Backpacker Paradise

Sunday, March 7
There’s no easy way to get to and from Bulungula, but the best of a bad lot is to take the Baz Bus to Mthatha and then the Bulungula shuttle from there. Once we committed to that, we were committing ourselves to the backpacker’s trail along the Wild Coast. It’s the path of least resistance. You buy a ticket for a week and then you can get on and off the bus at any number of backpacking lodges. The bus picks you up and drops you off at your destinations. I’m not sure we would have wound up otherwise at Buccaneers. But then we would have missed perhaps the most famous backpacker lodge in all Souith Africa.

It was once an overgrazed cattle ranch. But at some point, it came to someone’s attention that the hillside spread commanded the kind of view that would gladden the hearts of young adventurers fleeing the rigors of winter in England or Germany or Holland, or really anyone with a soft spot for idyllic beachy paradises. So starting in 1981 they built a series of cottages and dorms and planted palms and succulents and other dense native vegetation. Today Buccaneers has the soul of an old pilgrimage spot, revered by free spirits and hippie throwbacks and penny-pinching geezers. The walls around the front reception desk (which is built of corrugated zinc topped with a slab of wood) are plastered with notices for surfing lessons, trips to the nearby village market, sporting and cultural outings, rides wanted. The rooms like ours (a double with a bath) are cheap; the dorms and camping spots even cheaper. The vibe is funky tropical, more backpacker’s resort than youth hostel.

Our room was clean (if worn), the bed comfortable, the enormous beachscape from our wooden deck the sort that would command a multimillion-dollar price tag in La Jolla. The pitter-patter of little gecko feet (the resident pest, along with ants) creeped me out for a few minutes after we turned out the light. But we’d been reasured they don’t bite.

Alas, something DID apparently bite me at some point in our travels, and I’m beginning to suspect that the bite somehow got infected. That would explain the red raised welts that seem to be spreading along the hairline on the left side of my face. They hurt too, so we’re going to try to seek some medical attention tomorrow in Port Elizabeth, after we pick up our car.

The bad news is that in order to get to PE, our Baz Bus ride tonight will take five hours (from 5 to 10 p.m.) The good news is that after enduring one hypertensive frustration after another, I finally got online last night and again this morning. (Internet connectivity has been shockingly bad so far, in our experience.) Online, I learned that my nephew Lee has now survived to be one of the last 8 guys and 8 girls competing on American Idol. That’s almost exciting enough to make me want to fly home. Almost, but not quite.

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