Wednesday, 19 September 2012

We Have Arrived!

After a very long journey – 8 hour flight from Calgary to London, 6 hour layover, 10 hour flight from London to Johannesburg, 4 hour drive from Johannesburg to the Hands at Work Village – we arrived safe and sound last Friday afternoon! It is now a reality, folks. After talking about Africa for what seems like forever, we are finally here!

We rented a car to make the trip from Johannesburg to Nelspruit and it was quite an adventure. Byron learnt on the fly how to drive on the left side of the road and the right side of the car.  We rented a little Volkswagen sedan that was probably the lightest car ever, feeling it swerve every time we passed by a truck. Trucks were about the only vehicles that we were passing, though, because everyone speeds like crazy here! The most interesting part of driving through South Africa is that there are actually signs that warn of hippos crossing the road. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to witness that actually happen. Also, the road between the Hands Village and White River is not exactly the best. Large potholes litter the road and ended up taking out one of our hubcaps! Luckily, one of the other volunteers we were with saw it fly off and we were able to retrieve it and snap it back on!

We spent the weekend taking advantage of our rental car, driving into the nearby towns of White River (small, but only 15 minutes away) and Nelspruit (big, but 35 minutes away) to pick up groceries and other supplies for our room.  Our accommodations are less dorm style than we had initially thought and more cabin style (think of a church camp trip). There is a main room at the center of the Village that contains the kitchen and living/dining area. On either side of the Village are three brick buildings – one for the bathrooms and two for the rooms. Check out the pics below of our new digs!

Highlights of the weekend include:

1)  A 15.5 hour sleep on the first night we arrived. We went to bed at 9:30 pm and didn’t wake up until 2:00 pm the following day when someone woke us up by knocking at our door.  Our old man bods apparently struggle with long travel! Of course, this was all evened out by our 2-hour sleep the next night.

2)   KFC!!! For those of you that know us, we are dirty, filthy KFC enthusiasts. Apparently, so is the rest of South Africa. KFC is by far the most prominent fast food joint. In fact, once you near a KFC, there are road signs to let you know how far away you are from one and in which direction to head to get there. Maybe it won’t be so difficult to adjust to South Africa after all!

The greatest thing about the KFC here is that it’s much cheaper than it is in Canada. We took advantage of a “family meal” that included 6 pieces of chicken and your choice of 3 sides. Our sides were 4 hot wings, 2 small popcorn chicken and 2 small milkshakes. All this for around CDN $12! The worst thing about the KFC here (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter) is that we felt like dying afterwards. In my (Byron’s) mind, it was well worth it!

Our room
Our closets
The bathroom

The shared living area
The shared kitchen space

Our room is the one on the far right
The view from outside our room
Us outside the shared kitchen, living and dining area

For those that are disappointed that we aren't roughing it in a mud hut and building our own fire to cook our food, we apologize ... well, not really. After speaking with some of the leaders at Hands, South Africa is the only country in which the organization has its own compound and is secured by an electric fence. Apparently, even though it is probably the most developed out of the 8 countries that Hands is in, it is also the most dangerous. We'll touch more on the culture that exists within the local communities in South Africa but, for now, be rest assured that we are well taken care of and safe where we are!


  1. glad to hear you arrived safe and sound, and loved the update! Also happy to hear you were able to find a little piece of home there, even though it is nasty KFC! Hugs!

    1. Hey Ang! Great to hear from you. Thanks for keeping up with our blog. By the way, there is no such thing as nasty KFC. Hope you're doing well!