Yesterday was a public holiday called Women’s Day, so all the clinics are closed and we had the day off. I went with Carly, Danya, and Lanai to Phe Zulu, a safari park in the Valley of 1,000 Hills. It is just west of Durban, and was surprisingly quick to get to. There, we paid 130 rand ($13) to watch traditional Zulu dancing and tour the reptile farm. The view from there is beautiful – you can look out onto the valley and understand why they call it 1,000 hills. We passed many craft shops, cafes, and restaurants, so I’d like to rent a car one afternoon or weekend and head back there to shop.
After we purchased tickets, we went out to a small mock Zulu village. We were taken into a wife’s hut, where they explained how men are able to marry as many women as they please, so long as they have enough cows to pay their fathers (the minimum bride price is 11 cows). Before they marry, girls wear only skirts, and remain topless. When women are married, in addition to wearing shirts, a tall hat with a wide top is sewn into their hair. They must sleep on wooden pillows that look almost like low stools to keep their hats from crushing against the ground. Each woman gets two huts – one for cooking and one for sleeping. In the cooking hut, a woman dressed in the bright traditional skirt demonstrated how they ground corn to make bread, and ground other seeds to make beer. We got to taste some of the beer, out of a traditional pot. It was better than I expected. It was semi sweet, with a thicker consistency than modern beer – it reminded me of farm-made apple cider that you can get in the fall from local orchards. The next hut was filled with smoke, to keep it warm since the day was cold. The smoke is also used on warm days, to keep the huts cool. There, a man demonstrated how they smoked marijuana out of a horn. The guide was careful to explain that they don’t do it any more.
Finally we went to the theater, where the stages of a Zulu wedding were played out for us. It began with the boys fighting with sticks, trying to impress the girls. When a girl fell in love with a boy, she put a necklace around his neck. Then the boy goes to the fortune teller. Fortune tellers can be any age, any sex, so long as they have talent. They provide a dirt mixture to drink to induce vomiting, so the belly and chest are cleaned, as well as smoke to clear the head. If the fortune tellers approve, the boy must provide the bride’s father with the negotiated number of cows, and then the ceremony takes place. We watched many songs and dances, all of which celebrate a new marriage. It was especially interesting to watch as my host family is planning a traditional Zulu wedding to take place in September. Last weekend, all the men gathered at our house before going to the bride’s family to negotiate the number of cows to serve as the bride price. My host mom informed me that with my master’s degree, I would be worth 25 cows. Today, the bridegroom brought over half of a lamb, which they boiled in a big pot in the backyard. Lots of family came over, and the wedding planner was there to discuss details of the wedding.
After the Zulu dancing was over, we went to the Phe Zulu Reptile Farm. The farm has hundreds of crocodiles, ranging in size from barely the length of my forearm to well over 3,000 pounds. Crocodiles have some interesting characteristics. They just about never get sick, and are able to heal most injuries sustained in the wild even in dirty, bacteria-filled conditions. Crocodile oil is sold and added to creams and ointments, but it is interesting to consider the possibilities for new antibiotics and vaccines as well. We watched the crocs slide around on their bellies for a while before checking out the snakes, where we got to hold a giant Burmese Python. When in Africa, right?
Our last stop in Phe Zulu was the hilltop restaurant, where we tried crocodile samoosas. Seemed a bit harsh after visiting all of the live crocs, but such is life. We also ordered Malva pudding, described as a “traditional Zulu favorite” that turned out to be suspiciously similar to sticky toffee pudding. I suppose that is the wonder of colonization and globalization. On the drive back we stopped at the BAT Center, which provides space for local artists to work and sell. It was quiet there because of the holiday, but it will be easy enough for me to go back when it is hopefully busier.