Posted in travel

Ready, set, go?

I am finally getting a break from university for a week. It has been a tough and exhausting few months. However, I am so excited to be spending six days away from Grahamstown doing what I love best, HIKING!

I will be hiking the Tsitsikamma mountain trails with a group of about twelve people from the Rhodes University mountain club. We will be hiking for at least 13km for six hours every day.

This trail is apparently quite gruesome on some days but generally I have been told it is a manageable hike. We will be carrying our own bags and sleeping bags. Preparing our on food and even carrying our own toilet paper. Basically, it is a every man for him or herself situation.

 The Tsitsikamma mountain trail is my first official proper hike this year. I do not think am fit enough and quite frankly I have never been on a hike were I had to carry my food and prepare it myself. The thing that scares me the most is carrying unnecessary amounts of food and having it weigh me down during the hike. At the same time, I want to carry as much food as I can. Am not prepared to inconvenience others just because I was afraid of carrying excess weight. And the other is I have no idea if this trail requires proper hiking boots. Have any of you done this trail before? Can you help a sister out in terms of what take?

I will be leaving on Saturday 26th so I will not be blogging until I get back. However, before Saturday I will be sharing a few tips on how am getting ready and what I will be taking with me in terms of food, gear and clothing. L hope to hear some of your suggestions on what to pack and I also look forward to writing a piece about my experience and in addition sharing with you awesome photos from the Tsitsikamma Mountain trails.

Below I have attached some pictures from a 32km hike I did last year with the mountain club in the Groendal reserve.


Photo credits: David Kinsler


Posted in travel

De-stressing at Assegaai

University can be stressful sometimes. There a several ways to de-stress when things get too overwhelming however I recommend joining sports societies or any other societies that can allow you to engage in activities outside school work. For the past two years I have been a member of the Rhodes University Mountain Club. I initially joined because I love nature and hiking however, I have discovered that is also the best way to de-stress due to the hectic and overwhelming demands of university and social life.

This weekend despite the rain I joined the Mountain club on a two day trip to Assegaai trails a nature reserve in Grahamstown Eastern Cape South Africa. On our arrival we unfortunately had to change our plans because of the weather. The plan was spend the night at one of the camps inside the trails however we feared that the rain would not stop, making it too cold to enjoy our stay. We then decided to stay at the dorms which I can safely say was a far better idea.

Photo credit: Guinevere Shapiro

On arrival, we dropped our overly packed bags, had some breakfast and then stepped into the rain to begin our hike through the purple trail. Each tree was marked purple making it easier for slow walkers like myself to take it easy and catch up with everyone else without getting lost. We walked for about 5km to the camp we had initially planned to spend the night at. The trail was extremely slippery which made the hike incredibly difficult. I have a few scars to show for it. Despite the negative aspects of the hike, the scenery was incredibly breath taking and made every fall worth it.

Photo credit: Marjorie Rugunda

We had lunch at the camp, re-energized and after an hour or so we began or trail back to the dorms. We took the red trail this time to make the trip a bit more adventurous. Despite this trail being quite steep, we were greeted by several giraffes and a turtle as we got closer to our dorms. This was definitely my highlight of the trip because I had forgotten that Assegaai is not only famous for its trails but it also happens to be a game reserve. It begun to rain again so we didn’t really have time to take enough pictures of the beautiful animals however, we got back to the dorms in good time, had a good nap and later that night we spent time playing games, listening to music, eating and chatting away.

Photo credit: Marjorie Rugunda and Guinevere Shapiro

This weekend was definitely much needed. I would recommend anyone planning a trip to the Eastern Cape of South Africa to visit Assegaai trails.


Posted in Short stories

Once upon a failed assignment

I am ashamed to admit that in two years of being at Rhodes University the old white and partly brown stained building next to Drostdy Arch has never struck me as interesting. But Scifest is in town, taking me where I have never been. Believe me when I say I was shocked to see that there was actually stuff in there.

I immediately abandoned my African fresh water insect mission (sorry, Scifest) and quietly followed the pushing and shoving of eager students into a world of adventure and learning. The Albany Museum is really something else. It is a great learning space for students and adults who prefer to be in the company of artefacts and objects that are well taken care of and secure parts of our history that we tend to forget.

Each room exhibited different animal species, fossils and several traditional fishing objects I did not even know existed. From mammals to different types of insects – you name it, it all exists in that haunted looking building. I was quickly spotted by the tiny humans who discovered I had a camera in hand and they eagerly stepped forward to have their memories captured by a stranger.

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I was clearly not the only one having a great time at the museum. Photo credits: Marjorie Rugunda

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Photo credits: Marjorie Rugunda

We left the world of mammals and ventured into what resembled a bird sanctuary. The students stood with their cell phones taking selfies while others preferred to listen keenly to their teacher who quizzed them on what bird species were most common in Africa. I then followed the beaming smiles to a section of wetlands, were we were taught about the importance of conservation and preserving our wetlands. The knowledge shared within that space was truly exuberating.

I was content and satisfied with much of what was on display but while taking a picture of three fashion-forward students from Amazizi Senior Secondary School, I noticed that the tiny feet I had met on my way into the museum were in a room that exhibited important aspects of the AmaXhosa culture. The walls were covered with photographs of astonishing AmaXhosa women covered in traditional cosmetics. Together with photos that showcase different rites of passage practised by the AmaXhosa. In the middle of the room, a casket-looking glass cabinet displays different traditional plants, sticks and stones used by the AmaXhosa. These objects raged from Umnquma a traditional stick to Umavumbuka, a root parasite that the AmaXhosa use to prevent pimples and as sunscreen.

Students pose for a picture while navigating a room that displayed  aspects of AmaXhosa culture at the Albany museum. Photo credits: Marjorie Rugunda

Museums are there to educate and to exhibit important aspects of our history. This room in particular I felt was really important because it conserves significant parts of a culture. I was glad to be among the students as they glanced at photos and objects celebrating their culture. It was an amazing experience for me being that I am an international student living in the Eastern Cape. I felt that in that room at that moment it was the right time to ask the students if they were enjoying themselves. And in high-pitched voices they all screamed YES!

Posted in Short stories

Unforgettable experiences

Teaching has always been a passion of mine. I especially love to engage with children and find what is they are thinking or interested in. A few months ago I was lucky enough to teach Grade 7 students by partnering with Awarenet an organization located in Joza Grahamstown South Africa. Together with a few classmates of mine from Rhodes University, we embarked on a four week journey with these students teaching them how to write articles for Youth day.

Photo credits: Chiara B.

The biggest challenge was really to break down how to write an article in the easiest way eleven year olds can understand. The first few weeks were particularly interesting because we got some really exciting story ideas from the students. I was impressed at how aware these students are about some of the important issues that affect a number of youth in South Africa. These story ideas raged from teen pregnancy to drug Abuse and some decided to write about the youth that inspired them.

Group photo with Grade 7 students from Awarenet and fellow classmates from Rhodes University. Photo credits: Awarenet

Personally I learnt how to communicate and how to listen. But most importantly how to be patient. Teaching younger students can be a bit stressful especially because their minds tend to wonder constantly. The teaching process also took place in computer laboratory so that made it the teaching and guidance process even more difficult because they were more interested in surfing the net. However these particular students were also eager learners and despite a few setbacks by the end of week four we had about eight well written articles for youth day that were then published in Grahamstown’s local newspaper Grocott’s Mail.