The sea rolls in gentle, long waves on the rocks and sandbanks. By the grace of the moon, the water gracefully moves in and out as it always does.
We, an international group of spectators, one from California, one from Canada, one from South Africa and three from Germany, walk along the grassy cliffs, keeping time with the waves. Every so often, I can’t help but pause and admire while the boys carry on. I steal little moments to myself and take in long breaths.
I missed the sea so.
In a way I might be reminded of Ireland – what sits before me is so green and the sea so blue.
Then the impossibly bright sun bearing down on me and the reddening of my skin remind me, slather on the SPF, this is Africa.
The Wild Coast is located in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Just like the Drakensberg Mountains I had just left, the area is covered in green grasses, and the sky somehow seems larger than I’ve ever seen it from anywhere else in the world I’ve stood.
Populated by the Xhosa people, (you’ll notice the characteristic round houses), and the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, one need only spend a moment here to realize it’s something special.
Today we are hiking in Coffee Bay, a favorite amongst visitors to South Africa and the first time on this trip that I’ve encountered other travelers. So far it had mostly been locals I’d surrounded myself with in Johannesburg, and it was just Callum (my road trip buddy) and I making our way down the trails in the Free State.
I have to stop and stretch my arms out in either direction from time to time in some futile effort to take it all in. I’m blown away by the beauty in front of me, as I have been over and over again the past few days in this country.
I don’t know what I expected from South Africa, but this kind of lush greenery isn’t what initially came to mind.
Lions and zebras? Maybe, but cows lounging on the sand? Not in a million years.
It’s no surprise to me that hundreds of plants found here have homeopathic properties. It’s healing to me simply to wander through.
We’re making the lengthy but enjoyable walk to the Hole in the Wall, a literal hole in a shale and sandstone rock.
It would probably have been quite easy and without event if we hadn’t listened to Callum, who decided to create some sort of “shortcut” out of a treacherously narrow and steep path in the side of the cliff.
Should, by some stroke of chance, you ever meet Callum, don’t let him make your hiking choices for you.
Local legend has it that the Hole in the Wall was created when a young maiden and a sea person fell in love. With the help of a giant fish, the sea person cracked open the hole so that he could reach her. She was never seen again, though her echoes from the hole can be heard when the waves crash along the sides.
The local name for it is esiKhaleni – ‘the place of sound.’
The hole itself is interesting enough, but the real pleasure is in getting to it.
Can I plug in that saying, “it’s the journey, not the destination”? I can? Why thank you.
If you come to the Wild Coast, expect roads riddled with potholes. Know that sharks lurk in the rip-current waters. Trust that it is, indeed, wild.
That’s what makes it so wonderful, rugged, and appealing to someone like me.
Do it yourself:
- If driving in, beware of the potholes, though a standard car can handle the roads without issue as long as you drive carefully
- If bussing in, the nearest big town is Umtata. One can fly into Durban and bus with Baz Bus or intercity coaches (such as Greyhound) into Umtata. Coffee Shack and Bomvu Backpackers offer a shuttle service from the Shell Ultra City in Umtata.
- I stayed at Coffee Shack but honestly liked the vibe better at Sugarloaf Backpackers just down the street. Best way to make a reservation is to call them: +27 47 575 2175
- Hole in the Wall: From Coffee Bay, simply head toward the road and along the coastline, and you’ll reach the Hole in the Wall. You can’t miss it. Ask at Coffee Shack for the phone number of a driver to come back, or hitchhike along the road