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Coffee Bay

SOUTH AFRICA | Saturday, 23 March 2013 | Views [2267] | Comments [1]

Many petrol stations on the major routes in South Africa are a hive of activity and meeting/drop off points. Baz Bus collected us from Mantis and Moon and dropped us at a station at Mthatha where bags and weary travellers were loaded onto a shuttle taxi bus to take us to Coffee Bay. It is easy to underestimate the journey time between destinations here and certainly we did not factor in another hour and a half for the transfer. The drive takes you through the steep hilly landscape of the Transkei with little round dwellings that dot the green hillsides, painted mostly in a vivid turquoise, but also orange, blue, biscuit brown, yellow and even pink. Cattle roam freely, and they, along with the odd horse or sheep, can be found sauntering into the road especially near villages. The hooter is used liberally here, both to discourage animals in the road but equally as a greeting. Traffic is generally slow as engine sizes barely seem to match the challenges of the terrain.

Coffee Bay has been much talked about and I looked forward to arriving there with keen anticipation. I envisaged a small neat little village built into the bay with a shop or two and a couple of cafes. In reality the road finally descends between the hills and a track bumps you along to a few scattered hostels and further on to the last stop - Coffee Shack where we were booked in. Lesson number one – do not have expectations!! Lesson number two – do not expect that just because you have emailed (and received confirmation of your booking) that it will remain valid should any unexpected changes take place. The extra night we had to spend in Umzumbe lead them to somehow thinking that we were arriving two days late and not one. My email advising them of the changes was not received as their internet has only been working periodically! Apparently someone claiming to be us spoke to them with different information again. The chaos was solved for the first night as we stayed in one of the huts with the rest of our group but the second night we were put in staff accommodation as the hostel was full. Whilst it was appreciated that they were able to find us somewhere to stay, it was annoying that I had booked in advance and yet we had been moved. Lesson number three – things when travelling don’t always work out as one might expect them to.

There is a small river which runs between the two sections of the hostel and into the sea. The best beach is a few minutes’ walk away and definitely worth going to. Here you can have a day on the beach with surf lessons or use of the boards and toasted sandwiches for lunch for just R50. Today people were going on the 3 hour walk to visit The Hole in the Wall – a natural phenomenon created by the sea, rather than a cashpoint. Talking of which, not all hostels have credit card facilities or even cash machines nearby. Fortunately the Baz Bus drivers have been good at advising us of this in advance. Given that there are often very limited shopping facilities, you have the choice of stocking up at a supermarket en route, or relying on the food the hostels provide when you get there. The cost of this can vary quite substantially. In the Drakensberg we paid R100 for a 3 course meal, which is pretty reasonable although you can only order a 3 course evening meal. In Umzumbe the set one course meal cost R60/70. At Coffee Shack it was a 2 course meal for R55. I bought some boerewoers sausage and a pack of 3 shin steaks, baby tomatoes and avocado which comfortably fed two of us for under R30 each.

The hostel is clean and the 6-bed hut we stayed in on the first night was pleasant with a fabulous  sea view. The kitchen and bathroom facilities were all very good and the staff friendly and helpful. As the sun sets the bar area fills up with people coming in for dinner, to sit around the fires (not that it’s at all cold but the evening breeze can feel a little chilly after a hard day at the beach) or to mingle with a nice cold beer in hand. The drums come out, strange aromas fill the air and a decidedly hippie chill out is in progress.

Last night there was a small bonfire on the beach and we went there for a while. It is a great place to admire the clear skies filled with so many bright stars, set to the chatter of many languages carried on the sea breeze. There is definitely a strong German contingent amongst the travellers. Apart from a couple of French people everyone is from northern Europe - I have yet to meet an Italian or Spaniard. There is a spattering of American and Canadians too. I had expected a strong showing of Team GB on the backpacker routes here, but we rank well below the Germans and then the Dutch. I am puzzled why there are not more British travellers, it is a truly amazing destination, and hugely more affordable than Australia/New Zealand.

I’m glad we stopped here and the beach is amazing, but for some reason that I can’t quite fathom out just yet, Coffee Bay is not a must stop for me.

 

Tags: backpacking, baz bus, beach, beach huts, campfire, chill out, coffee bay, coffee shack, transkei

Comments

1

Gosh - looks and sounds as though it's getting reallly tough - all that boring sun, sand and sea; can see why it's not a 'must stop' place. I'll definitely stick with the (on-going) wind, rain and mud back here!!!

  Lynne Mar 23, 2013 7:18 AM

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