The Ultimate 5 Day Wild Coast Hike
One generally lousy day I received an invitation from SAMSA to join the ultimate Wild Coast hike to showcase the beauty and richness of Wild Coast. Because this initiative stood for all the things I also subscribe to, I agreed. Boy, what a task that was. However, I will be the first to admit that the Eastern Cape has the greatest shore line and the beauty of the wild coast is immeasurable. The landscape is to die for, though it can be hard on your body but the majestic hills and mountains make up for it and make the pain worth it.
So after visiting Nelson Mandela Museum, reflecting on Madiba’s life story and also a reminder to ourselves not to take this little freedom we enjoy everyday for granted. That museum does bring back all the unwanted feelings as it forces you to really look back at where we are from as a nation. Before I get too emotional let me get us into a taxi and heard down to Coffee bay where the hike will start in the morning.
When we got to Coffee bay it was dinner time, therefore we checked in and went straight to dinner. After dinner we had some few minutes to ourselves before heading out for a drumming session at the Coffee Shack, a very vibrant and loved backpacker. On arrival we were met by a group of jolly travellers who were enjoying themselves, playing snooker, some sitting around a bon-fire. We proceeded to where we will be having our drumming session. The instructor was very patient with us as this was a first for some of us. We drummed for almost an hour. We tried following the instructors directive until we got carried away and started free styling.
We stayed for another 2hrs at the coffee shack having drinks while listening to the local drumming group, others playing snooker. After some time we then called it a night
The night before, it had started raining but we thought it would have subsided in the morning as the weather forecast said there will be light showers in the early morning. However to our discomfort, the rain continued for the whole day, coming and going. We were introduced to our guide Jimmy who runs Wild Tours from Port St Johns. The rain was not going to stop us so after breakfast upon collecting our snacks for the road we commenced the hike. Though it was raining, the hike was still fun, I slipped twice but that was just in a days work. Amongst other things we learned a lot about indigenous trees and how they were used as healing substances in the olden days.
We tried to go and see the caves that were used by ANC members to hide during the apartheid era but the road was too steep and dangerous given that it was raining (another adventure in waiting ). Before we completed the hike we crossed Mthatha river. At the river we were met by two gentlemen that gave us a lift in their boat to help us across. Another first for me, to cross a river by a boat, exciting stuff, I tell you. After a long walk along the beach we finally got to Mdumbi Backpackers where we spent the night.
Beaches and Rivers
Mdumbi Backpackers boasts a selection of rooms from dormitories to family and private rooms. They have nicely built ablutions with hot water, what I loved the most about them is that they had modern finishes. When you visit Mdumbi backpackers you can choose to go the self catering route or eat at the main dining area. I would advise the latter as their food is to die for. They specialise in see food dishes. We had fresh oysters and the most delicious mussels soup for a starter.
There are also some Village Based Accommodation options in Mdumbi that we went to check out where we were served the traditional beer (Umqombothi).
24th of September is heritage day and we celebrated it in a special way, after having breakfast we made our way to Mdumbi River where we were scheduled for Kayaking. It was my first time kayaking and I enjoyed every moment. In the beginning the thought of getting in the small boat scared me but as soon as we started moving everything fell into place. We had to cram the mini crash course that the operators gave us in a matter of seconds. Another first for 2017 aced like a pro. Now I can safely write kayaking as one of my favourite outdoor activities.
Immediately after kayaking we continued our hike to Hluleka Nature Reserve by crossing over Mdumbi River to Mngcibe A/A. This leg of the hike was the most challenging, with its hills. However, once these hills are conquered they give you the most beautiful views you could ever think of. We had our lunch at Presley beach one of the beautiful and peaceful beaches found in that stretch.
At the end of the day when the pain had subsided and life restored, we were filled with so much pride and fulfilment because we had completed the most gruelling 23km of going up and down the rolling hills of the wild coast. What made this day more challenging was that it had more up hills, sometimes one after another.
When we entered Hluleka we were greeted by Zebras which are the most commonly found animals in the reserve. In the morning three dolphins came to bid us farewell. These are the little things that make me so proud of being born from the mighty Eastern Cape.
Beaches and Rivers
Mdumbi beach ,Mdumbi river, Mngcibe beach, Lwandilana river, Lwandile beach, Presley beach, Mamolweni beach, Mthakatye river, Hluleka river and Hluleka beach
Hluleka Nature Reserve has the most beautiful bungalows that sleeps four people, we were given one with a view. From our room we could not just hear the ocean but sea it as it was a stone throw away. These bungalows give you the sense of a 4 star hotel because of its decor, furnisher and finishes. They are self catering, so it would be advisable to stop at a closest big town and stock as much as possible as you might not want to ever leave the place to go to the shops.
Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency (ECPTA)
Tel: 043 492 0881
Email: reservations@ ecpta.gov.za
Because we all love hiking and we were committed to finishing what we had set out to do. The next morning it was all cheers as we were leaving Hluleka Nature Reserve to go to the next destination, Mpande A/A. We took it easy, not rushing at all because we now had nothing to fear after conquering yesterday’s hike. For me this is by far the trail with the most gorgeous views, giving you a glimpse of the river meeting the beach and the beautiful houses overlooking both the beach and the river. How lucky are the owners of those houses to wake up to such beauty every day. The excitement I felt as we kept climbing the hills. Each time, I would think I had gotten the best view but minutes later I would get to an even spectacular one.( My heart was jumping for joy from the pictures I took. I could not even wait for us to get to the destination, instead of having lunch I was busy smiling at the beautiful pictures I had captured. I got lost in the moment until I heard our guide saying “Time up, it’s time to hit the road again” so that meant I was going to have my lunch on the go.
It was all fun and games until we got to a point where we had to cross Mthonga River and NO, there were no boats. This only meant one thing, we had to take our shoes off roll our pants and swim our way across. This caused an up-raw amongst fellow hikers, but I being the adventure junky that I am I could not wait to get in that water. The guide went across to check the deepness of the water and came back to fetch us and help those that struggled to make it across. Some were just not impressed with the experience but for me that was the highlight of the entire 5 days. Life continued, we made our way to Mpande and arrived just in time for the afternoon snack. This hike was not heavy on the legs so all in all it was a good one. Mpande beach is famous for its cray fish that is exported world wide. Therefore, later in the afternoon we went to a cray fish farm to learn more about this type of fish. So many firsts in this leg of the hike (swimming across the river, seeing live cray fish, using village based accommodation (VBA).
Beaches and Rivers
Mnenu beach, Mnenu river, Maphantsana beach, Mthonga river, Mande river and Mande beach
At Mpande we used a village based accommodation, where we were met by Mam’ Nophumzile who welcomed us to her house and fed us traditional food until we could not take it anymore. After dinner we sat around a bon-fire and enjoyed some humorous story telling by our guide and some members of the crew. We laughed the night away and only got to sleep just after 23:00.
Tel: 082 507 2256
Judging from the mood around me, on this day most people were not really looking forward to this hike, fatigue was slowly creeping in. However, as the hike proceeded we got into the groove. Another heart warming fact was that we were only doing 10km so we all knew it will all be over soon. The trail kept us awake as it had ups and downs, one did not know what to anticipate next. The beauty of this trail is that it moved between houses and we met a lot of locals. My highlight was the kids that would get so excited when they saw us and always made a point of shouting their greetings. All the people we met along the way could not believe that we had started in Coffee Bay and headed to Port St John’s “by foot”, as one man exclaimed when we told him where we were headed.
This was a very chilled hike and we made it just in time for lunch. when we got to the hikers chalets the braai was almost ready. So we wrapped that day’s hike on a higher note than when we started. After the braai at the beach we made our way home for the night. After freshening up, the King of the area came and told us the documented history of the Amampondo tribe. This was a very informative session as it did not just touch on the Amampondo history but the rest of the Nguni tribes. I also got to hear about my origins.
Beaches and Rivers
Sinangwana river and Sinangwana beach
Once more we used village based accommodation as a second option because the plan was to spend the night at the Hikers Huts that are found at Mngazana Beach. However there was a small glitch that made us change plans. We were welcomed by two beautiful ladies that were our hosts. They also prepared a different kind of delicious traditional food. After dinner we sat around a bonfire and reflected on the past days. A lot was said in ensuring that the purpose of the hike which is to showcase the wild coast was captured well. A suggestion to make it an annual event was tabled and supported by all, we hope this becomes a tradition. After that the good times started, it was cold but we stayed outside until very late in the night but eventually gave in and went to bed.
Tel: 082 507 2256
Though it was freezing at night, we woke up to beautiful blue skies. After breakfast we commenced the last leg of the hike. The hike was a descend so it was a bit heavy on the knees but our first aid kit was there to make things better for us. There were times where the sun was just too much but we persevered as the finish line was near. This leg too boasted a lot of beautiful sights. As soon as you leave the village you get to a steep hill which then rewards you with some beautiful village views that captures the beach so well. Again we used a boat to cross Mngazana river.
As we approached Mngazi Bungalows history seemed to repeat itself as we had to negotiate our way around a swamp only this time the water was not so deep. We then got into yet another boat to take us to Mngazi Bungalows. This is by far the most beautiful part of the Wild Coast and have a lot of activities one can participate in. We only took a small break then it was time to hit the road again for the final lap. Up Mngazi the views were spectacular and slowed me down a bit as I could not resist snapping away. We arrived at 2nd Beach around 14:00 and that marked the end of the ultimate 5 day Wild Coast Hike.
Upon arrival we were taken to a cozy restaurant where we had lunch then made our way to Intaba River Lodge where we were pampered to full body massages. That made a huge difference, we then freshened up, had supper and went to Amampondo Backpackers where there was a marimba band and some traditional dance groups that performed for us. It was a night of fun, perfect to wrap up the fun filled 6 days. We stayed up very late. In the morning we had medal presentation for all those that finished the 5 day hike and it was time to hit the road for some, and a continuation of celebrations for others. 28th September is World Marine Day and September being the Tourism month, the festivities went on until lunch time.
At the end of it all we had covered 83km, something I never thought I’d ever do. However when the opportunity was presented to me, I had no doubt that I was going to finish the hike. I enjoyed every moment, even the hardest patches. I would do it over and over again. #wildcoasthike #wedotourism
Beaches and Rivers
Mngazana river, Chwebeni beach, Mngazi river, Mngazi beach, 3rd beach, Bulolo river and 2nd beach.
We spent our last night at Intaba River Lodge, and 4 star with a spa facility, I slept in an executive suite which had my favourite feature in the room, a Jacuzzi bath tub. The rooms are big and stylish very fitted for a reward after the long 5 days.
Intaba River Lodge
Tel: 047 564 1707
Things I learned during the hike
Because in some parts of South Africa/ Eastern Cape there is little of no network coverage therefore one was out of touch and had no connection to the world. Most importantly I could not update my social media pages and blog which is one thing you cannot afford as a travel blogger. My advise is that:
- one must at least have 3 sim cards from different service providers just to make sure that they are covered at all times.
- Power banks are a necessity as you might find yourself in a place where there is not enough plug points for everyone.
- You can never be ready for the kind of beauty that is harboured by the Wild Coast.
- The Adventure Province is BEAUTIFUL and ready to accommodate the world on its shores #visiteasterncape.