Isithumba is one my favourite places to visit as a tour guide based in Durban. When I get out the car I can’t help but breath deeply of the amazing sharp and clean air. I feel a sense of calm wash over me when I stand there, it’s the same sensation I get when arriving home after a long trip, for me Isithumba is home, a home away from home I guess.
We’re Back Baby!
The last time I took guests from a cruise ship to Isithumba was at the beginning of March in 2020, and just a couple of days later South Africa went into lock down. I wasn’t sure I’d ever have an opportunity to visit again with tourism clinging punch-drunk to the edge of consciousness on the ropes.
You can imagine my excitement then, when out the blue guests booked a visit to Isithumba yesterday; for me it was like the day before Christmas as a kid. I barely slept as I wondered if it would be the same – and much to my absolute delight, it was!
Rolling Hills, Nguni Cows and Lots of Goats
Isithumba lies about 60min west of Durban – seems like a bit of a drive, but honestly it’s through some of the most beautiful scenic countryside you could imagine. You drive past rolling hills of green sugar cane, small farming communities with their square fields laid out in grid fashion, there’s cows and goats passing the day away on warm roads, there’s smiling friendly people local people walking to and fro – it’s kinda what you expect from a rural area and you are not dissapointed.
But the real moment when everyone gasps, is when you turn off the main road and in front of you the KwaQimba valley is revealed. As far as the eye can see are these round hills that blend into the horizon – it’s no wonder that the great American author Mark Twain remarked to his travel companions “My, it appears to be a 1000 Hills in the Valley“.
Charming, Authentic, Rural
As you drop from the main road into the Valley of KwaQimba, you enter a yesteryear – there may not be the grass huts of old, modern building techniques with block and concrete is just as popular here as elsewhere, but the traditional round houses of the Zulu dot the hillsides everywhere.
As you drive down the road and move around cows and goats, you immediately feel a sense of calmness envelop you – you can’t help but wonder if perhaps this is not the way we were also supposed to live – in touch with our neighbours and the enviroment.
As you follow the meandering road that takes you deeper into the valley, people seem to be friendlier, they smile and wave, the children cheer – I swear I saw a dog grin from ear to ear. And then you arrive a Isithumba.
The village of iSithumba sits on a hillside overlooking the Mgeni River as it meanders westwards. The nearby hills are covered with the thick, luscious vegetation that is so common around Natal. If you stand still and listen you can make out the calls of the weavers, the Glossy Starlings, the Hornbills and the excited squeals for the primary school children nearby.
My guests and I were greeted by a grinning Amimi, a local guide and resident of Isithumba. He very quickly charmed my guests with his friendly demeanour and shepherded them off on a town of the village. You learn early on that Amimi loves this village and that he is known by everyone who lives there and the greet him with the same friendliness and warmth that he greets you with.
The village is small, but people here follow the Zulu philosophy of Ubuntu where everyone helps everyone else. You have to if you live in these rural areas – there’s few jobs about and the small grants paid by government barely feeds a family of four for a week nevermind a month.
And yet people in this village display this sense of well being and warmth that makes you think that perhaps true wealth is not the possessions we collect about us, but rather the fostering of community all in it together.
Every family has a few chickens and couple of goats and the ladies (and these days quite a few men) tend vegetable gardens or help in the large communal garden nearby. The Zulu people here live the old ways so not even the errant electrical supply phases them, they simply collect firewood as they always have and go about their business of cooking and cleaning and other domestic tasks.
Why Visit Book a Tour to iSithumba
I could go on and on about the virtues of iSithumba but you need to visit and experience the people and the place for yourself. There is no place in or near Durban that you can get a real feel for the Zulu people as they go about their daily lives than in iSithumba.
Apart from visiting iSithumba, you will also get an opportunity to visit PheZulu Safari Park (more about that another time) as well as enjoy a (optional) traditional lunch with Amimi and his family.
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