It is perhaps the closest we have to the famous Camino de Santiago, the popular pilgrimage in north-west Spain. Here the Venda Sacred walk is shorter, wilder, stranger and without any Western religious significance. It does, though, offer a powerful spiritual adventure. This week-long quest plunges those who take part, mostly urbanites, into cultural mysteries, spectacular scenery, warm village welcomes and the wonder of encountering a way of life about which most of us know little: a unique, thrilling, otherworldly experience.
The Venda hike in the north of Limpopo Province, not far from the Zimbabwe border, involved climbing steep mountains, traversing dense forests, exploring – and showing respect for – sacred natural sites, sleeping at night in the huts of remote villages on cow-dung floors and eating traditional Venda food. Our only bathing was a couple of swift dips in icy rivers. One night some of us slept out by the fire, with a star-spangled sky and drumming from a distant village: a parallel universe of extraordinary spiritual beliefs and incredibly generous rural hospitality. It was breath-taking: physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.