Saturday, 18 April 2009

Road Trip - Part 7

Monday 23rd March – Chintsa to Coffee Bay

We were up and off fairly early from Buccaneers Backpackers after Elaine had bought some ‘lucky bean’ necklaces and a handbag (seriously, another handbag!) from the shop.

Today we were to cross the Great Kei River and enter the area known as Transkei between 1959 and 1994. During the apartheid era the South African government set up ten ethnically and linguistically divided homelands for black South Africans, effectively ensuring that all racial groups developed separately. Transkei was set aside for the Xhosa people and had a turbulent existence until reincorporation into the ‘new’ South Africa in 1994.

The scenery was very different, rolling hills and valleys, fertile green land and small communities dotted all over the landscape consisting of both modern block constructions and the traditional round thatched huts or ‘rondawels’. Now we really were in Africa!

We passed the village where Nelson Mandela was born at Mvezo and the imposing retirement home he has built in nearby Qunu, where he spent most of his formative years.

As we sped along the highway we saw a traffic cop on the opposite side of the road waving his arms and pointing at the front of the car, obviously picking up on the fact that we had no registration plate. If he thought that we were going to stop he was sadly mistaken! Shortly after that we turned off the progressively worsening N2 highway onto the road to Coffee Bay. We still had about 80km to go and the scenery was breathtaking though the road was still getting worse! Eventually the potholes got so big and frequent that we were driving at walking pace and weaving paths between them.

Eventually though and after a short dirt road hill trial for the poor bakkie we arrived at the beautiful and remote Coffee Bay, allegedly named after a ship carrying coffee which was wrecked at the site in 1863, and the Coffee Shack Backpackers.

Of course we had to take the opportunity to stay in our very own thatched hut on the other side of the river. It was great, a bed, a chair, an oil lamp and some lizards living on the inside of the thatch!

We quickly moved our things across, had our complimentary drink at the bar and went out onto the beach. Another stunning and unspoilt bay made all the better by the fact that this was in a very rural Xhosa area and we were immersed in their culture and language. The language isiXhosa takes a bit of practice to say the least, especially as they incorporate a number of distinct clicking noises into words as additional letters! If you are interested have a look at the YouTube clip below and start learning!

Everyone in the Coffee Bay area that we met was very friendly and most had a good go at trying to sell us something, from crayfish to toe rings! You had to admire their entrepreneurial spirit!

We went back to the bar area, had a drink and some free oysters and waited for dinner to be served. Again traditional Xhosa food was on the menu and once again it was fantastic with sweetcorn cooked by standing it up in the open fire and turning occasionally. If you got lucky you may have got some popcorn too where it had overheated!

Then we were treated to some traditional singing and dancing by some children from the local school who were excellent and got the crowd on their feet, clapping and stomping along with them.

We had a great night and talked to some really interesting local people before heading off to the hut for a good nights sleep (though keeping half an eye on the lizards!).

We woke up with a plan, we were going on a 7km walk to the 'Hole in the Wall' but we hadn't reckoned it raining! The weather here has been so good over the last 3 months that it is a real surprise to wake up to anything other than blazing sunshine! We decided that the hole in the wall walk would have to wait for a future visit and quickly decided to check out and head up the coast to Port St Johns.

Before we paid our tab we bought a couple of plump crayfish from one of the locals and cooked them in a nice big pot in the kitchen! Crayfish in hand we said goodbye to the brilliant people at the Coffee Shack and headed back towards the world's biggest potholes!

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