The magical Wild Coast

  • Miles travelled: 6693
  • Highlight: A Saturday night party with the locals
  • Lowlight: The hangover the next day
  • Hours spent watching the whales: At least 5

Two weeks in and we already know the three nights we spent on the Wild Coast are going to be one of the highlights of our trip.

After our off road adventure to get there, we arrived at Mdumbi Backpackers feeling pretty bewildered and more than ready for a beer. Luckily for us, as we drove in we were greeted straight away by the very energetic Lusanda, a local guy who works for the hostel. He was taking his boat out on the river and gave us ten minutes to change, stock up on beers at the ‘store’ (a very confusing experience) and get down to the beach to join him.

Twenty minutes after arriving, we were cruising along the Mdumbi river for our first taste of Wild Coast scenery.

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Such an incredibly beautiful coastline and completely unspoilt with no houses in sight, just the odd fisherman or intrepid cow. During our stay on the Wild Coast, we were both struck by the raw beauty of the place. It’s like Cornwall on steroids, ten times as vast, warmer and without the crowds.

Shots of Captain Morgan’s from a bottle top were shared, new friends were made and we headed back up to the hostel to check into our rondavel and get some well overdue food. Fresh wild oysters and homemade mussel soup to start, followed by steak on the braai. Just R60 and all prepared by the local Xhosa mammas.

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After a few more beers around the braai, the music was switched on and the atmosphere began to change. More and more locals started appearing, poking their heads in to see what was going on and suddenly the quiet backpackers turned into some kind of hip hop beach club. The evening turned out pretty different to what we were expecting – highlights include Jamie having a one legged dance off with some local guys (he got some kudos for his moves), one of the lovely local girls bounding in to demand I dance with her all night and the general descent into awesome African chaos.
It wasn’t until the next morning, when we emerged from our rondavel feeling slightly worse for wear, that we were able to appreciate just how special this place is.
The backpackers is made up of a series of traditional rondavels perched right on the cliff top overlooking the bay. It’s completely in keeping with the style of the local village, Tshani, and is very much a hub of the community.

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The hostel is run in association with Transcape, a charity focused on education and development for the local Xhosa communities. There’s a primary school and church on site and most of the other people we met on the first night were either volunteering here, working nearby or visiting family and friends. After the relaxed weekend, the place kicked into work mode with the kids arriving for school and people from all over the village turning up to work on various projects
We’d heard from people back home that the opening scene to the new Blue Planet was filmed in the Wild Coast so we’d already been looking forward to trying our luck at whale spotting. We mentioned it to Johann, the owner, who told us that the crew had actually stayed at Mdumbi Backpackers to film the dolphins playing in the surf. They’d set out with their expensive boats and kit to search for dolphins up the coast but Johann had told them not to bother and that they may as well just sit on the point, a section of cliff top just down the road from the backpackers, and they’d be sure to find them from there.

He thought it was hilarious that, while they had set off on this mission and not found any dolphins, a Chinese photographer who was visiting at the time had captured the perfect videos and pictures of dolphins playing just 200m away from the point. Apparently the crew were kicking themselves.
We were very excited after hearing this and headed down to the point to see for ourselves. Sure enough, moments later we spotted our first whales flipping around in the distance, just a few hundred metres away. Sadly we don’t have any decent pictures. It’s just too difficult to capture these incredible creatures and every time we tried we seemed to scare them away. We’d give up, put the camera away and, sure enough, they’d thank us with a back flip. Some moments are just too amazing to be captured.
Over the next few days, the point became a favourite spot of ours. Sheltered from the relentless wind, with panoramic views across the bay to the left and out to sea where the whales were playing to the right. We spent hours just hanging around up there, picnicking, reading and watching the whales. Our only problem in the world was that the whales were just too distracting! Every time we tried to get into our books or get some of the blogging done we’d look up to see one doing a back flip or a mother and baby doing some synchronised fin waving. It’s a hard life, I know…

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Aside from whale watching, we had a perfect three days of relaxation, hiking along the beach, strolling through the village and enjoying copious amounts of the amazing Xhosa bread. It’s some kind of magical recipe slow cooked in a poijke over the fire until it’s just the right combination of soft, sweet, doughy deliciousness.

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Very, very hard to tear ourselves away from this place but I have no doubt we’ll be back one day.


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