Greetings from Coffee bay!
I decided not to stay in the tropical backpackers of Mantis and Moon in Uzumbe and work but rather continue on down the coast to see more of the beautiful wild ocean! I hoped on the baz bus (what most travelers take in SOuth africa (it’s the easy and safe way but expensive). , an overpriced shuttle that takes you hostel to hostel, well to almost all hostels and headed to Port St. johns. I stayed at Amapondo backpackers a 2 minute walk to the pristine beach and 4km to a very bustling African town. Not many people were there but on the shuttle I met a cool, Irish gal who had backpacked East to South Africa for 9 months a year ago. We could relate and share our trials, tribulations and good stories. We spent all 3 days together-wandering the beach, trekking up a hill for a gorgeous view of the coastline till the sunset.
While in Swaziland, I met a South African guy who recommended the 60 hike from Pt. st johns to coffee bay which is the primary reason I stopped in St. Johns. I inquired the moment I arrived and by the next morning, Ilse, Ia fit almost 60 something Austrian woman was game to come. Now, I was committed. The hike would be 5 days and according to our guide, Albert, not too difficult. Never ever underestimate when an African tells you it won’t be difficult. It’s amazing how much we humans naturally assume things. we do it all the time and don’t realize it until it’s staring back in your face!
We set out a few days later, Saturday, on a gorgeous sunny day. It began alright and then the steep hill came. I felt like I was climbing forever. I was happy when I got to take a short break. We meandered through the villages- aqua painted rondavels and a few rectangular homes create the scenery amidst the green rolling hills. Children playing, laughing, talking in the grass, distinguished gentlemen walking in their best clothing, donkeys chasing each other, goats and cattle grazing, children and women filling up buckets from the taps, women carrying firewood, women doing laundry (bent over scrubbing their wash- it seems all over Africa the women wash their clothes in a similar manner did they send out a code amongst each other???). We reached the village we would stay at by 3pm and I was knackered and hungry. Our lunch would be brown bread and butter with tea or coffee. Albert said we got 3 meals- which we did- but he left out th edetail that we would only get bread and not until we arrived at our destination. Overall, this wasn’t a problem until our 4th day. We stayed the night in a rondavel- 5 mattresses nicely set out on the dry cow dung floor. Using their natural resources to create a softer floor. NOt sure what the reasoning is behind it- will have to find out.
The next few days were good. Uphill, downhill, uphill and my legs got used to the abuse I was putting them trhough! The scenery stunning- coastline, villages, foilage, rainforest, tall grass… Luckily we got to chill on the beach for a long break and go for a swim if we wanted. The scenery of the Transkei (region of the eastern cape) is stunning. I often thought of home and not surprisingly, it’s because the scenery reminds me so much of home. I could live here. One day I’ll own property in SA. On our 3rd day we bought crayfish and fish and grilled it on the beach. amazing. wonderful. the highlights. We crossed a few rivers by little boats that seemed like they could barely hold 3 passengers, yet they held 6 with baggage.
Dinners were scrumptious usually rice or pap (maize meal, looks like mashed potatoes but harder texture), and something along the theme of chicken, boiled cabbage, potatoes. Breakfast was usually eggs, toast, tomatoes and onions and porridge.
I don’t know how Albert did it. So much energy and strength and trekking with skater shoes. Not the support you need for a hike, especially hiking 5-8 hrs a day.I was lagging behind and definitely not in hiker shape. I realize I’m not a hiker and don’t plan to hike for a long while. I won’t be going on any overnight hiking journeys in the near future. But, sign me up for a dance class… that’s something I’ve been missing!
The experience was wonderful and it was nice to get away from just stayin in backpackers and always being around travelers taking the “safe” and party route. We didn’t interact too much with our hosts at each village but I guess it was more aobut them providing meals and a bed, which we paid for. A great way to help the community and know your money is directly helping them.
I was disappointed when in the middle of rural hills a few children asked for “sweets” and then “money,” then the mother putting out her hand. I can’t stand it. I put out my hand and say “sweets” “money”. It makes me so frustrated to know that someone before me has given handouts thinking their being nice or making themselves feel good for giving someone something they don’t have often. Yet they don’t realize their affecting another culture in a negative way. Giving handouts, even if it’s just sweets, only leads to children and adults expecting and continuing to ask- a new, negative addition to their culture- begging! Why do some people think handing out sweets, small change or pens is something helpful? There only creating a problem. GRRR. it makes me so mad! It’ snot the first time I’ve seen this. Tanzania was a great example. I even had it on my hike in the middle of nothing but rural villages, where hardly in white folks go.
I arrived in Coffee bay on a beautiful day and felt my legs were like jello yet stiff. Hard to walk. Yet I managed. The following day was beach day at the hostel, which meant you pay $2 get 2 toasted sandwiches they grill on the beach over a fire and you get 1 hr surf lesson. I tried. I got get on the board, paddle and extend your arms down pat but trying to get my back leg at a 90 degree angle and then my front foot in the same postiion all with a fluid motion, well it’s challenging. I still haven’t managed to stand up after 2 days, an hour each in the water. Patience.