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Trekker’s Hostel Highlights: Inyezane Backpackers, Gingingdlovu, KwaZulu Natal

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

For some reason – probably going back to my childhood – I have always had a love of playing in mud. So when my friends were trying to convince me to join them at a tiny hostel in the middle of Kwazulu Natal noted for its mud baths, it only took a fateful split-second to agree!

Inyezane Backpackers was a breath of fresh air. Set in the sugarcane fields of my home province of Kwazulu Natal, this quaint hostel focuses on fresh, healthy food and homeopathic treatments. You can have everything from an herbal bath to a day of playing, of course, in red mud, which is believed to have magical healing qualities. The best pizza in the world is made from scratch with fresh herbs straight from Inyezane’s garden, and then baked in a hand made pizza oven as you sit around a roaring fire.

The dorms are huts that have been redone and fabulously decorated. All the rooms have no more than six beds, and there are a few that are perfect for a couple in need of some privacy. The bathrooms are all outside – just a short trot from the rooms – and at night a family of tree frogs keeps you company while you do your business.

For those miserable KZN days when the sun just won’t shine, try your hand at being creative. The hostel’s owners supply fabric, special paints and a few books for design ideas, and help you create a work of art. Fabric sizes range from cushion covers to bedspreads – but most try their hand at a making a sarong. It’s a perfect way to while away a rainy day – and you might just surprise yourself! I know I did.

For the ultimate experience in fun and personal indulgence, I highly recommend the red mud. Wearing just your swimsuit, or nothing at all (it’s up to you), slather yourself in the delicious stuff and stand out in the sun to dry. After a while you will begin to take on the appearance of a statue (or, if you’re short like me, a garden gnome!). Once you are “set” you can go spend an hour washing it off – note that it takes about a week to get the mud out of all the little nooks and crannies. Once you are clean, your skin will feel silky-soft, your complexion will have a healthy glow and your hair will be cleared of all impurities.

In the evenings, you can sit around and play with an assortment of musical instruments while the owner regales you with stories from his younger years. Most of these seem so bizarre you would swear he got them out of a spy novel, but the tales make for a fun, relaxing evening.

For such a small town, there are plenty of opportunities to discover new things at Inyezane. In particular, there are some important sites from South Africa’s colonial history. If history isn’t your cup of tea, how about visiting a sangoma (traditional healer), or, if you time your stay right, taking a look at the Shembe Festival (a great way to get up close and personal with the peculiar traditions and customs of this unique Zulu community).

There is tons to do – Zululand is a fabulous place to explore, whether its history, nature or culture you are after. Plus, the area has some of the BEST thunderstorms you have ever seen. (Note: be sure to carry around a raincoat and torch/flashlight.)

The only thing that disappointed me was that a manager never sent on some stuff I had forgotten there as she promised. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

So my tip of the week is – go ahead and relive your childhood! You’re never too old to love a good old-fashioned mud bath.

Till next time, keep trekkin’…