European travelers love South African winters in the bush-veld with a good tan close to guaranteed. This winter a group of Dutch and Belgian guests put on their hiking boots for a firsthand experience of the rural lifestyles of the colorful Venda and Tsonga people in Limpopo.
An easy 10 km village meander
Our tour guide Alfred and young, local scrap-artist Pilato guided them on a 10 km meander on the gravel roads and footpaths that connects Mbhokota, Tshivhuyuni and Mukondeni villages in northern Limpopo.
Local scenes and sounds
The hikers found the traditionally painted homesteads charming and loved the rural sounds of Nguni cattle-bells, children playing and to walk past past hair-saloons and spaza-shops. They liked the chance to chat with the friendly local people along the way, to meet some crafters and artists whose work they have seen at Madi a Thavha’s ‘live-in’ Dancing Fish gallery and to feel Limpopo sun and dust on their skins.
The group started the walk at Masungulo Beads & Textile in Mbhokota where Elisah and Maureen use traditional Tsonga bead work on textile as inspiration for contemporary designs for jewelry and interior products. From there we cut through the village’s dust streets, took cattle footpaths through the bush where the hikers could see some of the indigenous bush-veld trees and local African medicinal plants.
Woodcarvers and artists on the way
In Tshivhuyuni we pop in at woodcarver Thomas Kubayi’s rural Vutsila art centre. Thomas carves his well-known sculptures and traditional musical instruments here and occasionally stages laid back traditional music performances on drums and marimbas at the center too.The hand piano or Mbila for example, is a traditional Southern African musical instrument. In the old days the Mbila was used on long journeys on foot, to entertain, inspire and encourage the traveler.
Well known Venda potters in action
Mukondeni village in Mashamba region is renowned for its good clay and the many skilled women that still make traditional Venda and Tsonga clay pots without electrical wheels and with open firing methods.
If you want, you can dance with
The hikers were picked up at Mukondeni and even had time afterwards to visit woodcarver Lucky Ntimani’s rural workshop-gallery where he runs a training program with schoolkids to learn to carve, play traditional music and do traditional dancing. Some even had energy to join the children dancing.
Madi a Thavha initially developed this walk for SNP Nature holidays in the Netherlands as part of a 16-day hiking holiday in South Africa and Swaziland. A similar circular day-walk can be done by individual guests staying at Madi a Thavha mountain lodge.