10 things I learned in Khayelitsha

Posted by Alison Westwood on 3 September 2010

Last Saturday, the Getaway digital team tootled off to Khayelitsha to spend a weekend as township tourists in our own city. We stayed at eKasie Backpackers, an extraordinarily comfortable and pleasant spot that’s sort of a cross between a three-star hotel and a smart suburban home, and our hosts were Luba and Noma Mbontsi. The weekend kicked off with a hearty lunch of vetkoek with mince and then we went for a lovely long walking tour. After we’d worked up a hearty appetite again, it was time for a cooking class where we learned how to make chakalaka and spicy chicken, which we happily devoured for dinner. Then it was off to Solly’s Pub in Mandela Park for a spot of dancing.

All in all it was one of the most enjoyable weekends any of us has had in ages. It was also really educational. Here are 10 things I learned in Khayelitsha:

  1. Khayelistsha is super friendly to tourists. They really enjoy seeing mzungus (white people) in their neighborhood and make every effort to make you feel welcome. Sometimes the welcome can be a little overwhelming.
  2. Khayelitsha is divided into Sites (Site A, B, C, etc) and each site is subdivided into sections (A-Z). Each site and each section has its own special characteristics. Site A is the original, developed part of Khayelitsha, where the roads are paved and the houses are made of brick. Site A, Section B, where eKasie Backpackers is situated, is particularly friendly and safe.
  3. There’s a great sense of community in Khayelitsha – everyone knows everyone else, kids play in the streets, neighbors help each other out.
  4. Because of this incredible community spirit, you should never buy a house in Khayelitsha if the estate agent hasn’t taken you to see it. Even if a house is repossessed and can legally be sold by the bank, the community will prevent a new owner moving in if there is nowhere for the former owner to go. Despite this, property prices in Khayelitsha are on the rise. A few years ago, you could pick up a house in Site A for around R45,000, but now there’s nothing much under R300,000 and about R500,000 is normal.
  5. Khayelitsha is really close to the beach. From Lookout Hill – a tall dune with a walkway that you can climb – you can see the sea. The parts of Khayelitsha close to the sea have been earmarked for development. Khayelitsha currently sits ‘with its back to the sea’. The plan is to ‘turn it around’.
  6. Ziba chicken, on Spine Road, makes the best grilled chicken”¦ in the world. A whole spatchcock chicken costs R45 and a half chicken is R25. You might as well buy a whole one, because you will eat it all.
  7. According to black people, white people dress like campers. I went to Solly’s Pub, a nightclub in Mandela Park, wearing hiking boots, jeans and a t-shirt. Everyone else there was dressed up to the nines. Try to look stylish when you’re visiting a South African township.
  8. My African name (given to me by a guy at Solly’s) is Nandi, which means ‘something sweet’. If you find the same guy, ask him what your African name is. Christie’s is Thandeka and Sarah couldn’t pronounce hers, so she’s forgotten it now. But it had a nice meaning.
  9. Nightclubs in Khayelitsha are very different to white nightclubs. The lighting is bright, not dim, because the point is to see and be seen. The DJs are much more interactive and talk a lot and everyone sings along and chants. The dancing is WILD and pure fun. Drinks are about R10. Parking is insane.
  10. Sunday mornings in Khayelitsha are very quiet. There are quite a lot of birds singing. This is nice, because you will wake up feeling a little fragile after your night out. Everyone in the township goes to church on Sunday, but we went home to sleep some more.

Book your weekend at eKasie Backpackers – www.ekasie.co.za

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