Weekends in Durban: Essenwood market, UShaka beach, Musgrave centre, Bunny Chow and Markets of Warwick Video

IMG_0437The evenings have been spent doing various things such as personal development, making loom bands, and visiting a home group. We all agreed that the highlight was going to one of the Worship Central 100 gatherings, where we met the Marrianridge team and spent time worshiping and praying together.

Weekend 2 – Essenwood Market and Ushaka beach: This weekend we were a member short as N took her exit weekend and went home for a few days. IMG_7054On Saturday, some members of the team decided to stay at the hostel and relax watching South African ‘soapies’ and films. The rest of the team visited Essenwood Craft Market and enjoyed the live music, looking at the local crafts, and buying bracelets from an artist born in England! We then went to the UShaka Beach for the rest of the afternoon. We looked around the shops in the USharka centre, had a picnic, and had fun in the huge South African waves! On Sunday, we all had pancakes again and then all walked to the Musgrave Centre where I bought the team all milkshakes.IMG_7052

Weekend 3 – Ushaka beach with the other teams: The following weekend, as a team we went down to the beach with Marie and Susie (two girls also staying at the hostel). We met the TVT and Marrianrige teams there, and really enjoyed catching up with everyone. The weather was beautiful, and we spent most of the day in the sea, and in the UShaka shopping centre next to the beach.

Weekend 4 – Markets of Warwick, Bunny Chow, quiz afternoon and Braai: As the weather wasn’t very bright, some of us decided to wander around the markets around Victoria Street Market:Berea Station Market, Early Morning Market, Brook street Market and Impepho Market. While walking around, our eyes flickered around looking at the different stalls from clothes to vegetable to herbs to jewellery to craft product. One of the team didn’t have a bible so I thought it would be a great idea to buy her one to develop her relationship with God. We happen to find a random stall selling bibles in both English and IsiZulu.IMG_0449 After, we strolled along the streets of Durban, searching through clothes shops until reaching Workshops, where we need to meet up with one of the other team members to give him something. Now, our tummies were getting peckish. Even though we had brought food, we wanted more and kept seeing little cafes selling Bunny Chow. Two of us decided to go in Workshop to find a restaurant selling the traditional Durban food. Success! With huge grins on our faces, we our 1/4 bean Bunny Chow. It is basically a 1/4 loaf of bread with the crumbs scrapped out and bean curry poured over the top. I ate it the traditional way: using just my fingers. It was one messy meal even though I don’t normally like the feel of eating with my hands. Once we were satisfied, we walked to the Apartheid Museum, where we discovered it was closed. On the way back to the taxi stop, there was Zulu girls performing traditional dances and singing. On Sunday, we attended church in the morning, which was different from the evening service, with more families and livelier. After having a team meeting, two of the girls had prepared a fun quiz for us, where we laughed a lot and then they decided to give us a surprise dance. In the evening, after a couple of attempt of starting the BBQ, we all had a braai together consisting of loads of food.

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Zimbabwe: Mbizi game park and Avondale market

(Monday) A relaxing, well deserved day-off. After a packed 10 days, it was great to have a day to explore. We booked a morning at Mbizi game park, a thing you have to do while in Africa.

‘Mbizi’ means zebra in Shona.

After a bumpy, hour long journey, we landed in the game park. As we approached the gates, around us I could see high fences with tall tree and unusual, large rocks fill the area. We were asked many questions before entering into the site, where we parked our car and approached the front desk. The place looked incredible and tranquil with a large, well kept garden, and hatched lodges.

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Next on the itinerary was to explore the game reserve, which we decided to do on a zebra print 4×4. Our guide was driving around the place, stopping at different parts of the area, explaining the different animals. For me this was interesting to experience as my last topic at school was Africa and the children had to apply for a job as a Game Ranger. Seeing a real Game Ranger felt unreal.

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First, we drove around one area of the 1000 arcs of land, trying to keep our eyes pealed for a giraffe. After going in and out and around and through trees, we gave up on that area and zoomed to the open space with Zebras, warthog and Eland. We crept as quietly as you can in a jeep and parked in the middle of them so we could take photos and hear some information on them. While we were still, the animal must have felt our presence and slowly moved away from us.

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Once our game ranger had contacted the other group, who had found the giraffes, we sped off to seek them. We came so close to them in their natural habit, it was amazing.

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As we drove back to the reception area, we passed the water hole. Then we explored the area by foot, where we found an observation desk, a chapel, a kind of swimming pool and lodges as well as a colourful lizard and wandering monkeys. I decided, being me, to sit on the bridge dangling my legs into the water and then plunge most of body into it, getting soaking wet.

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We had a lovely lunch in the game park before leaving.

The whole place a unique experience and the sun was blazing. What more could you want?

When we left, we headed to Avondale market. I love markets. This was an experience. Avondale Flea Market is a large outdoor market under canvas located just behind Avondale shopping market. The moment we stepped towards the market, people were shouting at us. ‘We will do special price for you’, ‘Buy something small from us’, ‘Look at what we have’, ‘ We have been waiting for you’.

The market were full of African ornaments, jewellery, place mats, gadgets, masks, clothes, key rings, gifts and souvenirs, all for a cheap price.

One great thing about markets is bargains and bartering. Everyone wants you to buy from them. If the price is too high, barter, even walk away and they will usually take the price you want. If not, each stall had similar things so you would probably find the same objects further in.

I ended up being in one pressurised situation, which I didn’t like. I was looking for some long shorts (usual item of clothing I get from my different holidays). The guys were helpful, I told them exactly what I wanted and showed me a variety. Some that fit my specification; others that did not. I found a pair that I kind of liked so asked the price -$40 RIDICULOUS. I explained that I usually get mine for the equivalent of $5-$8 (cheap, I know). I bartered hard and they eventually put the price down to $10. They put the shorts in a bag and shoved it in my hand like I had no choice so I did buy them.

I did, however, get loads of bargains and brought some items (not as much as the others) like the shorts, earring, skirt, bracelet, elephant pillow case and a trillion dollar note.

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After, we went to the supermarket to buy food for the three course English meal, and where I brought some gifts and looked at some of the prices of English goods:

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M&M – $8.65

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Quality Street – $13.99

Slightly more expensive than England.

On the way back, we dropped into the Chinese Shop, which was huge with everything you want in. Unfortunately, the majority of Zimbabweans would not be able to afford it in here.

What a jam-backed, lovely day experiencing the African culture!

Tokyo: Fish market, Pokemon, Yoyogi park, Shinjuku and the Skytree

What a packed day! We got up early so that we could compact our day. It was our last full day in Japan. Our last day!

4 travellers! 3 weeks! 1 country! Can’t believe I was leaving the next day.

First to do was go to the Tsukiji fish market as we it was closed the day before. As we were departing the subway, we were struggling to walk along the street with so many people heading towards the market. When we arrived there, they were already starting to pack up. It was only 11. We managed to wander around the fish market, seeing mountains of fresh fish. Some I recognised; others I did not. There were some strange looking fish. In the market, we nearly got run over several time by small motorised carriers. The guys on these were going as fast as they could backwards and forward, but they were very skilful driving.

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Next stop was Tokyo tower. It kind of looks like the Eiffel Tower but red and white. We decided not to go up the tower as we were going to find city views from other buildings.

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We travelled by subway to Roppongi Hills, which is a centre of culture and shopping. The top of the Mori Tower was incredible. This was one thing on our list, we wanted to do. On the 52nd floor observation deck, it offered a 360 degree panorama of the city as well as loads of Pokemon features.

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It had several drawings and comic strips represented on the wall, a movie theatre, cardboard cut-outs as well as a dark room with Pok-a-balls in. When you press these, holograms appeared in front of you of different Pokemon.

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Also, there is a Pokemon cafe, which presented food as Pikachu or balls. Unfortunately, I didn’t eat there as the queue was literally a mile long just to eat there. The food, however, looked incredible.

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There was also an Art gallery, which was a little strange but interesting too. In the gallery, they had asked children what they thought was going on the the different art, which was then recorded underneath. Some of the things, the children came up with, did make me giggle.
There were these amazing art, where there were lots of photographs merged together but in a sort of realistic way.

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Next, we headed to Yoyogi park, which was a huge green park with fountains and trees. It is meant to be one of the liveliest, trendiest and demographically youngest quarters of the city with street food, body paint, in your face fashion and photo ops. There were some but not as many as I thought especially as it was a sunny Saturday afternoon. We did see one group of girls in high fashion but they wouldn’t let us take photos. Managed it get one though.

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There was also a guy that was doing some art while dancing and DJing. It was a bit strange but the picture was incredible. First, he cut out a template then used spray paint.

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Adjacent to the park is the Meiji-jingu; the entrance is marked by two huge torii gates.

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After quickly grabbing some food, we went on an expedition to find the Metropolitan Government building, where there is an observation deck of the city with a view of Mt Fuji but it’s free to go up. Recommended if your on a budget. It was quite a mission to get to and nearly got lost due to unclear signs.

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Nearby, there should have been an Alice and Wonderland Cafe but unfortunately, we couldn’t find it so we wandered to Central Shinjuku. We visited Takashimaya Times Square, which is full of shops mainly, and looked around the streets as the sun was setting. Just before leaving, we found the neon robot restaurant, where there are girls dressed up as robots and preform a show.

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To end the evening, we travelled to across town to the Skytree, which is the tallest structure in Japan, to observe the city at night.

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On the way back to our hostel, we got lost, extremely lost. I wasn’t feeling 100% and my normally good sense of direction was not in order. My head was spinning so I was very confused. We came out a completely different entrance and there were barriers so we couldn’t find the one we went in. We did ask a few people but they didn’t know. Eventually, we found a train station. A 15 minute walk back to the hostel took an hour and a half journey. So an adventurous last evening in Japan.

The time in Japan seems both long and short: we saw loads of amazing sights and places but once I got back to England, it felt that everything was the same, as per usual.

Japan is one of the most amazing countries I have visited and I will be returning some point in the future to experience more of the people, places and culture.

Kyoto: flea market, golden pavilion, tea ceremony, imperial palace, castle

As we thought we would only have two days in Kyoto, we wanted to cram and experience as much as possible (in the end, we were here for three days). Today, we went on foot so there was miles of walking to be had and extremely sore feet at the end of the day.

In the morning, we explored Kitano Tenmangu, which host the biggest flea market once a month. It just so happens that we were in Kyoto on this day. The market was full of antiques, kimonos, furniture, ceramics, crafts, food, clothes, where the prices completely ranged depending on the seller. Markets are just one thing, I love doing. The busy, loud, bargaining atmosphere always puts a smile on my face as well as being able to sift through different thing, trying to find a bargain (unfortunately, I couldn’t really buy anything because of my adventures of the next year and not being able to store anything). Here, there were many local eyeing up product as well as tourist. The market was huge and covered roads and roads.

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The Kitano Tenmangu shrine has statues of seat cows and bulls. Everywhere you looked, people were rubbing different parts of them believing they would be healed in that area.

After we strolled to Kinkakuji, Japan’s famous ‘Temple of the Golden Pavillion’. This was a breath-taking and amazing sight. The whole temple was covered in gold leaf, overlooking a huge lake and garden, which we wandered around. If you go to Kyoto, you have to go there.

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While in the gardens, we passed an attractive thatched-roofed tea-ceremony house, which we decided to take a rest at. Inside, there were cushions around the room with a mat in the middle (of course you were not allowed to wear shoes). Once we had sat down, a lady wearing a kimono brought us over a bowl of cold green tea and dessert, where she bowed to us and blessed them. I tried the tea, which was strong and froffy, and personally I did not enjoy the taste. Most of it, I ended up downing the tea so I wasn’t seen as rude but couldn’t taste it for that long. The cake looked delicious so I though this would go better. However, it was sugary sort of icing with a red-bean paste inside. Again, it wasn’t to my tasting as it was way too sugary. This was an experience I’m glad I did but would not repeat it.

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After, we entered the Daitokuji, which had 22 temples scattered around (previously there were about 60 built but were burned down). The temples looked pretty identical to me but we did experience a Zen garden. I’m not sure what I expected but this one was extremely small. In the middle was a wooden building, with a Japanese rock garden encompassing it. Each little rock and plant was place in a particular spot for a reason and they all symbolised something different e.g. The cow rock (nit sure why it was called this) symbolises people trying to do good things but getting caught up or choosing the wrong paths. It was a pretty little garden. Even though you were not allowed to take photos, I did take a sneaky shot.

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Late afternoon, we walked to the Imperial Palace and then the Nijo-Jo castle. Unfortunately, they were both closed but managed to admire the surroundings. However, for the imperial Palace, you have to book a guided tour otherwise you can’t enter.

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Imperial palace

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Nijo-Jo castle

In the evening, we had some Udon noodles and an earlyish night.

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