Since my first trip to South Africa in 2012, I have been hearing about this mysterious, serene, majestic and peaceful place called “Candu” which is in the Eastern Cape state of South Africa, about an 8-10 hour drive south east of Durban.
Candu is also home to the Xhosa Tribe peoples who have lived and farmed the Eastern cape area for over 300 years. Candu is also on the main N2 south highway that runs from Durban and down to Cape Town along the picturesque Garden Route. Our trip was to be short three day trip with only one full day spent in Candu.
We had been asked to pick up sis Dorothy, an invalid Xhosa woman on crutches at a town called Mount Frere, about 2 hours from Candu. It was a long drive through lots of rain showers and fog over the mountainous N2 route and by the time we got to Mount Frere it was already getting dark. Fortunately, Dorothy knew the way as Josh, Steve, Cia and myself had no idea where we had to turn off to find the Candu Good News Centre. Our only instruction to Dorothy was to please give us a few hundred mts notice before asking us to turn.
Suddenly Dorothy cries out “turn here” !!! ……. We had no time to slow down and turn as we sailed past the turn off ……. Josh managed a “U” in the dark and entered the road that Dorothy had shown us. Immediately we were confronted with an impressive entry point with huge iron gates and a guard box. We had no idea that Candu was in a secure gated area so this was a pleasant surprise. The guard however, was very slow to respond to our arrival and seemed not to understand what Cia, our Zulu maintenance man was asking. Already tired from the long drive I was in no mood to be delayed any longer. I burst from the car and explained to the guard that “Templeton” was expecting us !!! The guard looked and seemed quite puzzled and appeared still quite reluctant to open the gates and let us in …… Again I insisted that “Templeton” was expecting us with the emphasis on “TEMPLETON” …… It seemed to me that he was not quite sure who this “Templeton” was, but at the same time he seemed impressed by whoever he is ….. and for a moment appeared to be weakening in his resolve to open the gates for us when a message came from the car ….. “Come back Charlie”
On arriving back at the car I was to learn that Dorothy thought we might be interested in stopping at “Nelson Mandela’s” original home and that our Candu turn off was still 20 min down the road !!! I sheepishly got back into the car and as we drove off was sure I noticed the guard mumbling the words “Templeton” under his breath. I am sure he was impressed with this man “Templeton”, whoever he was !!!
By the time we reached Candu, it was late and in complete darkness. However, the warmth of our reception from Templeton and Addy, a young Xhosa man was overwhelming. Beaming smiles, handshakes and warm hugs were shared all around as we unloaded the van and settled down to a meal together which we had purchased earlier for everyone.
The new day brought the sounds of country all to soon. At about 4.00am the local rooster made an early start to his work duties for the day by crowing the sleep from my ears and reminding me that the sun was soon going to rise. And rise it did ….. to a picture perfect morning with a cloudless blue sky and the sounds and sights of farmers and shepherds going about their business with their animals in the early morning haze.
A part from my bed bunk falling apart during the night, the rooster crowing far to early for my liking and the torch of one of the volunteers shining into my dazed face about 6.00am … it was great to be in Candu and rising with the morning sun !!!
The Candu Good News Centre operates as a church, a crèche and a residence for some local Christadelphian brothers and sisters. The crèche operates 5 days a week and starts receiving children by 8.00am. These Xhosa kids are amazing. They are all generally polite, well mannered and considerate of one another ….. they are children of local farmers and herdsmen. They are from the land and are a part of a small farming village. At the crèche they are fed by “Meal a Day” and are taught english and some basic life skills by the teachers. The teachers and the care women are kind and well grounded people in touch with their faith and culture ……
In the afternoon, we were able to visit Templeton home across the way and also go for a short drive to see Nelson Mandela’s birth place and his village from the crest of a hill. On the way back we stopped at the village “bore water pump” which we all worked, but only Josh and Steve tasted, sadly for them. The afternoon was spent quietly with the children or just sitting and watching the grass grow in this beautiful, quiet, peaceful and serene farming village called Candu.
There was even time for the most amazing floor treatment I had ever seen. The Xhosa women treat and seal their round hut mud floors with “cow manure poop” at least once every week. The poop is softened with water and then spread by bare hand in long over lapping strokes. I am reliably informed that the finish removes all previous scuff marks from the floor and leaves a “nice” country “aroma” unexpected from such an application. I didn’t hand around long enough to see the completed work or give my nostrils a test run ….. but I’m a believer !!!
Later in the afternoon we had a memorial service for all the local brothers & sisters followed by a “brai” (BBQ) fraternal dinner for all the local people, about 40 in total. The brai was superb, but better still was the excitement and the dancing and singing of the Xhosa women as they danced, clapped and sung their way around the hall and finally of into the distance as they made there way home.
The Candu village is very poor and to brighten up their lives a little we had brought some extra food, bottled water and some treats for the children. It really is amazing how some very basic food items, a few coloured pencils, some tennis balls, a soccer ball and some small candy treats brightens up all their lives so much. It humbling to say the very least when we all have so much by comparison.
As we drove away from Candu, we stopped at the top of the hill to have one last look at the village …. to breath in that beautiful fresh country Candu air one last time ….. and to feel the peaceful serenity that we had all been touched by here … if only for a day.