We took a ship, the original Pacific Princess of "The Love Boat" fame, from Capetown and cruised up the eastern coast of Africa. Our first port of call was Durban, a modern city that reminded me of San Diego for some reason. We boarded a motor coach and drove through town to Shakaland a couple hours north. Shakaland is billed as a village celebrating Zulu cultural. However, it reads like a theme park since it was originally built for the movie, Shaka Zulu.
This was no problem for Johnny who watches Zulu and Shaka Zulu almost as much as I watch Jane Eyre. In fact, going to Zululand was one of his top priorities. I was less enthusiastic about the prospect until we got there. Our guide and the folks who welcomed us with traditional food, weapons, and arts were warm and charming. For all the research I'd done on African culture, I was amused at my own shocked reaction to beautiful young women dancing bare breasted. Turned out that I wasn't the only one who was surprised and a little embarrassed as our guide explained that Zulu women didn't cover their breasts until they were married which signified that they were no longer available. I made a lot of eye contact with these girls because I didn't know where else to look. Even the men in our party averted their eyes. In retrospect, I think we were caught in that mix of feelings because we didn't want to be rude or disrespectful. Apparently, we needn't have worried. They had obviously encountered confused tourists before.
Zulu maidens showing us how they carried their water jars.
Johnny posing at a gate.
Zulu wives weaving mats.
Our guide and one of the maidens in front of a typical Zulu house showing us a selection of clay pots.
As our guide took us through the village, a child wandered out of one of the thatched houses crying for his mama. He couldn't have been much more than a year old. Our guide scooped him up, wiped his nose, and carried him with us. Eventually, the boy's aunt showed up to fetch him. Johnny and I were touched that everyone in the community took responsibility for every child. If real Zulu life is like what is depicted in this park, they reminded me of how neighbors show up to raise a barn in our Amish communities and how we bring food to families who are grieving. It made me feel that people aren't all that different no matter where they live in the world.
The Zulus showing off their hand-made shields.
Zulu tribe members showing us one of the many dances they perform for different events.
After we toured the facility, we sampled Zulu food from a buffet. I selected something simple -- some kind of grain cooked up like we prepare grits. It was topped with a warm tomato, onion, and green pepper stew that was delicious. All in all, Shakaland was great fun and we learned a lot.
We reboarded our bus and headed back to Durban. We had been on the road since breakfast and it was now just past 2 pm. We were hot, tired and sunburned. Most of us closed our eyes intending to nap as we rode. However, it wasn't long before the air-conditioning unit began leaking cold water down the backs of our necks. Everyone gasped in surprise and complained. The bus driver stopped a couple of times to examine the guilty device, but apparently the only option was to shut down the AC. That elicited another round of moans and groans as it was in the high 90s Fahrenheit and dark, heavy clouds pressed the breath and good humor right out of us. After about twenty minutes, the gods responded to our sweaty whining with a cloud burst. Soon cold rainwater replaced cold air conditioning water dripping on us. That bus's roof was a rusty sieve. The driver ignored our pleas and drove on. I suppose he didn't have an alternative.
A woman in the front of the bus pulled a tiny umbrella out of her backpack and opened it over herself and her seatmate. Pretty soon everyone sitting under a leak followed her lead. It looked like a whole flock of Mary Poppinses. We drove on in gloomy silence until a lady in the back of the bus started singing "Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day" in a sad, funereal manner. I giggled and someone else laughed -- and then we were all singing...at first any song anyone could think of that had the words "rain" or "water" in it...and then any old song like "Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall" and "The Hokey Pokey." By the time we arrived back at the ship, we were all friends. We clambered off the bus and hurried to our cabins to shower and change before dinner. As we entered the dining room, we could hear people telling wild stories about our adventures in Shakaland and all the umbrellas in the bus. Ah, the challenges of travel!