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The Backpackers

November 8, 2012

By Simon Chambers

When I first arrived at Hamburg on Sunday, I was in a daze- 40 hours of travel had culminated in my arrival in this beautiful village.  I had a couple of hours before dinner, but knew that if I stayed at Pelican Place, I would fall asleep, and that would be bad.  I would never get to sleep again that night, and the jet lag would be very difficult from then on.

As I stood on the balcony, I could hear the ocean, and I knew the mouth of the Keiskamma River was just a little ways further downstream.  So I decided to take my camera and go for a walk to the beach.  After all, I never get to just go for a walk on these trips!  Might as well take advantage!

As I walked through a field between the cattle to the top of the hill, my heart was dismayed.  Beyond the hill was not the crashing surf I had envisioned, but more village and another hill.  It looked like the beach was farther away than I had thought.  So, gathering my energy, I continued to walk.  This time, I decided I should follow the road, as the acacia bushes looked a little dense on the next hills.

As I walked down the road towards what I hoped was the beach, I saw a man and his son walking down a side street.  As we met, they said hello and asked if I was going to the Braai.

“What’s that?” I asked.

They explained that a Braai is a community meal where everyone comes and pays 50 rand (about $5.50) and eats together.  It was being hosted at the Backpackers’ place.

I regretfully declined their offer, at which point they informed me that the Braai took place every Sunday and invited me for next week.  Again, I had to decline as I’ll be in Mozambique next Sunday.

But this friendly welcome and invitation was my introduction to Sam and Kay (and Suki, their 10 month old daughter).  Sam and Kay moved to Hamburg six weeks ago and opened a hostel, or Backpackers’.  Since opening their place, they’ve done a lot of work to build community among people living in Hamburg.

We had dinner at their place the last two nights.  The first evening, we had initially booked dinner for five people.  At lunchtime, one of the staff at the Keiskamma Trust called and asked Kay, “Is it OK if the five we had booked is now 20?”

“Sure, no problem,” said Kay.  A few minutes later, they got a phone call from a couple looking to come and stay that night.  It looked like dinner would be 22.  Except this couple had 5 children.  Make that 27.

But Sam and Kay, always gracious, welcomed the 27 of us to the Backpackers’ for supper that night- a lovely, friendly affair.

We were back again last night for a more intimate dinner for only 9 of us.  Every visit to their home has included good food, excellent company, much laughter, and a viewing of the latest improvements they’ve made to the place, which they are decorating themselves with gorgeous painting on the walls.

If you ever get to Hamburg, I highly recommend stopping by for a meal with Sam and Kay- and if it’s a Sunday, be sure to be there for the Braai!

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