Sometimes in life, an important part of the journey lies in its reflection.
Having delayed my journey by two days, I finally found myself at The Backpack with a swollen up foot which I had badly bandaged, after fighting off a minor foot infection from the previous weekend’s shenanigans.
The day had been a long and hot one, after spending it walking through SA’s oldest township known as Langa, with Imivuyo tours. The sun had been as fierce as the wind. I was hungry and exhausted.
I was more than relieved to settle down to a comfortable room and just be for a while. I was booked to leave on the Baz Bus early the following morning which was to take me to Lungile Backpackers in Port Elizabeth, where I would spend the night in transition before making my next stop at the Buccaneers Lodge and Backpackers in Chintsa.
So there I sat, wrapping my mind around what I had just seen in the township, at the foot of Table of Mountain in this award-winning 5 star establishment which boasted killer views in the peachy Cape Town sunset.
I set up my computer and camera gear outside in the covered communal area, where I was greeted by curious tourists asking to see my pictures from the day’s excursion. A special cosy gathering space, a number of other guests joined me on my venture of surfing the free internet access; others sat in clusters enjoying beers in the last of the day’s heat; and some were in search of allies to accompany them on their night-time excursion to Long Street (one of the CPT’s party hostpots) a mere 5 minute walk from The Backpack.
Next thing I knew it was 22h00. I had gotten so carried away by the people that I had forgotten to feed the monster in my belly. Although The Backpack does not cater dinner for its guests, it is easy enough to nip-off to some of Cape Town’s groovy local restaurants for a late bite to eat. I would recommend Rafiki’s at the top of Kloof Street where I found myself that night, on the balcony overlooking the busy street. People (local and foreign) rejoiced around me in Friday festivity. My beer and pizza arrived, and as the waiter dropped it in front of me flashing a brilliant white smile and my belly belched in anticipation, I struggled to get started.
Today I had seen people of different ages, races, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. I watched these people live and learn how to deal with the harsh realities that they are faced with each and every day.
I made my way home with a full tummy – a 2 minute illuminated walk before entering the security of The Backpack. I climbed my way into the cosy bed with the soft pillows and shut my eyes listening to the guests who were still awake, splashing around in the swimming pool outside my window.
As I listened to the laughter, my thoughts drifted.
How could I even begin to complain about my middle to upper class lifestyle?
Somewhere, maybe 20 minutes away from me, there is a child who has gone to sleep without food in its tummy. Somewhere out there was a person who was sleeping out on the street without the comfort of the cosy bed with the soft pillows, without the safety and security of a home to sleep in. And what could I do about it – just one small person in such a big world of problems? Where do I even begin?
I felt a slight sense of ease wash over me when I remembered that backpacks and lodges such as The Backpack which are Fair Trade accredited, use a portion of the money which you spend at their establishments to create positive impacts which benefit the communities (the local people and the environment) which surround them. These transactions are all transparent. If you find yourself questioning where the money is going to, you are free to ask.
I slept comfortably. It was the first night my infected foot had not throbbed. I will be back at The Backpack on my return to Cape Town where I will be able to review the establishment with more time.
If this was only the first day of my month long trip, I wonder what the rest of my journey has installed for me. From here on out, everything is about the experience.