You will meet the Nokuphile family and their friends, old and young. You can choose to engage or not engage with the family as freely as you like. You will have your own big circular, gorgeous rondavel with high wooden beds and clean bedding. Enjoy spectacular views and the joy of sharing your environment with cats and kittens, dogs and puppies, geese, pigs and piglets, sheep, goats, mules, donkeys, horses and cows! If you have young children, this is a truly substantial and magical experience.
A 45 minute walk gets you to a the Spaza shop and then Bulungula Lodge. See www.bulungula.co.za. At the lodge there are wonderful activities constantly on the go: horse riding, tours with a Xhosa herbalist, tours of the village, canoeing on the river, massage and dinners / lunches to order in advance. The lodge also sees a constant array of passing travellers who are often inspiring individuals!
Language Preparation: If you feel like a bit of a linguistic ‘leg up’ you can opt for either or both of the following:
- Xhosa Fundis’ 6-lesson Course in Essential Social Xhosa (group or private)
- A private ‘Homestay Orientation’ lesson (2 hours) which is specifically designed to help you with the most essential language for living with the Nokuphiles. For example, phrases like, ‘could I have some water?’ ‘I’d like to shower tonight’, ‘we would like to eat our dinner at sunset’, ‘could we have some tea please’, ‘where is Banoyolo? My child wants to play with him.’ ‘is there a puppy that my child can play with while here?’ At the orientation, we will also tell you a bit about the family, their names and how things run at the homestay.
What’s not perfect?
- The flies can be a slight nuisance in your rondavel, but this can be managed by hanging fly catchers from the rafters or by taking nets to sleep under.
- There will probably be some rainy days.
- Transport (manageable but not straight forward – see the options below)
What to take with you:
- some clothes
- sunscreen and hats
- fishing rods (if fishing’s your thing)
- torch / head torches
- towels and bathing suits
- raincoats, gumboots – especially if you are going in December.
- food to supplement mama’s meals: Jam / spreads, meat / protein that will keep, e.g. tinned tuna / sardines and don’t forget the tin opener!!!
- Board in Rondavel: R140 per person per night
- Camping: R70 per person per night
- Breakfast and dinner: R50 per person per day
We are happy to manage your booking arrangements and arrival details with mama Nokuphile for R100, unless you are able to speak Xhosa, in which case we will just as happily give you her contact details to do so directly. (For more info on the homestay see https://bulungulahomestay.wordpress.com.)
SELF-DRIVE (click here for map): it is now possible to drive to the lodge with any car (thanks to the new village gravel road). Please note that the last 30km is bumpy gravel/dirt road, but normal two-wheel drive vehicles come to Bulungula on this road every day. This road is in poor condition but if you drive slowly, anyone can arrive and leave in a normal small car even if it’s raining. We do however occasionally get guests who freak out about the condition of the road, while on the same day a mom and her young child have no complaints… so it is hard to know how to describe our road other than that it is driveable. (For those have been here before, it is the same as it’s always been, except that now the road comes all the way into the village.) Please print our map and measure your kilometers carefully and make sure you get here well before dark otherwise it is easy to miss the landmarks given in our directions. The new road comes to our parking area which is 5 min/500m walk away from the lodge. Parking costs R15 per car per night.
PLANE TO MTHATHA: SAA flies directly from Johannesburg to Mthatha daily and from Port Elizabeth to Mthatha once a week (book well in advance to get cheaper seats). You must catch a flight that gets to Mthatha before 3pm so you can catch our shuttle (Tue, Thur, Fri and Sunday) or alternatively you can hire a car at Mthatha Airport (Avis, First Car Rental and Europcar) and drive to our parking area.
PLANE TO EAST LONDON: SAA flies to East London from Cape Town and Joburg. Kulula (budget airline) may soon fly from Joburg to East London too. From East London Airport you can either hire a car (we recommend Around About Cars and Argus Car Hire which are cheap and have unlimited kilometres) or you can catch the Airport Shuttle (Tel: 082 569 3599) to the East London bus station where you can catch a Greyhound or Translux bus (these depart EL at 12pm) to Mthatha where our shuttle collects on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays from the Shell Ultra City at 3pm.
MTHATHA SHUTTLE: Our shuttle collects from the Mthatha Shell Ultra City (Baz Bus, Translux and Greyhound bus stop) at 3pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. You MUST call us the day before to book your seat and thus ensure that the shuttle is sent to fetch you. The shuttle costs R80 per person. If you are coming from Coffee Bay please call us the day before for shuttle arrangements – we will collect you from the Bulungula/Coffee Bay turn-off (called Lutubeni) so you don’t need to go all the way back to Mthatha.
HIKING: You can hike the stunning coastal route from Coffee Bay to Bulungula over two fairly easy days – overnighting in Lubanzi at the backpackers or the homestay). We will transfer your bags free of charge from Coffee Bay to Bulungula, so you only need to carry an overnight bag. Please email us for details and costs.
LOCAL TRANSPORT: We believe that most backpackers in South Africa are missing out by not travelling around the country on local transport. Not only are minibuses and non-tourist buses much cheaper and quicker but they are also often the best way to meet interesting people and to learn about local culture. We recommend a crowded bakkie taxi filled with people, chickens, groceries and laughs over luxury transport any day. Coming by local transport is definitely the best way to appreciate the unique location of the lodge (read a travel story about this journey here). In fact, anyone who arrives at the lodge by local transport from Mthatha gets the first night free.
Please take the following precautions when using minibus/bakkie taxis:
- Only catch taxis from a taxi rank not on the side of the road (remember that taxi ranks are popular with pickpockets);
- Don’t get into a taxi with a drunk driver;
- Women travellers should be wary of taxis that have only male passengers; this is unlikely to be a taxi and is more likely a football team car or something;
To get to us by taxi, go to the Mthatha long distance taxi rank which is about 300m west of the Shoprite at Circus Triangle. Ask for the taxi to Xhora/Elliotdale. It costs about R25 and takes about an hour (on the way, you may stop and change taxis at Mqanduli – the driver will organise this). From Elliotdale/Xhora, you have 2 options. There are a handful of taxis that come directly to our village. Ask for the taxi to Nqileni or Bulungula or “Dave” (the last one leaves Elliotdale at about 3pm). OR catch a taxi from Elliotdale to Nkanya (R25, 2 hours). Before you get onto this taxi, confirm that they will drop you at the ferry (“eskepeni”). You will have to walk the last 800m from where the road ends to the ferry. The ferryman will row you across the Xhora river (R5). From there it takes about 35 minutes and is a stunning walk through a beautiful friendly village.
If you want the cheapest and quickest way to get to Mthatha from Cape Town, take the DMJ Transport bus from the main Cape Town bus station (the DMJ office is next to the Greyhound office). The bus is as luxurious as the Greyhound (toilet, video, drinks, etc), costs R350, takes only 13 hours (it uses a much shorter route than Greyhound/Translux) and on your return to Cape Town they drop you at the door of your lodge/house for free. (Tel: 021 419 4368). The only down side with coming to Bulungula on the DMJ bus is that it gets into Mthatha at around 9am while our shuttle only leaves Mthatha at 3pm… a long wait… (wait in the Wimpy in the shopping centre at the bus stop). Therefore, if you come by DMJ the best bet is to continue on local transport (minibuses) all the way to Bulungula.
Please also see https://bulungulahomestay.wordpress.com for more info on the homestay.