Just imagine trailing the Wild Coast route, a destination blessed with magnificent scenery where nature sparkles and is mostly unspoilt by the hands of development. It becomes an addiction for most intrepid trailists; an escapade that awaits you beyond the mythical hole in the wall.
It was one of those glorious early November mornings when eight family members left our overnight accommodation at Coffee Bay Trail Huts. It is located in a small village not far from the Ocean View hotel and a mere 70 kilometres off the N2 highway. We left a young mother and two babes to take care of our vehicles and camping equipment and to prepare the evening barbecue when we got back. The ten hour return trail along the coastal belt in a southerly direction included a swim in the ocean. One’s own footprints on the white sandy beaches seemed to be the only ones around. Slight gentle breezes were blowing in from the sea and coupled with pounding surf, conjured up endless expanses of coastline. Jagged rock formations were defiantly resisting the incessant ravages of the sea. This included the Moorish shaped hole in the rock, which was indeed an extraordinary site. We watched as Kingfishers were gorging themselves on a buffet of small red crabs and Crowned Cranes were prancing, dancing and harassing each other. Unlike hotel hopping stretches, we noticed there was no accommodation in this part. Trail huts along this coastal section appear to have vanished long ago, apparently vandalized and partly removed by locals. This was a great pity for anyone hiking the longish stretch to Masher River. We diverted to an inland trail and voila! In a Xhosa village all were rewarded with an ongoing dance of young semi nude maidens with painted cheeks and noses, singing to the rhythms of their ancestors. Inquisitive mammas with their gentle demeanour really made us welcome. They engaged us with hand signs and small talk which was peppered with Xhosa words. Amongst other essentials, the local Spaza shop stocked tinned pilchards and stale bread. Returning via forested areas we passed a gulley which we christened “Bird Drop Inn” because of the lavish deposit of droppings that had coated everything in sight. We arrived back at our accommodation as dusk began to set in.
Ablution facilities were really good and the aroma from the barbeque stimulated hungry taste buds. Included in the menu were two large Red Steenbras, caught off a rocky sea outcrop an hour earlier. Exhilarated at last, I thought to myself how nice this little village is. Few roads, no power lines and an evening sunset ablaze with yellow and reddish colours. Cloudless skies encouraged night life discoveries of the heavens and cold cider and wine coupled with fatigued bodies ensured a good night’s sleep. Slumber was interrupted in the early hours from screaming youngsters. It produced an irritating degree of discomfort; we all waited before expressing our thoughts on it. Somewhere between chaos and disorder, that’s how we rated camping with toddlers.
At sunrise everything was luminous but not clear as we prepared for our second day trek, this time in a northerly direction. An enthusiastic bunch of visitors who had the same idea in mind were grateful to join us. Amongst them was a bright fellow who seemed to be an encyclopaedia of natural facts, feeding us with interesting ecological interpretations of the area. Much of the pristine Mdumbe beach was free of footprints, lined with lush Milkwoods and carpeted in grass. Crossing a river and climbing up the Mapuzi Peak was a heart-pumping exercise. Majestic sea views from billowing hills and rolling cliffs were magnificent. One manufactured excuses for stopping, just to revel in those “oh wow” moments. None of the locals were seen on this stretch as Xhosa dwellings were dotted some three kilometres inland. Turning back towards Coffee bay, we simply idled along as if in a dream, never seeming to reach the other end. Pods of shimmering porpoises kept us spellbound with their twisting and turning in the translucent rollers. It seemed easy, just then, to abandon the trail and become obsessed by these gracious mammals. One more refreshing swim in the sea was the final culmination of another stunning day.
On departing Coffee Bay the following morning we viewed magnificent facets of the countryside, a panorama of landscapes and small towns. Interesting sights visited along the coastline included a large number of rusting shipwrecks. A reminder of many fascinating chronicles of disasters that had befallen seafarers along this wild coast over countless years.
Our trailing experiences were enjoyed by all. It embraced the concept of family adventure for medium distance day treks and covered some of the cultural significance of the local Xhosa population.