I’ve been on many tours in a few countries, but it was a tour in my hometown of Port Elizabeth that impressed me recently.
The tour started off as expected. A polite greeting at the collection point and a simple introduction as we set off. Our driver/guide, Xolani, happily explained all the interesting things about Port Elizabeth as we drove. During the longer stretch of highway from the beachfront to Red Location, Xolani gave us a little introduction to the Xhosa clicks. While it was fun for us, already familiar with isiXhosa, I imagine that it’s mind blowing for someone from The Netherlands or England. 😉
Our first stop in Red Location was a craft centre co-sponsored by Calabash Tours. Xolani, and all the other driver/guides, grew up in these townships, and told us how Calabash helps fund and empower the local community.
A while later, after learning about the different areas and businesses and people, we arrived at Mama Gwen’s house. This is where it got really interesting. The meal included in the tour was made by Gwen. We sat at her table and talked with her husband while she served us fruit, fish, samp, chicken, and pap.
While we ate she shared stories of her childhood in District Six, and how they were forcibly relocated. When we were finished eating she showed us around her house and shared her plans and dreams with us.
In all our touring, in all the different countries we’ve visited, we have never had such a personal experience on a tour. It really is something special to sit down and share a meal with someone in their own home. You can read all the history books you want, but until you sit down with someone and have them tell you what they personally experienced, you won’t truly get it.
It’s fantastic that foreign tourists are coming here and experiencing this tour …and spending their currency on our shores. It’s great, but I firmly believe that South Africans who don’t live in the townships need to take the time to do this tour. Tour2.0 presents tours all over the country, operated by local tour operators. Go find one near you. In Port Elizabeth, it only costs R695 per person for a half-day tour including a meal. That’s a reasonable price for a tour, and it’s comparable to anywhere else in the world. I’ve travelled a bit, I’ve done tours, I know this. Believe me.
This is more than being driven around while learning some history, it’s an opportunity to grow as a person.