On Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape…

The road that takes you off the N2 highway, just outside Mthatha in the Eastern Cape with promises of delivering you to the seaside village of Coffee Bay, is a nightmare.

There are potholes everywhere.

Just as your body starts to get used to the swaying motion of the car as it swerves around the potholes, you will encounter animals – sheep, horses and cows – minding their own business in the middle of the road.

It would seem that the potholes and animals are the real kings of the road in these parts.

Just as your eyes start getting used to seeing cows and sheep every 15 minutes, there are the beautiful mountains and valleys dotted with huts in all the colours of the rainbow.

About an hour into the drive, I was already used to my surrounds to a point that I started to appreciate the ragged beauty of this area and before I knew it, Coffee Bay came into view and took my breath away.

Suddenly, the potholed tarred road and the little stretch of gravel road we were on made way for a stunning view of the valley below, dotted with small properties that lined the coastline.

I had travelled to Coffee Bay with two friends, one who had been there before and one, who like me, was visiting for the first time. The view blew us away as much as the clear blue ocean that spread before us.

We arrived at our backpackers lodge called Sugarloaf, which is next to the Mnenga River mouth, where you can see the ocean from the comfort of the lodge’s veranda while you dig into your meal.

We were starving and immediately ordered seafood and I must say that they served us the freshest seafood, especially the mussles, we had tasted in while.

Our home for the next two days and nights would be a Safari tent, pitched close to the river and which had a bed inside. One friend slept in the dormitory.

After checking in, eating and resting for a bit, we decided to hit the beach, which was a five-minute walk away.

Coffee Bay is tiny enough for you to be able to walk from the beach to neighbouring lodges – which we did in the evenings – for some entertainment. They had local musicians playing drums at one lodge we visited while the other ones played different types of music.

There are no street-lights; so walking back in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar settling was a bit scary– we ended up using our cellphones as torches. But we felt relatively safe and at one point a local decided to walk us to our destination.

On our second day we decided to wake up early and take a drive to Hole in the Wall, which was about an hour away.

The road between Coffee Bay and Hole in the Wall is dotted with so many spots where you can stop on the side of the road to take pictures of the Wild Coast and for a while we did, until we realised that the entire coastline was picturesque and we were simply wasting time.

So we just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

Hole In The Wall was no less picturesque. We were greeted by the sight of two cows that were chilling on top of a hill next to the parking lot with the sea raging in the distance. Then we walked through a tiny forest to get to Hole In The Wall where we found people swimming and picnicking.

It still baffles me when I try to think of what could have caused that hole, in the wall, in the middle of the sea. I think it could be erosion; there was no one nearby to explain it, so I decided to stick with that explanation.

But it is breath-taking especially when you consider how violent the sea is along the Wild Coast – so the wall is like a barrier, holding back the big waves and leaving a rock-pool that is safe enough for children to swim in. This experience was followed by some pizza and beer at a restaurant in Coffee Bay that had the most stunning view of the sea.

But all good things must come to an end.

Two nights were not enough to explore all that Coffee Bay had to offer. And so with a heart full of gratitude at having been to such a stunning place, which is hidden behind potholed roads, I was glad to be heading back to the big city and you know what? The potholes didn’t seem so bad, on our way back home, they almost served as a reminder that sometimes beautiful things are hidden in the most unlikeliest places and you might have to sacrifice some discomfort in order to see a hidden gem.


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