22 March 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Visiting Townships

A philosophical friend of mine once remarked that travelling, if you do it properly, is not moving from place to place. Instead, it is going from person to person. Isn’t that true? It’s always the people that you remember. And there is no better way of appreciating that fact than on a township tour. This kind of tour should always have lots of time on foot. No matter what the history, the scenery or the buildings, in a township the people are the real attraction.

The best kind of tours are the ones where you connect so deeply with the people that years later, you wonder how they are.

In Knysna, Ella Mhlalu and Penny Mainwaring run Emzini Tours. And you stop often to walk through sections of the township. Here we met Andrew Lottering, who was piecing his life together after a fire destroyed his previous wooden house. The community had donated enough furniture and clothes for him and his wife to start anew.  So much so that he could afford to fret about the township goats that were coming to eat his flowers.

Then we discovered a hive of industry in old shipping containers. In one, a hairdresser. In another, a tailor. Nearby, another with a little restaurant in it. Outside was Lawrance Oliphant. He ran a carwash business and dreamed of one day having a high-pressure hose.

Best of all was the Paula Witney Pre-School. The kids leapt up and down behind the wooden fence, literally unable to wait to get into our arms. Their shiny faces and unself-conscious affection are completely addictive. Penny and Ella say they often have to scrape their visitors out of there.

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