The sky was bursting with stars; the African continent was aglow with brilliant
suspended diamonds. A shooting star streaked across the heavens. It seemed to be
a sign, the start of a great new adventure.
South Africa is filled with a
magic, a pulsing sensibility that is hard to touch but easy to feel. While the
Wild Coast of South Africa is one of the poorest regions in the country, it is
one of the richest in beauty. The birthplace of former president Nelson Mandela,
it is located between Durban and East London and stretches well over 240
kilometers along the eastern tip of South Africa. It was known as the Transkei
Homeland during the apartheid period from the early 1950s until 1994.
breathtaking jagged coastline is dotted with remote villages, numerous rivers,
waterfalls, shipwrecks, unspoiled beaches, expansive open space and pristine
The Xhosa and Mpondos people live in these areas, and many
adhere to ancestral traditions, keeping livestock and tending vegetable
The Wild Coast evokes a feeling of freedom, a restlessness of
sorts which might be a result of its raw, untouched beauty.
As we bounced
up and down on the rocky road, reddish brown dust churned around
Round houses with blue roofs stood next to small green plots of
farmland. On the other side of the road lay miles of empty land with an
occasional cow or sheep.
I watched women walk with daily necessities
balanced on their heads, while carrying swaddled children on their backs.
Deserted shacks gleamed in the sunlight. Children in school uniforms walked in
the middle of the dirt road and scattered in all directions as our truck honked.
I waved, and huge grins spread across their faces as they waved back.
South Africa, time seems to operate on a slower schedule. The Wild Coast
exemplified that concept, seeming to have stopped completely hundreds of years
I opened the window and breathed in a mixture of grass, dust and
salty sea air. Over the horizon, the blue Indian Ocean appeared.
headed toward Lambasi Bay, Port Grosvenor, Eastern Cape.
We arrived at
our inn, a community project that operates on solar and wind power.
by the Drifters group, it is a land lease.
The tour company is given the
land cheaply in exchange for training the locals, who will take over running the
property once the lease runs out.
The little white round houses have high
ceilings and tan thatched roofs with a simple decor – crisp white beds, wooden
night tables and cabinets.
A few steps past my room was an open area
filled with tables and chairs, a bar and a kitchen covered by a huge thatched
roof. A few steps away was an observation point overlooking the ocean. After a
buffet dinner, I retired to my room and was lulled to sleep by the undulating
EAGER TO EXPLORE my surroundings early the next morning, I walked
down to the beach along a tree-lined path, with the sound of crackling branches
swarming with monkeys.
At the beach, my toes wiggled in the white silky
sand, and I noticed a small stream flowing into the ocean. The blue-green
ocean’s frothy white waves crashed onto the sand; I could see my reflection as
if it were a mirror.
I thought I was alone, but I soon spotted a young
barefooted boy gathering wood near the stream. I walked over to him and tried to
communicate but had no luck, so I smiled.
He smiled back shyly, white
I watched him pull a reed from the side of the water
and cleverly turn it into a rope to tie his sticks together and walk back toward
Soon after, my group and a guide joined me.
through a soggy, grassy field over to a rusty shipwreck. Enormous pieces of
twisted metal with jagged edges were strewn over the rocks. As I peered into one
of the huge gnarled black pieces, sharp bits of metal stared back at me with
wires dangling below.
Although the ship looked old, the wreck occurred in
2004. The ship, the BBC China, had gotten stranded on the coast. While they
tried to refloat the ship, they had no luck. However, all 16 crew members were
rescued by helicopter.
Left in the water, the rough seas had ripped it
apart and washed sections of it ashore.
I climbed up onto the picture
perfect rusty metal. Bikini-clad, I pretended to be a Sports Illustrated model
and posed. The blue ocean seemed far, considering that I was standing on what
once had been a ship, now wedged between huge white rocks.
We made our
way back toward the beach, finding pockets between the rocks filled with white
seashells. Moments later we hiked over rolling hills covered with long blades of
grass blowing in the wind, intermixed with tall pink flowers and an occasional
rock jutting out from the ground. The scenery was breathtaking, and I was
breathing hard as we climbed away from the ocean.
Soon after, we
hopscotched over a small waterfall, careful not to slip on the rocks. (It would
have been a long, unpleasant, bonebreaking way down.) Descending a narrow
brush-filled pathway, I could hear the pounding water. Pushing aside bushes and
branches, I was greeted by a blue lagoon surrounded by lush green foliage and a
I looked around, to make sure I was not on a
Hollywood set. Everything was so perfect, it hardly seemed real. Immediately
everyone stripped down to their bathing suits. We swam in the refreshingly cold
water over to the waterfall itself. Streams of white water pounded on me and I
sat there letting nature massage my back. However, time kept slipping forward,
even though I desperately wanted to hold onto the day forever.
returned for a typical South African lunch of vetkoek – pieces of dough fried in
oil. They were delicious. Eating them was simple; just poke a hole in the round
dough and add any of the fillings on hand, such as savory mince, tuna, chicken
mayo, grated cheese or jam.
After stuffing ourselves full of fried
sweetness, we headed back to the private sandy beach for a few hours of
frolicking in the white foamy Indian Ocean and relaxing on the
Evening fell and everyone hung out in the open dining area, having
a beer or a Springbok, which is a South African drink made from peppermint
schnapps and Amarula (tastes like Kahlua, but even better). Suddenly, huge claps
of thunder shattered like broken glass through the night sky. As torrents of
rain poured down, I wished aloud for the dirt roads to get washed away so we
could stay longer in this paradise.
South Africa’s magical energy, an
untamed, effervescent force, had enveloped, enchanted and, like a drug, addicted
me to a feeling of always wanting more. But hard as I tried to grasp the moment,
it slipped through my fingers.
Soon after, the electricity went out, and
I was even more ecstatic. In the darkness, no falling stars this go round, only
sheets of rain.
But with every downpour there is rebirth, and in South
Africa more adventures are always waiting just around the corner.