Much has been written about the righteousness of living ‘off the grid’ as it were: to be self-sufficient with regard to water and especially electricity. Architects have won prizes for designing such homes; residents have spent fortunes on building such homes; articles fill pages exclaiming the virtues of such abodes. In this final look at our sojourn in the Transkei, I turn to elements of ‘living off the grid’ which are a necessary reality for so many.
Thatched rondavels do not lend themselves the collection of water running off the roof. Some of the modern galvanised iron roofs have gutters that feed into a rainwater tank. The latter are expensive and are not easy to transport into the rural areas from the towns. Communal stand pipes exist, although these are not always conveniently situated for householders who then have to collect water for their needs in a container of sorts and carry it back for some distance to their homes.
This water is used for cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, providing water for the pigs and chickens: no pumps, no washing machines, no tumble driers – walking, carrying, and using the natural elements of the wind and sun for drying one’s laundry.
At the Swell Eco Lodge a generator provided electricity for certain periods during the day; gas cooking stoves are provided, and the outside cooking areas were lit at night by solar-powered lamps such as these.
Every rondavel had these solar-powered Consol solar jars, which provided perfectly adequate lighting once the electricity was switched off. The solar-powered lid collects sunshine during the day, which powers four built-in LEDs inside the glass jar at night.