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After congregating around a huge stone fireplace to eat a breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit, most of which they helped grow themselves, the volunteers meet at the construction site at 7 a.m.
Those who chose to do so would join hands in a circle and say a Tibetan prayer for a safe and productive day, voices resonating off each other in a song-like chant of an old, foreign tongue.
This was a typical morning for Josh Ibach of Dunkirk during his three-month stay as a volunteer at Odiyan Buddhist Retreat Center in Berkeley, Calif.
What makes a 27-year-old man want to travel across the country to help construct a 10-story, dome-topped, octagonal temple? Odiyan was created as a Tibetan Buddhist refuge in America after the Chinese took control of Tibet.
In California, he started a non-profit printing shop to attempt to save some of the sacred writings from his homeland. After finding Odiyan online, Ibach was dazzled by such a foreign place in the middle of California.
After saving up enough money for the trip, Ibach left for California right before summer in 2007.
Ibach worked with other volunteers building, painting and decorating the interior of the sub floor of the temple. The volunteers took turns cooking vegetarian meals for each other, so Ibach got to sample dishes from all across the globe.
Ibach and his roommate, Nick, became very close during their volunteer time and undertook an adventure together — a hike to the ocean.
During their hike, they had to jump fences, cross a ravine and fight their way through thick brush.
Although he had planned to stay longer, Ibach had to end his sojourn at Odiyan prematurely. After a moment’s pause and an ironic smile, he added that he also learned the ocean was a lot colder than he thought. The Midlands and Battlefields regions of KwaZulu-Natal draw the traveller away from the mainstream tourist attractions, off the highways and along country routes. Country routes and country living, for those who appreciate a slower pace of life, make the Kwazulu Natal Midlands a haven and a home. The Midlands region begins at Pietermaritzburg and ends in the foothills of the Drakensberg, a great barrier of mountains known by the Zulus as the Barrier of Spears. The arduous three-day Dusi Canoe Marathon starts from Pietermaritzburg each January (mid-summer). The Midmar Dam draws a crowd of thousands as 10,000 plus swimmers take on the Midmar Mile every February. Then there is the oldest and most celebrated of sporting activities, horse racing at Scottville Racecourse, celebrating over a century and a half of racing. Historic City Landmarks - Pietermaritzburg is reputed to have the largest all-brick building and the largest pipe organ in the southern hemisphere. Several trails within and outside the city limits trace the historic events and monuments, icons to the history of the city. The young Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a young lawyer in 1893 when he was infamously evicted from a whites only train carriage on a Pietermaritzburg station. Nelson Mandela, South Africaa€™s first black president following his confinement for 26 year as a political prisoner of the country, was arrested on August 5th, 1962 just outside the city near Howick.
Parks, Gardens and Attractions in the vicinity of Pietermaritzburg - Queen Elizabetha€™s Park is popular for picnics. The Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve offers wildflowers, small antelope, walks alongside the river and birdlife. The Midlands Meander is an extraordinary network of country routes within the greater Midlands region and the website is a great source of information for visitors exploring these routes. Leave ample time to explore the southern part of the Midlands Meander, between Midmar Dam and Nottingham Road, where the highest number of artists can be found. A special attraction for outdoor and adventure enthusiasts is Karkloof Nature Reserve and Falls, northeast of Mooi River, with trout fishing, nature walks in the two nature reserves and Karkloof Canopy Tours.
Nottingham Road a€“ There is just so much to see and do in this little town, it is a recommended overnight stop. A hot air balloon flight as the sun rises over the Drakensberg can only be described as breathtaking and provides a perfect start to another day exploring and wine tasting (Kleinberg Wines or Stables Wine Estate).
Greytown - The picturesque little town of Greytown is surrounded by sugar cane and wattle plantations and forests of pine and poplar.
Wartburg - Founded in 1850a€™s by cotton growing farmers from Germany, some of the residents are 4th generation German. A few miles north of Pietermaritzburg, Albert Falls provides water sports, game viewing and fishing. West of Pietermaritzburg, the Buddhist Retreat Center is situated in the hills of Ixopo, offering conducted retreats and self retreats.
The Boston-Bulwer Beat is a relatively new game viewing and adventure route but also offers arts and crafts.
The Kwazulu Natal Midlands is a melting pot of culture, history, cuisine and art, where fresh air, friendly faces, hospitality and great accommodation will inspire the soul, refresh the senses and infuse the visitor with a love of life. During his reign, the British had ventured up the coastline from the Cape Colony and established a small settlement at Port Natal (modern-day Durban).

Shaka was not able to escape assassination a second time and he was succeeded as king by his half brother and co-assassin, Dingane. These Afrikaans pioneers of Dutch descent (also known as the Boers) were distancing themselves from British rule in the Cape.
On February 6 1838, the Voortrekkers met with the Zulu King at his royal kraal in Ulundi, to finalise their agreement.
After putting his royal household to the torch, King Dingane fled north to rebuild his authority. This resulted in the Battle of Isandlwana in January 1879, where 20,000 Zulu warriors descended on the British army encamped at the foot of Isandlwana, over-running and defeating them in the bloody battle that ensued.
Not long after Isandlwana, a handful of only 100 British soldiers held off an army of 4,000 Zulus during the Battle of Rorkea€™s Drift. Across much of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, monuments commemorate the brave warriors who fought for their land and the soldiers who fought for their country and their lives. Walk through a tropical butterfly house in Pietermaritzburg a€“ a fantasyland of free-flying colorful butterflies from around the world. Let the kids take a break - pony rides, paint ball, raft building, learn to bake bread in the ground, picnics, tubing and slip n slide - Nottingham Road-Mooi River. Take a break during your tour of the Midlands for an eco-friendly spa in the heart of Karkloof Game Reserve. Sit on the battlefield of Isandlwana, mesmerized by the remarkable narration of this great Zulu victory on an expert-guided tour.
Visit a Zulu homestead at Isibindi Zulu Lodge (Rorkes Drift) to experience life of a rural Zulu family, largely unchanged since the days of Shaka Zulu.
Reflect on the historic conflict of the Battle of Blood River - visit both monuments to the heroism and tragic lives lost. Being a gentle, sympathetic space where one can be still, get in touch with oneself and reflect on the things that crowd one’s life, people of all religions and none have come here to experience peace and tranquility since 1980.
Nearby you will find precious breeding sites of the exquisite and rare Blue Swallow for which the Endangered Wildlife Trust has appointed the BRC a custodian. Integrated into this setting are the Centre’s buildings, accommodation lodges and cottages, the dining room and office, a shop, a library, a lecture and art studio and the meditation hall. 40 retreatants can be accommodated in thatched chalets, single and twin-bedded rooms overlooking secluded valleys; they are only a short distance from the dining room, office, library, studio and meditation hall. All our rooms are elegantly equipped with all necessary linen, blankets, heating and towels and provide a soothing, comfortable space for your BRC experience.
The Retreat Centre offers a tranquil environment for the study and practice of philosophy, psychology, meditation and arts associated with Buddhist culture. Noble Silence is maintained from the last meditation at night until the first session after breakfast in the morning and is also sustained throughout the duration of some retreats. This magnificent natural area is also home to 160 species of bird which makes for fantastic birdwatching.
Discover the exquisitely zen and exotic range of products at the Dhamma Shop or opt to practice the art of yoga and chi kung as both are on offer at the BRC. LATEST LISTINGS Ballito Al Marrakesh Guest House Eastern Cape Elundini Backpackers Wilderness The Boardwalk Lodge Gansbaai Platbos Wild Coast Freedom O` Clock Backpackers Retreat St Francis Bay Dune Ridge Country House GREEN GETAWAY GIVEAWAYSWIN a Winter Weekend for 6 at The Little Farmhouse in Stanford! It soon expanded and, with it, so did the ability to help preserve the 2,000-year-old Tibetan culture from being totally wiped from history. Because of its freedom of religion, America is a safe haven for the Buddhist texts and art. Odiyan is constantly seeking volunteers and Ibach immediately contacted them for an application. Dinners were eaten in a big hall with long wooden tables that were only a foot high, so volunteers sat cross-legged on cushions. I learned so much so fast,” he said, mentioning not only all the aspects of Buddhism but new skills in construction, landscaping, cooking and how to live, work, learn and play together as a community. These backroads encounter historic small towns, streams and rivers, landscapes of rolling green hills, waterfalls and picturesque farmlands. The backroads landscape changes from city to forests and small towns, from asphalt highway to rural sand roads and back to asphalt. To explore the Midlands may take a day, or several days to fully explore and learn of the historical leaders and events that have left their mark on the region and to meet the artists, artisans and farmers who ply their trade in this serene and beautiful place. It is a tough river race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban and is the oldest river race in Africa (boasting half a century).
Midlands Meander routes were defined and documented by a group of artists, weavers and potters in 1985 in a successful effort to feature this beautiful area and to make the arts, crafts and produce of the area more accessible to the public.
Drive on to the little villages of Nottingham Road and Rosetta en route to Mooi River.A  This is dairy and sheep country interspersed with stud farms, offering horseback riding, short walks to waterfalls and game farms with free roaming zebra and antelope.
Browse through Shuttleworth Weaving where beautiful carpets, throws and scarves are hand made. Albert Falls Dam is rated as one of the best bass fishing dams in the world and annually hosts an international fishing competition. Self Retreats are available on weekdays and are unstructured: reading, listening to recorded talks, walking, meditation or resting as one chooses. Boston and Bulwer are located in the foothills of the Drakensburg and demarcate the route.

Shaka trained and led powerful and intimidating regiments of impis armed with short stabbing spears, body-length shields and innovative battle strategies, defeating all rival tribes across modern-day KwaZulu-Natal. The British at Port Natal offered refuge to thousands fleeing the rule of Dingane, training some in the use of British weaponry. Instead, Dingane had Piet Retief and 101 Voortrekkers put to death and his impis went on to massacre other Voortrekkers camped at what would become known by the Afrikaans as Weenen - the 'Place of Weeping'. On December 16 1838 - a week after making a 'vow to God' - they stopped at the Ncome River to pray and prepare to face a bloody conflict. Six months later he attempted to defeat and occupy the Swazi kingdom with what remained of his military resources.
The Zulus tolerated the colony that was forming in Natala€™s Port simply because it offered them a trading post. The heroic actions of the vastly outnumbered British resulted in the award of 11 Victoria Crosses. Reinforcements were dispatched and the Anglo-Zulu War raged on until Britain eventually emerged the victor in 1887. Expert guides and historians now offer guided tours to the very foothills and grasslands where these mighty battles took place.
Their presence, together with the BRC’s commitment to encourage indigenous biodiversity of the area has led to the Centre to being declared a Natural Heritage Site by former late president and iconic legend, Nelson Mandela.
The Centre is also renowned for its fine lacto-ovo vegetarian cuisine, which inspired its own recipe books, Quiet Food and The Cake the Buddha Ate, made from organically grown vegetables and farm-baked bread.
The Centre encourages adherence to traditional moral principles during retreats, such as respecting all forms of life, abstaining from alcoholic drinks and hallucinogenic drugs and during some traditional, intensive meditation retreats, the practice of Noble Silence. After a few inventive attempts at waking his roommate, they work together to cook pancakes for the rest of the volunteers.
The cross was constructed from wood recovered from the scene of this great WW1 battle (July 1916). They could work and sell from their homes and keep prices lower - and as their popularity grew, new businesses, restaurants and guest houses popped up. Stop at any of the many restaurants for delightful local cuisine before visiting the Nottingham Road Brewing Company to taste ales and lagers.
The Wartburger Hof Hotel and the Orion Wartburg Inn provide the ambience and style of a German mountain inn.
Magwaqa Mountain (The Frowning One) has earned international recognition for hang-gliding and paragliding. Dingane was unhappy with the increasing growth in British population of Port Natal, the shelter and arming of dissidents and the overland arrival in 1837 of Voortrekkers. In the resulting battle, 464 Boers defeated an army of 10,000 Zulu warriors, where over 3,000 Zulus lost their lives.
Dingane failed, and his humiliation was compounded by his half-brother Mpande's defection to the Boers, along with 17,000 Zulus.
It was not long before the British and the Afrikaners came into conflict over who was to rule the area and they fought it out bitterly. Where we were there are wild boars, mountain lions, bob cats, rattle snakes, black widows and scorpions. We ate our cold pizza and celebrated our victory, watching the waves crash violently against the rocks below. His life sentence, much of which was served on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town ended with his release on February 11, 1990.
Today, the fascinating Meander routes are well documented and provide a perfect weekend getaway.
The river was said to have run red with blood and the battle at the Ncome River became known as the Battle of Blood River.
Mpande and the Boers then launched a joint campaign against the Zulu king, who was eventually hunted down and assassinated near the Swaziland border. In 1879, however the British, motivated by word of the discovery of gold inland, laid claim to the whole of Zululand and gave Zulu King Cetshwayo notice that the Zulu must surrender their weapons. The presence of such a link does not imply a responsibility for (or endorsement of) the linked site, its operator, or its contents. Not only that, but between us and the ocean was a thick redwood forest, hills, rock cliffs, and a river to cross. A He had his first court appearance in Pietermaritzburg and delivered his final public speech as the South Africaa€™s president here. A Included is a small but developing wine industry, dairies offering cheeses, yoghurts and ice creams as well as honey and lavender producers.
Today, two monuments stand alongside the river, commemorating the bravery of both sides - Zulus and Afrikaners. When that did not materialize, British troops were mobilized and marched inland from Port Natal in search of the Zulus.

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