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Roadtrippin: Lusikisiki to Durban

Louis Fourie was not kidding around when he named his place Be Out in Africa.

Despite directions from Lusikisiki, we still managed to get lost, riding along a sprawling tea plantation to the edge of Magwa Falls, only to realise we were on the wrong side of it.

Magwa Falls, the highest falls on the Wild Coast 

An apocalyptic sky threatening to erupt at any second was incentive to take the ‘shortcut’, which involved skirting fallen tree trunks, driving through a river with the help of an old Pondo man with no English - who managed to convey the route using emphatic hand gestures accompanied by toothless grins - and teetering across thick gorges like a tightrope walker on wheels.

Fallen tree trunks prove no obstacle to a Vespa rider

Crossing river on a Vespa

As we rode through Gwexintaba Village, kids and adults alike stopped in slack-jawed astonishment, waving at us with unbridled excitement.

Riding a scooter through rural Gwexintaba Village

Louis came to meet us half way, driving a banged-up FJ45 Landcruiser and stopping to give school kids a lift.

As we followed him through an ancient Afromontane forest, the kids crowded in the back started singing in harmony, a moment that would have seemed contrived were it not so spontaneously exuberant.

Schoolkids on back of a truck in a thick forest

Arriving at Be Out in Africa, Louis was a whirlwind of energy, catapulting us from one subject to another on a high-speed tour.

Louis Fourie, Be Out in Africa

From his organic permaculture garden to the compost toilet overlooking the valley below, to his water pump that harnesses the energy of Magwa Falls to pump 18000 litres of water up to the village (that’s around 900 buckets of water every day), a natural swimming pool and an earthbag building made using recycled materials with the help of two Dutch volunteers (who like the place so much they’re staying for a year), Louis is an unstoppable force.

Adorned with inspirational quotes and Xhosa translations, Louis’ rondavel is the biggest I’ve seen, and certainly puts junk to use: the stairs are made from tree stumps, an old net makes a rocking chair, the lampshade is a hat, and climbing equipment hangs everywhere.

Be Out in Africa firmly believes in reuse before recycle

Naturally he captures rainwater, uses solar and is heavily involved in community work – teaching gardening and soccer to kids with the hope of providing opportunities to remain ‘in paradise’.

He also cuts down alien trees (spearheading a massive alien removal project at the falls), has a weekly educational movie session and manages the talented local band.

It rained steadily for three days, which, combined with Chris’ tickbite fever, resulted in lazy afternoons. Fortunately the shrouds of mist finally parted to reveal our incredible location on top of a 240 metre high plateau, surrounded by the Goso Forest.

The mist parts to reveal our location on a 240 metre high plateau

We had to visit Magwa Falls the next morning, which plummeted nearly 150 metres below into a rainbow-lit canyon.

Magwa Falls near Lusikisiki Transkei

After near-constant rain, the gravel road was a decidedly slippery one. Fortunately, splashing through huge puddles was more fun than scary.

Riding through muddy forest on a vespa

Riding through the muddy Transkei on a Vespa

Two Vespas ride between rolling green hills in the Transkei

Leaving the endless green hills of the Wild Coast behind with regret; empty tar roads, perfect weather and speed limits of up to 100 km/hr meant we could ride full-tilt, a rare treat that almost made up for it.

Past the unlikely named no-horse town of Redoubt and we were in Kwazulu Natal, where we stayed in a self-catering apartment at Far Horizons Lodge, Port Edward.

Owner Debbie Sharp told us of her plans to go completely off-the-grid in the next two years, starting with the Eco Camp.

Debbie Sharp, Far Horizons

Once a chicken farmer, today Debbie is more interested in pigs - their manure will feed her biogas digester and fuel her car, while the pigs also fertilise and dig up the soil for her organic veggies.

In line with this, Debbie has founded the Eco Green Training Centre, aiming to develop eco-friendly farming methods and efficient waste recycling for rural upliftment.

Debbie also purifies her greywater using Effective Micro-organisms (naturally occurring microorganisms purify and revive nature) and testifies to outstanding results.

Tropical garden, Far Horizons lodge

Hot, humid and tropical, it was hard to believe it was winter when we left the next morning. Swanky cars swished past us disdainfully, so close it was as if they were trying to bat us out of their way.

Riding past hibiscus trees, rolling sugarcane fields, the massive South Coast Mall and through a toll gate, we arrived at Port Shepstone, where we’d be staying at the Honeywood Guest Lodge.

Honeywood has eight beautifully appointed chalets with sweeping views over the indigenous vegetation, which has been carefully preserved by geologists Sharon and Ian Smith.

Honeywood guesthouse, Port Shepston

Limiting their impact with energy-saving light bulbs, a filtration system using effective microorganisms and rainwater harvesting that reduces their water usage by 60%, the couple are very involved in community work through their Rotary club.

Sharon Smith

The next day we followed the N2 through the township, passing by more speed cameras than I could count.

Arriving in Harding we were met by Principal Jonathan Simpson, who inspired us with his drive towards sustainability. With a motto to ‘live and grow’, the school has a permaculture garden that feeds over 150 special-needs kids (and has resulted in reduced rates of illness), is committed to recycling (paper, tins and glass are used in innovative projects) and hopes to become a resource for the entire community.

Innovative recycled glass platter, Harding special school

Siphakamele Combined Primary School was similarly inspiring. With a vast permaculture garden, the Eco School helps feeds over a 1000 children, more than half of whom are orphans and vulnerable children (OVCS).

Schoolkids harvest from organic vegetable garden

After attending a permaculture workshop, Natural Sciences teacher and Enviro Club mentor Gugu Mzimande now practices worm farming, companion planting (onions and chilli’s deter moles), and hopes to see both educators and learners becoming more aware of what is happening with the environment.

black schoolgirl holds out tomatoes picked from garden

Likewise, we were interested to see if COP17 had resulted in increased environmental awareness in Durban. Check out Life is a highway: From Durban's urban jungle to the meandering Midlands to find out!

Riding on a vespa through the forest

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Hi, my name is Melissa and I created this site together with photographer Christopher List to help spread awareness about green lifestyles and travel, so everyone can learn how easy it is to live in a sustainable way. Enjoy!

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I wasn't sure what a permaculture design course was about, until I read through Melissa's fantastic blog! I've signed up and soon I'll be a PDC graduate too.

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The link between personal responsibility and preserving our environment is becoming increasingly clear to me. Reading up on simple ways to be more eco-friendly in my life and travels has really helped me practice what I preach.

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I can't wait to follow Melissa and Chris' adventures in the Middle East and Africa. You guys inspire me!

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