South Africa Part6 – The Wild Coast

The Wild Coast stretches from East London, through to the end of the Eastern Cape, where it joins the Kwazulu Natal province.

Coffee Bay
ChintsaFirst stop into the Wild Coast, was the rather underwhelming Chintsa, a pleasant and beautiful beach hostel, and across the estuary and quiet and functional town. Interestingly, crossing to the town has to be timed well, otherwise you’re swimming home. Both days I ended up waist deep in water on my return but having lived in swim shorts for the last 3 weeks meant this wasn’t much of an issue. I could see some of the Mamas struggling though.

The hostel was pleasant but quiet, and the organised events seemed to be a total non-event, the guys who run it only seeming interested in talking to the girls who had been staying a while. I imagine the place being upbeat and exciting in summer, but in late autumn the rust had started to creep in.

Coffee BayThis was not the case with Coffee Bay at all. Arriving at the start of the weekend, along with a whole load of voluntourists from nearby villages meant there was a lot of people to meet and have some fun with. It didn’t seem to matter which hostel you were at, they all had beds and a bar, and no one minded switching between them all. I stayed at The Coffee Shack, the closest to the beach, and the most recommended, which organised day trips and evening cultural visits with food.

The first night I explored the fields, following our guide to a local hamlet (3 huts) to experience some traditional dance and song which we were encouraged to join in. Now most of the westerners were a little too nervous, but a few got up and danced awkwardly a while. During this our food was being cooked, which was served and eaten up pretty greedily. Pap is a basic rice and water mix, and well, doesn’t taste of much. I’m not sure what else we had, but it wasn’t worth remembering! A bit more dance and song after diner got everyone on their feet, all dancing awkwardly with the Mamas and kids. It was definitely nice to see how some of the locals still lived, and a bit of genuine tradition as well.

Hole in the WallThe next day I joined the crew heading to the Hole in the Wall, a small island, with a hole in the wall (surprise!) A very nice walk along the cliffs and beaches that lead to the island, swimming out, then climbing the ledge and jumping back off into the waves. A few flips and things later we headed back by bus. The roads around here are just awful, so if you’re driving, get a car that can handle it.

Each night there was live music in the hostel across the road, and a generally good atmosphere in the village, people mixed and had fun, either drinking or smoking until they hit the sack.

Port St. JohnI was sad to leave, but as it seemed about 80% of the others were as well, it made it good timing. Getting to Port St. Johns was a bit of a tricky one, one shuttle leaving us as usual, but the other not appearing at all. After calling the hostel we were told it had missed us (the only two people they had to pick up) So get a ‘taxi’ into the nearest town, and another to PSJ, If you’ve never been in one of these taxies, you’re a lucky person, as bad if not worse than many in South East Asia these taxies will continue picking people up until the hustler is literally hanging out the door. With our bags on our laps, chickens (dead and alive), sofa cushions and so much more all thrown in there as well, it made for a pretty horrific journey. I was thankful for my companion at this time, another British guy with a typically British sense of humour.

PSJAfter finding the hostel in the dark, we made ourselves at home, got some food and met some of the others. We were approached by a local/resident of the hostel who guided trips around the area. We agreed and the next morning we were lead along some odd paths leading up the cliffs that surrounded the town. This was accompanied by more spliff breaks than I can recall, which was welcomed by many, although I got a little bored of sitting at times. The views were impressive, and we tried to spot sharks in the bay – apparently PSJ has the most dangerous beach in South Africa. Up at the very top, the third cliff up we were met (after another spliff) by a car and driven back to the hostel.

Getting back was thankfully a bit easier, as we’d agreed to pay more than the usual incredibly cheap price to have a seat for our bags. Back at the service station we waited for the Bazbus again, and moved on into the South Coast.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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