IV Travel Blog #2: Raglan, New Zealand

We set off on our best trip of the New Zealand asylum to date; RAGLAN, New Zealand.

Once again, we began without any preparation or expectation of an adventure. In all actuality, we set out to go to the internet cafe. We stopped to get some avocados from the nice people selling them for a dollar on the side of the road. I got to talking to the avocado slinger about surfing. He said the surf was good “just down the road.” So we set off on a hour long drive down a rocky dirt road that led us up and down the costal hills to a secluded surf beach called Ruapuke Beach. This place is heaven with good waves and stunning scenery!

On the drive back, we came to the conclusion that there is no way we should live in Auckland. Sorry to all those that would wish me to get a real job, but Auckland just isn’t a viable option when you have such a beautiful country to explore. The drive back was stunning.

The exclamation point warning sign was to mark this here perilous river crossing.   Have no fear, the Audi made it across without a scratch.  Guess perilous isn’t the right word!

Again thanks so much for reading these blog posts. Please leave a comment and tell others to come check it out. Every time I get a visitor here it helps me and my website grow! Leave a comment scallywag!

Exploration: Whakatane, New Zealand

We traveled all over Ohope and Whakatane this last week.  Whakatane is a must visit spot on the North Island.  Lots of locals told us that Whakatane is the “sunniest place in New Zealand.”  There is an extensive Maori culture.  For you budget backpackers driving around, there are great free activities; you can surf and there are awesome hikes.  Enough cool stuff to do to keep you busy for a few days.

Here are some photos and descriptions of our hikes.

Here is a photo of the Marae that is behind the Ohope Christian Camp on the main street of Ohope Beach (Across from the petrol station).  Paul and Daphne are great hosts!  They have inexpensive places for budget travelers.  We hiked up the mountain behind the Marae to check out the beach town from up high.  You can see down at the end is a spot called “The West End.”  It’s got pretty good surf, but it’s a bit unpredictable.
We walked back down the steep cliffs back to the Marae:
Later on we went into town to hike from the middle of town up to a beautiful overlook.  There is a really inspiring mosaic staircase art piece that builds images as the stairs climb.  The bottom stair represents the bottom of the sea while the top represents the sky.  Here is a photo of the bottom:

The hike was beautiful and refreshing.  The next day I worked a day or two with a brick layer while Veronica helped with the Christian Camp.  Duty called and she volunteered to go help save a beached pilot whale with the camp director!  Beached AZ!

The Kiwis really came together to save the whale.  Here is a line of people carrying buckets from the ocean to the whale to help keep it alive:

After our days apart, we reunited to go visit the Marae in Whakatane, New Zealand (Whakatane pronounced: fuck-a-tan-e)

Maori Carvings are stunning:

After this we drove out of Whakatane towards Ohope Beach.  After going over the hill towards Ohope there is a lookout to the left.  We drove up there to check it out.  Of course, the view was stunning.

We decided to hike a little while.  We were definitely unprepared, but the hike was so sweet we just kept going and going until we couldn’t turn around!  Barefoot and without water, we walked all the way back to Ohope Beach.  Here are some photos of the spontaneous 3 hour hike:

We made it!  At last!  So worth the trip!  All the best things happened, beautiful photos, great sea shell collection and a greater understanding of the geography of the place.  Our feet are sore, we are thirsty and all we have to do it get back to the bach and get a ride back to the car.

Hope you enjoyed this little blog about Whakatane.

If you read this, please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear back from the folks that read this!

IV Travel Blog #1: Te Anu, New Zealand

So we left Hanmer Springs!  Yehaw!  On the way to the coast we had to pull over to check out the free wine tasting:

We headed to the coast and slept near the beach.  We spent the morning laying around reading and watching the waves.  A nice family of Kiwis from Nelson invited us to eat some Paua (Pronounced “power” its Maori for abalone) on the beach.

Of course, we had to take the ferry across the Cook Straight.  We took the BlueBridge and learned that we recommend the InterIslander!  BlueBridge and the InterIslander are both ferry services, but InterIslander is without a doubt a superior service!

We found our way north via the east coast.

Here is our first Travel Blog Video! More to come! We will get more professional as time goes!

Get your travel guide from here and keep V and I on the road!

Become a Jackaroo

Six Steps to finding Cattle Station Work in the Australian Outback

This is a quick guide to getting yourself into an amazing and dangerously adventurous position where you can make money and have a wild time.  The Australian Outback is big and scary so I really only recommend this path to really hardy people.  You need to have a lot of common sense and guts to make it as a jackaroo (or inexperienced Australian station hand).

  1. Get yourself a passport.
  2. Get a working holiday visa in Australia by filling out the online application. It costs about $200 USD. Mine took 3 working days to have it issued. The Australian Immigration office will send you a e-mail with a visa number on it. Then you have the green light to go work in Australia. It’s really easy for American citizens.
  3. Fly to Australia. Use kayak.com or studenttraveluniverse.com (I got a cheap student ticket after already having graduated 2 years ago.)
  4. Travel to a very isolated area in the outback. Mt. Isa, Queensland will be your quintessential wild Australian outback mining/cattle town. I recommend the Mt. Isa area if you really want an adventure.
  5. Go to the information center and ask for a list of cattle stations in the area.
    1. Cold call all of them. Either chat with the station manager or leave a message with your phone number and your name. If you don’t have the guts to do this, then I really don’t advise going on this mad adventure.
  6. Get a job and stick to it. Last at least 2 months, otherwise your a sissy.

What to expect:

  1. The Pay: I earned $550 a week as a level one station hand (jackaroo.) I saved 95% of it because there was nowhere to spend money in that super isolated place.
  2. The Time: 5-6 days a week. Expect to start as the sun goes up and finish about an hour before it goes down.
  3. The Work: Sometimes the day goes so fast you don’t even know what happened. For example: mustering days are adrenaline pumping days on horse back or motorbikes in the mad dust and heat. The work is wild and fun. Sometimes te days are slow and monotonous. You can end up mixing concrete and cleaning out water troughs all day.
  4. The Good Times:
    1. Rodeo: small scale rodeos in little towns. This is where you can get into some awesome stuff; bronc/bull riding, calf wrestling, tug-a-war, or just beer drinking
    2. Race days: great events where you can gamble on the horse races and check out all the pretty girls (or cowboys if your into that sort of thing) in their facy dresses and unique hats. Great times at the pubs after a day at the races.


  1. Keep a positive attitude. Being sociable is really important out there.
  2. Always do your best. Australia is a huge country but a small community. Being an honest memorable bloke/shelia (Australian for guy/chick) will pay out in the long run.
  3. Be proactive: no one wants to have to tell you everything to do and when to do it. Find problems and fix them before you need to be asked.
  4. Work for a reputable person. In the outback there are some scumbags so don’t even start with them. I heard about a Spanish guy who worked 4 months at a station in Western Australia. The station owner then bought him a ticket to Brisbane. The spaniard never got paid. Don’t fall into a trap. If you find yourself in a trap, leave right away.
  5. Have fun. It’s one hell of a time in the outback. Enjoy it.

Down South Island – New Zealand

Catching up on nearly a month of inactivity.  Sorry! 🙂

Veronica and I found a lovely place at theFarm near Whangaruru (pronounced: fangaruru) in Northland, New Zealand (theFarm website).  Mike and Ellen own the place and they are the coolest people in all the land.  Mike is an avid dirt-biker who is brainwashing the future generations of Kiwis to get on a motorbike and shred.  Ellen is an excellent provider of natural horsemanship; one lesson with her and you will be able to break horses without breaking your back.

We absolutely loved our time at theFarm and recommend whomever visits New Zealand, to go there.

While there we had some awesome times.

-Shocking surf at Elliotts Bay.  A six footer gave me the axe out past the break and I was sore for the next few days.

-Awesome horse treks up steep cliffs in the mountains.  (Video to come as soon as I work YouTube out better)

-Great motorbike rides up and down rolling green hills and down aggressive muddy trails.

None-the-less. we felt that we had to move on and look for more opportunities.  While there I got a job offer from Hanmer Horsesthat would allow for Veronica and I to both work together as horseback trail guides in the alpine village of Hanmer Springs!  Wow what a great deal… or so we thought.

So we packed up and headed south.  We drove along the coast.

Got to Wellington to go to our first Rugby World Cup game.  Australia vs. USA!

Took the ferry from Wellington to Picton.

Arrived at Hanmer Horses.

Unfortunately, the woman who runs the place is a cruel sort.  She treats her horses like royalty and the people who work for her like scum.

So thats where we are now.  We have stopped working for Hanmer Horses and have instead decided to do some more traveling.  Traveling north of course.  It’s bloody cold down here.

Thanks for reading!  We will get back at ya later!

6 Step Costa Rican Organic Farm Adventure

This adventure is one of my favorite on earth. Attack this adventure like a buddhist. Define the goal (Goal= reach Punta Mona) and focus on the process (Process=Getting there).  It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.  Along the way enjoy great surf, great parties, afro-caribbean culture, jungle hikes, heaps of wildlife and real adventure. If your looking for the quintessential “The Beach” type adventure this is for you. Punta Mona is an awesome, isolated jungle community.

  1. Fly into San Jose, Costa Rica. Either take a taxi to a hostel or book a hotel for the night that has airport pick ups. San Jose is a interesting place full of sin and booze. Avoid this if you can.
  2. Take a bus to Puerto Viejo. To get to Puerto Viejo you must take a bus towards Limon. It’s a stunning bus ride and an adventure in itself.
  3. Stay at Rockin J’s Hammock Hotel in Puerto Viejo. Travel east or west along the beach and you have great surf spots.  Rockin J’s is walking distance from the Salsa Brava (Salsa Brava is dangerous so don’t get too confident). Stay here a few nights.  Drink a lot and get all the partying out of your system. J’s does all sorts of fun stuff. This is the greatest hostel in the history of hostels, or greatness.
  4. Wake up early and hitchhike down south to Manzanillo (take a bus if all else fails). This is the most southern town on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Have a smoothie and a feed at Maxi’s Restaurant.
  5. Once you get to Manzanillo, choose between these 2 Options:
    1. Find “Baco”: Baco is a local ledgend. He runs the recycling program for the area so almost everyone knows him. Baco can take you to Punta Monaon his boat. It costs about $50 a person. This is a stunning boat ride along the beautiful undeveloped coast.(or)
    2. Hike south: This involves bush tramping through the deep forests of Costa Rica. The hike takes about 2-3 hours depending on the conditions. Encounter wildlife like big spiders, howler monkeys, wild pigs, enormous ant hills and whatever else the jungle can throw at you. I love this hike. It’s best to go bare foot. The deep mud will ruin your shoes and get you stuck (it will pull gum boots straight off your feet). Punta Mona is on the coast so as long as you keep the ocean on your left you won’t get lost. This is one of those real adventures, be careful, be smart.
  6. Arrive at Punta Monaand spend a few days
    1. This place is could be described as “hippie;” but have no fear. There is so much interesting stuff to learn and experience. You will be fed some really delicious food and you will learn a whole heap of new skills. Learn about sugar cane, miracle fruit (makes sour things taste sweet), banana trees (harvest by cutting down the tree), old spice, cinnamon, and a thousand other exotic unbelievable life. There is great diving and the surf is pretty good down the beach.


It’s important to check in with Punta Mona (puntamona.org) before you hike out there. Confirm that they have a place for you to stay!

Best of Luck!

Red Triangle California Surf – Shark Infested Waters

 Sharky Waters

Surfers use a term to describe certain conditions: SHARKY.  I was blown away with the abundance in wildlife – sea lions, otters, seals; it was all so beautiful but I couldn’t help but think that these are all part of the GREAT WHITE SHARK diet.  But hell, it was the first opportunity in my life to get a taste of California waves.  They were peeling off like an aria with no wind.  No wind means glassy, oil slick textured water.  It’s wonderful.

Cayucos, California was my first spot.  My mate and I hit a few spots in the area.  The rock down near Morrow Bay has a great feel on low wind days.  The massive rock provides for a mesmerizing backdrop during lulls.  South of the Rock you jump off the docks of Morrow Bay marina, paddle between all the exotic sailboats and hike across the peninsula for a beautiful low crowd spot.  I got a jellyfish down the neck of my wetsuit but it was real fun.

The Cayucos house dried up and we headed North along Highway 1.  I fell asleep and we woke up near Santa Cruz.  Big Fail!  I slept through some really great spots.  We were now in Santa Cruz and I missed the miles of Big Sur and unoccupied California beaches.  These are the places.  There are epic spots around here.  Dangerous and fun.  Go on a venture down there.  Bring ropes, harnesses and climbing shoes.  Rappel down.  Call me, I’ll join you.  Something awesome can happen down there.

North of Santa Cruz we hit a great spot.  After a short hike from the high way down to the beach we found a right that sits in the pocket of a cliff which protects it from any NE winds.  This spot hits the best as the tide is going out.  Its just north of Santa Cruz, you have to cross a rail line just once you get out of the highway.  The spot is silent from highway traffic or anything else really.

Later on in the week we adventured out to a spot called Point Reyes.  Point Reyes is way out north of San Francisco.  It’s a wonderful little town with a sustainable food and community vibe.  This is the sort of place I must live in once I slow down with all this travel.  The small town vibe is just rich and abundant.

The surf there is cold and sharky.  Im tired now so I must take a break

A Tour in South Africa – Nelson Mandela’s Home and SOWETO

What I was told about South Africa

The word on the street is that Johannesburg (Jo’burg), South Africa is a place of villains and cruelty. I had heard multiple warnings that you would be car-jacked in Jo’burg if you were foolish enough to stop your car at a red light. “Johannesburg has a higher crime rate than Iraq,” one Australian friend of mine warned me. My reading pointed me in another direction.

Lions Eating Prey Outside of Johannesburg, South Africa

My Reading

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, “A Long Walk to Freedom,” affected me deeply. He spent much of his life in Jo’burg as a lawyer arguing anti-Apartheid cases. He painted a lovely picture of South Africa as a “Rainbow Nation” where forgiveness dominated over the violent history. Mandela gave me the impression that South Africa is synonymous with triumph over adversity. I’d have to see for myself.

Nelson Mandela's HouseTo Buy Mandelas Biography Click Here (affiliate link)

All reading aside, I had an understandable level of trepidation as I packed for a day trip into Soweto. Soweto (or the South Western Township) is a vast neighborhood of people, many of whom live at a level of poverty I have never experienced or can really understand. This area was the epicenter of the anti-apartheid rebellion which swept across South Africa in the late 1970’s. AIDs mortality rates are the highest in the world in South Africa. The movie about segregated aliens called Sector 9, was filmed here and inspired by the social architecture of Soweto during Apartheid.

Stopping at Soccer City

On the way from our rich, predominately white neighborhood, we made a detour to see the Soccer City Stadium. This mammoth building can manage 90,000 and was built exclusively for the FIFA World Cup. It is massive and mesmerizing. A swath of rich african sunset colors have been painted on the enormous panels that wrap around the building. The panels are like tiny pixels in an enormous digital collage which makes up the exterior of Soccer City. The building’s form is inspired by the African Calabash which is a natural gourd that is used to share food and the african fermented milk booze. Over the next 6 weeks this triumphant building will be the site of the most important sport competition in the world.

Soccer City Stadium Johannesburg, South Africa

South Africa was under the gaze of the world. “Will they be ready?” was the common question. This was to be the first FIFA World Cup to be held on the continent of Africa. Will Africa be able to pull this immense undertaking off? One could entertain doubts while standing in front of Soccer City two weeks before the games begin and construction isn’t finished. Hundreds of workers were milling around the structure like ants. Those working the landscaping and side walks near the front smiled and worked calmly while those far off on the building were so miniscule in comparison to their structure that one couldn’t tell if they were working or chilling.

Civil Rights, Townships, Race and Apartheid

In South Africa there are neighborhoods called townships. Townships are predominately black neighborhoods that were either historically where the blacks chose to live, or were drawn up in the early 20th century by the apartheid regime. Drawn up like: “the blacks over there, the coloreds over there and us whites here.” Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning separate and apartheid wanted a separate society. Much like “separate but equal,” which we had in the USA-South, but Apartheid was even less focused on equality.

Mandela Display Robbin Island

There are many parallels to the civil rights movement of the United States and that of Africa. In both the whites tried to choke economic growth and social development from the blacks. In both instances the whites would implement demeaning policies aimed at suppressing the self confidence in the black population. In my opinion, the large difference between ZA and USA is that in the USA the whites are the majority. In South Africa the whites are the minority. The potential for power struggle created an understandable level of fear in the dominate white group. Besides, in South Africa the whites aren’t even a unified group.

Afrikaans is a Dutch based language that has developed it’s own style and soul that is truly African. Afrikaans people are white, but they are entirely African. They have their own history and allegiances to Boer farming roots and Paul Kruger. The whites that have more British influence hold allegiances to the Queen and Cecil Rodhes. As a rule, they don’t speak Afrikaans and they have a more British view of human rights. Unification of the Cape of Good Hope, the Orange Free State (Boer), the Natal and the Transvaal was a dream of Rodhes.  Rodhes dreamed of seeing a unified country and this idea led to violent times.  None-the-less, South Africa was unified through the South Africa Act of 1909.  (there was a very long coming and complex agreement that was reached here.  Books can we written about the complexities of this act.)  40 years later, Apartheid governance took over.

Apartheid Government

The Apartheid governance developed a complex and perplexing system of laws to separate the different races based on color. There was no separation of races based on ethnic understanding. The Zulu and the Xhosa are both blacks but they are far from homogenous. Afrikaans and old British white folks had their own feelings of distrust towards each other. The coloreds (indian, malay, black and white) are such a mixed up interesting bunch of their own. None-the-less, Apartheid Government says: “blacks over here, whites here and coloreds here” and thats how it went. Now, more than 100 years later we are touring around to see how it all has played out.

SOWETO - The Hector Peterson Memorial

The Story of SOWETO

Introduction to the Township

We left Soccer City for Soweto driving fast in our big white VW van. Jo’Burg has a highway system as imposing as that of Los Angeles, California. A significant difference in South Africa; the lines for traffic are more ideas than rules. When traffic gets bad the 4x4s go off the road and up on the mud dividers to get ahead of the rest. Anywhere where your wheels can carry you is fair game on the South African roads. People swerve inside the orange construction cones to get ahead of those foolish enough to line up. The construction for the World Cup was causing bizarre traffic jams.

This was the sort of traffic jam where, in California one keeps their window up and their head down. As I sat in the back of the car, I couldn’t help but feel that these cars full of Africans were all smiling and giving us thumbs up. Most seemed positive about the traffic and happy to just be moving. Sure, we were stuck but I got more thumbs up in that gnarly traffic jam than I do in a year of California driving.

We came up over some hill top and we were informed that this expansive swath of dwellings was Soweto. Soweto sprawls out as far as the eye can see. Over the far hills you see hills of Soweto in the distance. It’s a strange blend of government brick buildings and shanty towns constructed of tin roof material and whatever else could be produced.

Though many of the homes look as if they are built by an assembly line, many of the dull old junky government buildings have been remodeled into beautiful homes. They have gardens, fancy gates and car ports. Outside on the street people sell food under the cover of a tarp supported by a few poles for shade. Open air barbers cut peoples men and womens hair down to the super popular buzz cut. “Surgery” was offered on signs all around, but we learned that these were simply pharmacies, not places to have surgery performed. The government buildings that have been converted into drinking establishments are called “shebeens.”

Down towards what feels like the center of Soweto, there are two huge power plant towers (like the nuclear power plant where Homer Simpson works). These massive structures have been all painted up triumphantly with a beautiful african mural. This old power plant is now a tourist attraction boasting the worlds 2nd highest bungee jump. It’s a stunning sight. The structure itself is and example of triumph over adversity. The power-plants used to spit out toxins in the middle of Soweto to produce power for the white folks living outside of Soweto.

As we drove through the center of the township I couldn’t help but notice all the smiles. Earlier that morning I expected to have an abrasive day of avoiding gangsters and panhandlers deep in the slums of aggressive Africa, but all I saw around me were smiles and people giving me the “thumbs up.”

Regina Mundi Catholic Church

Our first stop was at the Roman Catholic Church which was a center for solidarity against apartheid. The church does not match the vastness of the neighborhood to which it serves. It is a humble building, yet its history is remarkable.

Our guide showed us the bullet holes in the ceiling from when the security forces raided the church in response to the uprisings in the 1970’s. A broken marble mantle on the pulpit is left broken from the butt of a security force officer’s gun. The bullet holes and broken pieces of the church are left to remind the people of those violent times.

It was a righteous struggle. A black man during Apartheid had no basic human rights. Every Black was required to carry a book describing his work, his family and his travel permission. At any time and without due process, a police officer could demand to see a mans paperwork and move him or her along. The blacks weren’t allowed to own their houses or visit white areas without permission. The whites used the blacks as servants but never wanted them around afterwards.

Above the church was an exhibit of photos by Jurgen Schadeberg. Schadeberg documented Soweto during the youth uprisings. His black and white images of comfortable rich white folks juxtaposed with images of poverty stricken hungry black folks leave a lasting impression. He has images of dangerous looking apartheid anti riot tanks, security foces beating protestors, protestors hiding from police and families crying.

Music and Food SOWETO - Wandies

We left the church. Despite all the friendly smiles, I must admit that I was nervous about being in the poorest place in one of the most dangerous countries in Africa. I’m about as white as goldilocks. All of these images were of white people beating, enslaving and scaring the black people. Someone must hold a grudge? It was lunch time so our guide took us to a place down the road called Wandie’s for a traditional African meal. It was here that all my fear went away and I fell in love with Africa.


A pair of musicians surprised our group with finger snapping and singing as we walked through the door. One played guitar while the other drummed on whatever was near him all the while singing beautifully. The atmosphere was incredibly welcoming and warm. The food was rich, flavorful and exotic (though I’m no an of the tripe).

The musicians sang, played and spoke throughout our entire meal. They played the Lion King Song (Owemawhut), Bob Marly Songs, and a host of African songs. We sang along, some danced and everyone was caught up in the comfort of the atmosphere. The musicians would speak briefly between songs about their culture. They described the South Africa that I read about in Mandelas writing; a “Rainbow Nation” where everyone respects each others differences. Everything about lunch screamed rainbow nation, this was one of the greatest lunches of my life.

Our guide’s friend, Botha, a beautiful young Zulu girl danced along with the musicians and kept us entertained with her sassy humor. I asked her if she had to speak to Xhosa people in English due to the language barrier. She seemed surprised with my question and explained that she could speak all the languages of all the different tribes. “We grow up immersed in it,” she explained.

Nelson Mandela’s Home

After lunch we drove to Nelson Mandela’s old home. As we drove down this street we learned that this was the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize winners had both lived. Vilakazi Street. We passed Desmond Tutu’s house on the way to Mandela’s; both Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Nelson Mandela spoke fondly of his home at 8115 Vilakazi St, Orlando West Soweto. “It was the opposite of grand, but it was my firs true home of my own and I was mightily proud. A man is not a man until he has a house of his own.”

The history of the house is provided in the flyer. I’ve included the main history page of the flyer:

“The Mandela House at 8115 Orlando West, on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane Streets, Soweto, was built in 1945, as part of a Johannesburg City tender for new houses in Orlando. Nelson Mandela moved here in 1946 with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase and his first son. They divorced in 1957, and from 1958 he was joined in the house by his second wife, Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela (Winnie).

Nelson Mandela's House

Nelson Mandela was to spend little time here in the ensuing years, as his role in struggle activities became all-consuming and he was forced underground (1961), living a life on the run until his arrest and imprisonment in 1962, and sentence to life imprisonment in 1964.

Nelson Mandela returned to 8115 for a brief 11 days after his release from Robben Island in 1990, before finally moving to his present home in Houghton. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, herself harassed by the security forces and imprisoned numerous times, lived in the house with her daughters until her own exile to Brandfort in 1977, where she remained under house arrest until 1986. The family continued to occupy the house until after Mandela was released from prison. The house was subsequently turned into a museum, with Nelson Mandela as a Founder Trustee of the controlling body, the Soweto Heritage Trust.”

Our guide informed us of a few details left out of the pamphlet: Nelson Mandela gave his home up to the Soweto Heritage Fund despite the fact that it cut his ex-wife’s source of income. His ex-wife, Winnie Mandela, had been using their old house as a shebeen. This upset Mandela because alcohol had played an important role in keeping the blacks under control during Apartheid. It took the power of a team of lawyers to have the house returned to Mandela. Mandela then gave the house to the Heritage Trust.

His home is just another old house built by the Apartheid government but this one is surrounded with modern walls to give it a modern museum feel. The exterior bricks are charred from firebombings while Winnie lived there. The interior of the building is packed full with fantastic trophies and letters of support from people and countries around the world. The house in very small and you can see it all in about 2 minutes, if you rush. If you take your time you could spend hours examining all the interesting gifts and print given to Mandela. I left with a profound sense of admiration.

Just down the road, we got to speak with the project manager for the Hector Peterson Museum. We learned that the place was built under contract for 40 million Rand. For 6 months management organized the Vilakazi area communities into rotating labor force that could build the museum. The production spent this time because they wanted to weave community involvement and the museum.

This is stunning. One of the important officers in the Apartheid security force was used by the people of Soweto, as an integral tool in building the museum to honor a fallen revolutionary. It’s difficult to imagine a more triumphant perseverance of the South African people.Hector Peterson was murdered at the age of 13 for rioting against Apartheid government in the youth revolutions of the late 1970’s. Peterson was unarmed and killed by fully armed and armored security forces under Apartheid directions to suppress black “upiddyness.”

“I sat the contractor down in my office and told him I chose his bid from all the others. I told him “I choose you” and the contractor remained silent for a moment, the he stood up and walked out the door. Two days later he called me for a meeting. He walked into my office, sat down and cried openly. The contractor explained that he had been a member of the Apartheid led security forces which were in Soweto on the day of Hector’s murder.”The project manager was working to build this museum to recognize the sacrifice of the young man. He decided to award the building contact to a white building contractor. He told us the story of awarding the contract and it went something like this (I paraphrase):

The project manager reported that the white contractor and the black community worked together smoothly throughout the whole building process. The project found a successful finish. He explained that the contractor was on side 7 days a week from beginning to end of the day. “His professionalism and dedication was moving,” he told us.

“No building tools or materials were lost to thieves throughout the whole process” he explained. The community had guarded the construction site without the need to hire a security company or erect a physical barrier around the site. This museum is a remarkable testament to the feeling of reconciliation that makes South Africa such a rich place to be.Behind the museum is a memorial square dedicated to the youth sacrifice in Soweto and the youth league of the African National Congress (ANC). This square looks down a long street lined with trees, each tree planted by a different world leader or celebrity. The trees planted by memorable names such as Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Alicia Keys, Don Hahn (producer of the Lion King), Desmond Tutu and a host of others.

Night had fallen by the time we left the Hector Peterson memorial. We got stuck in traffic for hours before we finally got back to our place. I sat up for hours despite the exhaustion from a long un-expected day. I couldn’t stop thinking of how foolishly afraid I was at the beginning of the day. Most of all, I was deeply inspired by the people of South Africa.The project manager wants this whole area to be developed into a big triangle “long walk to freedom.” One day a guest could walk all around the area to get a feel of the land and the people that make up the remarkable Soweto area.