Alternative energy powering us up in the mountains

Alternative energy powering us up in the mountains

Volunteer in the mountains… Why not? Even more of a reason now – we’re solar powered!

Come and visit us – we’re going eco. Once we got here, we realised that the cost of electricity installation far surpasses that of installing an all singing, all dancing alternative energy supply, so logic and finances automatically dictated that we immediately got straight on the blower to all the alternative energy suppliers here in South Africa. We have now opted for our first energy purchase to be a two solar panel system, providing a huge amount of amp hours daily. Later on, we’ll upgrade to a dual system, which will provide us with our own wind turbine to work in tandem with the solar units.

So, as well as giving back to the communities you visit and stay amongst, whilst on holiday here in Drakensberg with us, you will be minimising your footprint, as we are using not only renewable energy sources but a sustainable water source for both household and drinking water too!

What more reason do you need to come and volunteer with us in the Southern Drakensberg?

Waking up to the mountains… now everyday

The Drakensberg is a place that welcomes you, that holds you in the cradle of its mountains and doesn’t want you to leave.  It is a place that teaches you new things, and cleanses you.  It provides you with new experiences, and shows you how you can live, with just a small change.

Waking up to the view of our beautiful mountain range everyday is a never ending wonder, and something I don’t think I will ever tire of as long as I continue to live.  It is an ever-changing picture, solid and constant there in the background of the living room.  The morning mists make the light from the sunrise shine in an ever changing glow of gold, red, yellow, pink, blue and orange.  It is an amazing experience having morning coffee on the verandah in the still chilly air, breathing the first breaths of the new day and relishing in the cool, clear air clean from pollution of the cities.

In the Drakensberg, you remember how people used to be – our neighbours in the Drakensberg are wonderful people, friendly, welcoming and happy.  Everyone is interesting and interested in everything around them.

You learn how to live a mountain lifestyle, how to ride a pony, how to milk a cow by hand, how to fish for trout in the stream, how to put in a fireplace, and make a chimney work more efficiently, how to cook well on an aga, how to negotiate a mountain pass, how to operate a solar power system, a donkey boiler or a gas geyser.

You learn to live again.

If you want to live again, to leave your office behind, just for a while, join us here at Rivercroft Cottage fibre farm. See http://www.mozvolunteers.com for volunteering opportunities, or contact alex@mozvolunteers.com

Travel post-volunteer

South Africa is known as a truly varied and colorful holiday destination. It appeals as a vacation spot for line travelers, families and couples from all across the world.

Many of our volunteers end up taking a couple of weeks after the close of their MozVolunteers program to travel to different areas of this diverse and beautiful country.

I recently took a drive from Stellenbosch, down the garden route to Port Elizabeth. On route I stopped at Hermanus (the whale town) and Knysna (famous for fresh fresh seafood and a giant lagoon). I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty and variety I encountered along this route, the friendly places, and the stunning landscapes. The garden route is easily accessible: after leaving mozvol, fly from Durban to Port Elizabeth. Hire a vehicle and drive through to Cape Town, ensuring to take the time to explore the wine routes of stellenbosch, franschoek and Paarl.

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What is Africa?

What is the ‘real’ Africa?

Ask this question to any one person, anywhere in Afrixa and you will get a different answer each time.

For me? The real Africa, well, that’s easy.

Africa is certain sounds, or absence of sounds: the silence of the dawn, early morning waves of the Indian Ocean, too loud African house music- we call it ‘jelly legs music’ because young children dancing to it have legs wobbly like jelly, melancholy church gospel singing, cicada beetles and frogs lulling you to sleep and the gentle rumble of a lion’s call in the darkness.

Africa is also the smell of the potato bush.

Africa is the taste of fresh fish, the taste of salt on my lips and above all, a cold beer or glass of wine from the West coast.

Africa is hot and cold. Sunshine and snow with open fires and warm soup.

Above all, Africa is happiness, love, smiles, friendship, a struggle, but one that is truly worthwhile. Why? Because the rewards you get are better than anything else ever could be.

Creepy crawlies and bugs and things

I’m not a person who minds spiders, they have never bothered me, and I know that I can live happily side by side with all sorts of flying bugs, moths, insects and beetles (Bean on the other hand is terrified of spiders, and runs a mile screaming whenever one makes a visit).

One summer in Mozambique, we had just moved house, and after a good spring clean, we doused the outside walls liberally with fendona insecticide (a major necessity in the war against the anopheles mosquito and cerebral malaria). Settling into bed (after the rigmarole of showering in cold water, spraying liberally with peaceful sleep insect repellent, securely tucking mosquito net under sides of bed, cranking the fan up to high power, turning lights out and jumping into bed without disturbing the tenuous arrangement, or getting bitten by a sneaky mosquito in the process), I was about to fall into my usual deep dreamless sleep, when *ouch* I felt a sharp pain on my left shoulder blade, followed by a numbness on the left side of my body. I screamed, jumped a mile in the air, Scott also jumped, but to turn on the light and examined the place of impact. Spider bite. Huge, painful, red, swollen, instantly explosive spider bite.

After a massive dose of antihistamine, some ant-inflammatory and a large glass of wine, I was still numb (probably exacerbated by the wine), just a little sort but fine and even managed to fall back to sleep.

However, a couple of nights later, whilst lying in bed reading (again after the usual bed time rigmarole) Scott looked up at the corner of the door-jamb and immediately turned white (usual reaction to a large creepy crawly). Wedged between the hinge and the wall was the largest spider I have ever seen in my life, at least the size of a large dinner plate, with protruding eyes and fluffy legs. Mesmerised by the arachnid, we sat there for a while, and then in a moment of decision, Scott picked up the bug spray and doused the thing, full spray for at least 5 minutes – he was clearly taking no chances! It may or may not have been the thing that got me previously (doubtful, as smaller spiders usually cause the largest bites), but it definitely got the full force of our truly anti-arachnid feelings!

Luckily (for Bean anyway..!) spiders of that size are less common in South Africa than Mozambique, and I can safely say that we happily left that species well behind us with our move to South Africa.

Recently, however, now that summer is on its way, we are getting the usual increasing snake population here in South Africa. Although most species that reside here in South Africa are harmless and probably just a little curious, sadly, there are a few that can be very dangerous (to animals as well as humans), and although you can keep vigilant, check through your grounds for invaders who are the worst of the species, and never tramp through long grass without shoes, some (poisonous and not) do inevitably slip through the surveillance.

In January this year we had the most fabulous Australian girl volunteering with us. She was lying in bed, finishing writing up her volunteer diary entry for the day, and reached to the lamp at her bedside to turn out the light. As she did so, she noticed a small, grey snake coiled around the lamp’s stem. Very bravely, instead of screaming, or waking Scott or I (we were already sound asleep and oblivious to the maneuvers going on in the next room..!) she picked up the lamp by the shade, and moved it into the lounge. A little later, she realized what had happened (possibly after the adrenaline caused by finding a snake inches away from her head had subsided), and on second thoughts woke us up with the worry that one of the indoor animals may be vulnerable to being hurt by the snake. We removed the snake (luckily a non-poisonous variety) using a golf club, and all trundled back off to bed…

Are you scared of spiders like Bean? Do you not like snakes? Or are you more like me, and only worry about them when they hurt you?

Creepy crawlies and bugs and things often pop into our lives here to say hello, 99% of the time they are perfectly harmless and possibly just curious about what we are doing and who we are. Don’t get scared by them, try and stay calm, and always let someone know if there’s a snake on your lamp, or a spider in your bed -we can quickly set it free (its probably much happier outside anyway!) and carry on with our day or fall back to sleep to the wonderful sounds of the bush, the crickets, frogs and the cicadas: that African lullaby that makes our sleep so peaceful here.