE are very few lodges in the world that can say they run on the same amount of power used by a toaster; a full 24-hour day on what a toaster uses in an hour, to be exact. Bulungula, situated just south of Coffee Bay on South Africa’s Wild Coast, is one such lodge.

Where hills and sea meetThe Wild Coast earns its name by being a watery graveyard to several shipwrecks. Whale bones dot the coastline and it is largely an unfenced area populated by pastoral communities. Bulungula was founded where hills meet sea and is in among a variety of flora and fauna. From the lodge one looks down onto a glorious beach and estuary. The backdrop is those lovely velvety hills with springy grass that spills down the dunes and kisses the rocks and sand below. Goats, cows, chickens, ducks, dogs, donkeys, pigs, sheep and horses all roam freely, and down by the river’s edge, mangroves flourish.

Bulungula, with its use of solar power, rocket showers and compost toilets, is a living example of how tourism can, in fact, be eco-friendly, clean and sustainable. Grey water from the sinks feeds the vegetable garden and the lodge has calculated its annual carbon footprint and plants trees to offset this. Cultural fusion is at its heart, and the realisation that there are many different ways to live your life is something that will have you hankering for more.

Accommodation at Bulungula Lodge

Bulungula Safari TentBulungula offers lodgings in either rondavels or safari tents. Four-bed dormitories are available for those on a budget­. The huts are more spacious and central, but the tents are more private­. I opted for the latter and although I often had to fight my way through the dune bush in pitch darkness, the double bed that awaited was cosy and the wooden deck perfect for star gazing.

(It says on the Bulungula website that if you don’t see a shooting star within half an hour during a clear night, you get that night’s accommodation free. I checked and saw three).

One is able to go to bed with the tent door left open with the roar of the ocean in your ears. In the mornings you can view the sunrise over the horizon without lifting your head from your pillow.

Bulungula Lodge: South Africa

Crime and safety at Bulungula Lodge

It’s hard for a South African to think of any place in the country as crime free. Because the Bulungula community owns 40% of the lodge, there is a vested interest, and since its establishment in 2004, there has been no recorded incident of even the most minor theft. Once you accept that crime is non-existent, it’s quite liberating not having to constantly worry about your belongings going walkabout.

Cellphones lie in a neat row on the kitchen windowsill while cameras and laptops lay about on tables and couches. Anything can be left quite safely in your unlocked hut or open tent. So long as an inquisitive goat doesn’t mistake your goods for lunch, everything can be left with peace of mind.

The Bulungula Lodge is the realisation of a dream dreamt during years of travels through the most remote parts of Africa, China and South America: to create an eco-friendly backpackers lodge in the most beautiful place in South Africa in partnership with a vibrant, traditional community.” – www.bulungula.com

The people you meet at Bulungula

A place like Bulungula attracts people of all ages from all walks of life and from all corners of the globe. During my four-day stay, I crossed paths with Sam — a video editor from north London, Matt — a surfer and ex-banker from New Zealand who sold all his possessions to spend a year travelling through South America; sweet, tattoo-clad Stephanie from Switzerland, Melissa, the 23-year-old Canadian who is bravely journeying from Cape to Cairo, Keegan from Cape Town, and a few American girls doing missionary work. It was a real treat to interact with such well-travelled, open and friendly people.

Things to do at Bulungula Lodge

BulungulaIf lying on the grass with a beer and good book or wallowing in a rock pool isn’t enough action for you, there are several things to do at Bulungula. The lodge and its activities have completely uplifted the surrounding villages and several community members have started their own small businesses. There is much to learn too if you immerse yourself within Xhosa culture.

I indulged in a two-hour horse ride which started along the beach and then headed inland and uphill. With the horses being as tame and well-disciplined as they are, no riding experience is required. Other options are to take a tour with the local herbalist, enjoy a full body massage, hike, fish, crayfish dive, glide down the Xora River in a canoe, or learn how to play the hypnotic bongos. Popular board games are available for rainy days.

I honestly can’t commend Bulungula enough. However, if luxury, comfort and privacy is your thing, it may not be your cup of tea, but I think it’s a must-do for any city dweller with a sense of adventure. The laid-back nature of the place, the hospitality, safety and friendliness may well change one’s outlook in pretty profound ways.

Just be warned that the ride is rough when driving there. It is unknown how solid your bones need to be in order to traverse a severely pot-holed road for 36 kilometres. But then again, isn’t being hard to get to one of the definitions of a paradise?

White Mountain Folk Festival

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White Mountain logoIF you want to get away from it all and chill out in a superb mountain setting while listening to acoustic performances by some of the country’s top artists, then look no further than the annual White Mountain Folk Festival.

Running from 24 to 27 September, this intimate, family-friendly festival is held at White Mountain Lodge near Giant’s Castle in the beautiful Central Drakensberg region of KwaZulu-Natal, only 34km from Estcourt on tarred roads and 200km from Durban.

On offer is a four-day programme of laid-back acoustic music, as well as a wide choice of outdoor leisure activities, arts and crafts, a beer market and assorted food stalls. Festival-goers can also make full use of the lodge’s facilities, including a restaurant, pub, games room, swimming pool and satellite TV.

Check out the following video of last year’s festival to get a good idea of what you can expect…

White Mountain Festival 2008

How much are the tickets? I’m keen! (I hear you shout)
Early Bird tickets are now on sale at Computicket for just R350, which is a saving of R150 on the gate price. This offer is limited to 500 tickets only, so make sure you get in early. Children under 12 pay R50. The price includes camping in the newly graded and grassed festival campsite overlooking the dam.

If you’ve ever been to Splashy Fen before, the White Mountain Festival is basically a smaller, more acoustic-sounding version. However, because of it smaller numbers, it is far more organised, controlled and comfortable – making the whole outdoor experience that much more enjoyable.

If you’ve ever been to Splashy Fen before, the White Mountain Festival is basically a smaller, more acoustic-sounding version. However, because of it smaller numbers, it is far more organised, controlled and comfortable – making the whole outdoor experience that much more enjoyable.

Now in its fourth year, White Mountain has quickly become a firm favourite on the events calendar and is perfectly timed to coincide with Heritage Day and the start of the school holidays. The line-up is currently being finalised and will be announced shortly.

For more information, visit www.whitemountain.co.za
or contact Pedro at 082 892 6176.

Click here to see this year’s video: White Mountain Folk Fest 2009

White Mountain videos

The White Mountain folk festival is an annual event that takes place near Giant’s Castle in the Central Drakensberg region of Kwa-Zulu Natal from 24-28 September. If you have been to Splashy Fen before this is basically a mini-version of that whole scene, only with more acoustic-type music and a much more mature, less inebriated crowd.

This was the third White Mountain festival and the event seems to be growing in popularity. I highly recommend it and suggest booking accommodation in the lodge if you’re not the camping type. It is during the rainy season after all.

White Mountain Festival 2008

If the above video doesn’t play you can watch it here

White Mountain highlights

Meet James – the ultimate festival hippie

Related:
Watershed videos
Splashy Fen videos

Camping in the digital age

JUST when I thought camping was the last resort for getting away from the digital world and getting back in touch with nature, ‘camping specialists’ release what they call the N!ergy tent.

What this modern day tent does is allow one to recharge and make use of a variety of 12volt gadgets within this secluded eight-man fabric bubble. While the birds and wildlife creatures experience the real outdoors, the N!ergy tent camper can operate a DVD player, MP3 player, hair dryer, a weather station, and even vacuum their home-resembling living space. With a concealed wiring system, yet a glitzy array of glowing outlets, the tent looks like a mini Hollywood – with all the best of home entertainment concealed inside.

The N!ergy Tent

Products such as these are giving new meaning to “roughing it out in the outdoors”, but to experienced campers the N!ergy tent should be seen as an abomination of the true camping experience. What will become of the days of sitting around a smoky campfire, roasting marshmallows, and bonding with nature and one’s family? Camping is just not what it used to be.

But for those who enjoy their comfort yet wish to disillusion themselves with an experience of ‘camping’, the N!ergy tent might be just for you. Allah forbid that the product ever reaches South African shores, but for those who wish to import such crap it goes for $279 (roughly R2000 by today’s standards).

But don’t be fooled yet – the E! Power Pak (battery) comes separately at another $60 (R480). But for the patriotic campers who aren’t afraid to really rough it out and be away from their iPod and hair dryer for a few days, you can pick up a decent tent for about 500 bucks.