Recently I was invited by SAMSA to take part in a 5-day hike along the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. The South Africa Maritime Safety Association (SAMSA) is basically the bodyguard of SA’s oceans and its incredible coast line. SAMSA aim to keep all the ports in check. The alos help where they can to uplift the surrounding communities through education and tourism.
As you can imagine I was over the moon to climb on board and help promote the Eastern Cape. I could of never imagined how absolutely blown away I would be! 800km of incredible coast line untouched by men screaming about ice cream or the likes of Penny Sparrow.
Day 0 – Pre-trip:
We started our adventure in the lovely town of Coffee Bay with a population of around only 300. To stay there would be the equivalent of staying in a town with all your Facebook friends!
We checked into Ocean View Hotel for the night. It was the type of place where you visit every year and generation after generation follow suit. After a delicious buffet dinner we headed into town to the Coffee Shack, a budget friendly hostel for many hikers. As community upliftment is the aim of the hike everything we did was run by locals. We spent the night learning how to play the drums from the shy but extremely talented Julius and his team.
Day 1: Coffee bay to Mdumbi Village
The hike started on a bit of a rainy note but that wasn’t going to discourage us. We covered everything important (bags, cameras and lunch) in black bags and we were off. Of course to set the mood the trip started on an uphill. 10 minutes later I was re-evaluating my life decisions! We passed many colourful huts sprinkled across the hills, many uphills and unfortunately not enough downhills. There were long stretches of beaches with not a soul in sight!
We had the perfect tour guide (Jimmy Selani), the owner of Wild Tours. Jimmy’s company arranges and does most of the Wild Coast hikes in the area. He was everything a tour guide should be; intelligent, easy going and fully packed with funny stories and old folk tales.
On this leg of the trip we took a sneak peek into Mapuzi Caves where Bushman (San) use to hide from the soldiers. Due to the rain and all the mud, it was unsafe for us to go down and see.
15 kms later we arrived at Mdumbi Backpackers at around 14:00PM. My favourite accommodation throughout the trip. They are situated in the middle of nowhere but with everything you need after a long day. The bathrooms were fantastic with gas heaters warming up the water and signs telling you to respect the worms. Much like the bathrooms the rooms were clean, cosy and colourful. Just down the road is Mdumbi Village Backpackers were you get to experience a night as a villager. We paid them a little visit where we were shown around and treated to some Umqombothi (African beer).
That night for just R75 we got a scrumptious three course seafood meal which we enjoyed the way it should be; with new friends, heated debates about Eastern Cape and adult beverages!
Day 2: Mdumbi Village to Hluleka Nature Reserve
At around 09:00AM we hit the road again this time round we had no rain but all the wind. Much to my delight the hike involved minimal early mornings. I learned a hard lesson that day: sun block, block the sun, sun block even when the sun is barely shinning!
Just down the road the ocean went right up and faded into the Mdumbi River. This is were we had kayaks patiently waiting for us. A fellow blogger (The black case girl) and I made a mean team making our way across the river. It is the little activities like this along the way that really make the hike incredible. Not only did we get to have a blast kayaking but we supported locals trying to make a living.
Day 2 was by far the most difficult, all types of terrain had us bundu bashing the one minute, balancing on narrow pathways the next and catching our breath on long stretches of beach in between. 23kms later we arrived at the gates of Hluleka Nature Reserve, where the welcoming committee of Zebras posed for all our photos. By that time you can imagine I was pretty close to death or something I can only imagine is very similar to death! But wow was this place incredible, I couldn’t believe a place so beautiful didn’t have a waiting list of 3 years minimum!
Hluleka Nature Reserve has the best of both worlds; you have nature and animals on the one side but at the same time you have this incredible view of the ocean where you can often spot dolphins and whales. As it was South African’s Heritage Day we celebrated at the end of the day in the only way we knew how, with a braai!
Day 3: Hluleka Nature Reserve to Mpande Village
Still not fully recovered from day 2 but with mountains to climb and beaches to see, we were on our way. A long the way we came across a river about waist high deep, all previous rivers we had crossed by boat but this one we had to walk through. Naturally everyone was against it but as it was perfectly located in the middle of the hike we couldn’t turn back. Shoes off and bags on our head we all slowly made our way across! It was so exhilarating making it to the other side and cheering each other on.
Honestly, I felt like Heidi making my way through all the hills! I must have taken over a 100 photos. Around every corner you would be hit with an incredible view that you had to try imprint in your memory.
Of course I can’t forget the fun facts along the way either. Outside most huts you will find a high pile of sticks gathered over time by the women of the house. The more sticks the women has gathered the more hard working she is thus making her more desirable.
That night we stayed in Mpande Village. We all gathered around the fire sharing stories and an unsettling amount about the Tokoloshe (Zulu evil spirit)! The ladies of the house were inside cooking up a storm. We got a full spread for dinner. That night we slept in snug huts and showered in homemade bucket showers and fell asleep to the ocean only seconds away.
Day 4: Mpande Village to Mngazana
The shortest hike of the trip only 10Kms to Mngazana. By this time spirits were a little deflated, whether the Tokoloshe had anything to do with it I’m not sure. The beauty of it all is that this was the day that involved many happy locals along the way. Tons of children making sure they got their greetings in. Inquisitive locals wanting to know where we going, were we had come from and to check if we were not crazy to tackle such a long trip. We ended on a beautiful beach in Mngazana where the braai was all set up and ready to warm us up.
After lunch we made our way to Mngazana Village accommodation. That night we had a guest of honour, the king of the area. He could not be prouder to share the history of the Amampondo and Nguni Tribes. The night was spent filling our bellies and reflecting on the hike.
Day 5: Mngazana to Port St Johns
After a freezing night the end was finally in sight. A lot of the route involved down hills which one would think is ideal but got a bit strenuous on the knees even for the young at heart. The hike started rainy and then we moved on to windy and the last day we spent cooking in the sun. My vote is you want to do the hike in a windy season!
They truly saved the best for last. We spent the night at Intaba River Lodge getting pampered at their in-house spa. We were treated like royalty from the accommodation to the food to the spa treatments.
I have the fitness level of an overweight hippo so when I was able to make it through every day and see so much beauty along the way it was truly an invigorating feeling. SAMSA knows a good thing when it sees it and that is why they are in full support of the Wild Coast Hike. It is something for the whole family and has a bit of everything along the way. This is an ideal activity for any type of vacation. The hike can be down vice versa or only snippets of it. You can start anywhere you like and do many variations of the hike as well.
Eastern Cape has stolen my heart and I can’t wait to explore it more. Check out my post on 36 special deals they have running all over the Eastern Cape if you too would love to explore EC.
If you’ve done the hike or love EC as much as I do. I would love to hear your stories, see your pics and relive your tips! If you would love more info on the hike or a different perspective make sure to check out the incredible Noxololo at Black Case Girl.
The TravelBug 🙂