Wild Coast, pt.1

The Wild Coast is a region in South Africa that stretches along the coast from East London all the way up to KwaZulu-Natal. And it has become by far my favourite part of the country (although I haven’t been everywhere yet!).

The first time I went there was during my summer break, in December 2015.

On the last day of November, my friends and I drove all the way from the border to Lesotho down to the coast, more specifically to Bulungula. It was a pretty long day of driving, the landscape changed so much and so did the roads. The closer we got to Bulungula, the crazier the roads got. Especially that last bit towards the backpackers got a bit tricky as it was not to be found on a GPS and signs didn’t seem too common around there either. The backpackers’ website actually has a downloadable map that you can use to find your way there and the directions sound somewhat like this: “turn right at the building with the three windows that used to be painted blue five years ago and when you see a stream on your left and a tree ahead of you, keep driving for about 10km until you have to take another right”. Let’s just say it was a bit of a challenge and took much longer than expected – but it was well worth it.

I will probably write at least one other post on Bulungula, so I will leave it at that for now. When we finally arrived, we just had to get our stuff from the car and walk over to the lodge. We immediately knew we had made it to paradise.

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There’s a river on our left, leading into the warm Indian Ocean, and there’s beaches on end. Those little colourful houses you see in the background is where we spent our nights. It was just a dream.

We felt like it was only right to immediately jump into the ocean and let the huge waves massage our backs that were hurting from the long journey. We were laughing so much and couldn’t believe just how lucky we were. We had a whole beach to ourselves, a thousand crabs were our only company. I couldn’t believe how little people there were as it seemed impossible that such a place should be so peaceful and not entirely touristified.

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The following day, we already had to drive all the way back to the main road as we had to go pick up a friend in Coffee Bay, about a two-hour drive away. As we were already on the road, we thought we might as well make the most of the day and so we ended up spending the first of December 2015 at Hole in the Wall, swimming in the ocean and chilling at the beach.

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It was a really hot day and we were happy to cool off in the ocean, especially when this view comes along with it. No better way to start a month that is usually one of the coldest ones of the year for me. And kind of weird to think that we were getting so close to Christmas and yet here I was, ‘tanning’ at the beach.

We left kind of early to drive back to Bulungula so we could still make the most of our evening there and so we wouldn’t have to drive in the dark.

The next day was to be spent entirely in Bulungula. As we had been travelling quite a bit at that point already, we were relieved to finally have no plans whatsoever. Our mornings at Bulungula were usually early, so we could immediately go for a swim in the ocean and say hello to the crabs. Afterwards, we decided to walk into the village for a bit, and just have a look around. We saw what is an everyday thing to see over there: two women collecting water from the nearby pond and carrying it back home on their heads. I thought it was a pretty cool scene to capture.

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The Eastern Cape is so hilly and green, and there’s animals literally everywhere. That time of the year is especially green as it usually rains quite a lot around then and that specific day then also ended up being pretty cloudy and grey. So we decided to stayed inside playing board games and writing in our journals – and probably taking a nap, too.

Unfortunately, we only had about five days to spend at the Wild Coast, which is not nearly enough. The next day was going to be another long drive, all the way up to Port St John’s which is basically the end of the Wild Coast. Port St John’s would be our final destination, so we decided to treat ourselves and book Turtle Cove Cottage at Amapondo Backpackers.

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Hidden away on top of the hill, it is an absolute treat. The bathroom is at the back of the cottage and opens up into the jungle, and there’s balconies everywhere too – with either a jungle or ocean view.

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I had never been to a place anything like Port St John’s, or the Wild Coast in general, before, and staying at a place like this made it even better. Port St John’s is a really unique town with beautiful landscapes. I would always want to go back.

During our last full day at the Wild Coast, we decided to do another day trip and drive to Magwa Falls, which I had read about on our backpacker’s website before we got there. It looked just amazing and I did not want to miss out on it.

Again, it was not easy to find. The people working at the backpackers drew us a map that came very close to the one we knew from Bulungula and we were basically just told to “turn right in Lusikisiki and follow the dirt road”. Which we did, and which actually worked.

When we got to Magwa Falls, we weren’t even sure if we had made it. Again, there were no signs, no other tourists, nothing. Well, almost nothing. We were told that there’d be children there, wanting to show us around. They ran after our car as soon as they saw us and couldn’t wait to be our private guides and show us the falls and where to get the best view. What started out with two little boys, ended up with a group of about twenty different children.

They first of all walked with us across water. What initially looked like a rather dry river turned out to be the top of the waterfall. Pretty exciting when we later saw where we had been walking! We went to the side of the falls to get a better view and oh man, I still can’t believe how beautiful it really was.

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Absolutely incredible to think that we were the only ones there again. The falls were so beautiful and the area was greener than green. We took a bunch of pictures and listened to the children telling us stories about the falls. They had lived there their entire lives and couldn’t really understand why we were so amazed about something that seemed so everyday to them.

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We walked back to our car through lush green fields and unfortunately had to leave the children and their beautiful home behind.

If you kept driving on the road that we were on, you ended up at the beach again, in a place called Tilongo. Over there, the dunes meet the ocean and it was so amazing how different it was to what we had just seen.

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We walked around for a bit longer, enjoyed the beach while we could, and finally drove back to Port St John’s for our last night at Turtle Cove Cottage.

My first trip to the Wild Coast had thereby officially come to an end, as we drove to Durban the next day to catch our plane back to Cape Town. I didn’t see nearly as much as I would have liked to see but I had fallen in love with this area of South Africa and knew that I would be back again for sure.

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