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Reader Travel Story: Mlungu in Bulungula

Words and images by Jacques Marais

“Little snotkop,” I think, as a wild-eyed youngster swings his rusty panga in a sweeping arc in the general direction of the Isuzu, while jeering loudly at us. Apparently I did no just think this, but voiced the thought quite forcefully. Hence ‘the stare’ from Karyn in the passenger seat.

In my defence, this is the second incident in the past hour, with another makwedini hurling a make-believe stone at the vehicle a few kilometres back near Mqanduli. I get the context: mlungu in a bakkie that is worth at least half a million bucks, and the locals wandering about in raggedy shoes and jerseys. We’re venturing way off the beaten track to a community-owned little spot by the name of Bulungula, situated midway between Coffee Bay and Dwesa Nature Reserve on the Wild Coast.

Tourism here is one of the sure-fire ways to boost the local economy, but aggressive posturing – even in jest – makes me feel… not welcome, shall we say. I’m not I’m not going to be put off, though, and move on, literally and figuratively, along yet another rutted stretch of gravel juddering downhill towards the Indian Ocean. It is undeniably picturesque, idyllic even, once you look beyond the hodgepodge rural sprawl clustered along the undulating ridges around the bigger towns in the region.

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