The Xhosa Land
Coffee Bay is not all about beaches and surfing if somebody wants more.
It is also great chance to get in touch with local people, so called Xhosa people. My first associations with them is the click characteristic of their language, clay on their faces, round green huts…
Even though weather wasn’t on our side, we decided to ignore grey sky and do another hike in order to see and learn more. Our local guide from Coffee Shack didn’t just take us around but he shared with us so many interesting stories.
After first part of our adventures walk through the wild nature, we reached a cave that used to be home of Bushmen, today still home of thousands of bats. But the cave is still attractive to people since they collect its poopsand use it as fertilizer.
There are numerous minor spirits and there is a rich folklore which nowadays still persists in Xhosa areas. One of the visible parts of their culture is that Xhosa woman often decorate their faces with white clay and wear large, turban like hats.
In Xhosa villages you will find round green huts made of mud in which beds are raised up. The main reason is to avoid being caught in their sleep by the tiny tokoloshe. Tokoloshe is a mythical man, creature which lives in water but is also kept by witches.
Many Xhosa people have the top of their left-hand little finger removed during childhood to prevent misfortune. Puberty rituals are not easy at all. Boys must not be seen by woman during three month initiation period following circumcision. During this time the boys disguise themselves with a why clay or in costumes made of dried palm leaves. In the female puberty ritual, a girl is confined in a darken hut while her friends tour the area singing for gifts.
This entire people from villages live along with nature. They’re aware what nature can give and show them. Specific flower starting to blossom would tell them whales are going to appear in their bays heading towards Atlantic Ocean, higher tide shows them full moon is coming etc.
We all know aloe is good for our skin and this area is full of amazing aloes. But locals know this plant is not good only for a skin. It can be useful when woman decides to stop breast feeding. She would apply aloe juice on her breasts and baby will start to hate this bitter taste that aloe has. It is also the best prescription if you cannot stop biting your nails.
The Sun can be very strong at Coffee Bay and especially if you are very white and get easily sun burnt, there is another recipe. Just walk to first aloe, cut it, grained it, apply it. Locals say it should work immediately.
To feel Xhosa rhythm, see them to dance or play dreams, Coffee Shack is also the place to get part of their culture live. It was amazing to see their great energy they have and share.
Is There Hole in the Wall?
In Coffee Bay miles of white beaches are backed by cliffs and the setting is just idyllic. Coffee Shack hostel right on the beach is the perfect base to explore all that amazing areas which Coffee Bay has to offer.
I like to start my day with a coffee and the guys in Coffee Shack really know what good coffee is. Starting days with delicious coffee in Coffee Bay is just great. No one is actually sure of how it got its name, but there is a theory that a ship wrecked here in 1863 deposited its cargo off coffee beans on the beach.
“While you are in Coffee Bay the coastal walk to the Hole in the wall is something you MUST do” I was told. It’s also one of the activities that energetic team at Coffee Shack offers. Every day there is daily program written on their board and whatever you will do or everywhere you will go with them, I guarantee you will experience unforgettable adventure.
So we packed our small rucksack and got ready for 3 hours walk, which I will never forget. I like hiking. It’s part of my life, and walking along the coast is something I really enjoy. To sit up on the hill with a panoramic view over beautiful Indian Ocean was like having nice dreams. The highlight of my day was the moment when we spotted whales and dolphins cruise the bay. I love these animals. It was my big wish to see whales in their natural habitat and when I saw them, my happiness made me to shout.
I’m lucky to be in South Africa in this part of a year as the best time to see them is between June and November when they come to calve. The scenery with or without whales was simply dramatic, with cliffs behind and a kilometre long beach in front.
The amazing path brought us to the Hole in the wall, which is a remarkable piece of rock that’s had a huge hole eroded trough it after millennia of pounding waves. Thanks to Jack (our guide) we reached our goal safe and in very good mood. Even bigger smiles appeared on our faces when we saw our lunch was ready. Not just ready but it was waiting for us on incredible beach with view over the Hole in the wall. Full of tasty food I couldn’t resist laying down and enjoy this amazing spot. Back home winter is knocking on the door, and I was there on the beach in my bikinis. What a great feeling.
I had such a nice day, but evening at Coffee Shack made it even nicer. This place is great to meet people as the whole atmosphere is very easy going and relaxed, especially in the evenings when camp fire takes a place. I just love to sit by the fire, share life stories, listen to guitar and let my and others thoughts speak.
Let`s Try to Catch a Wave
The Road took me to Coffee Bay, which is in the heart of Wild Coast. It is popular stop and I was wondering why.
As soon as we got off the bus, a cold beer at Coffee Shack was waiting for us as a welcome drink. Man, after such a long drive, beer was like water in a desert.
At the first moment I knew I’m going to like this place, and I was not wrong. Delicious dinner after my daily over dose of biscuits gave us enough strength to party in their rocking bar, which rule number one is to drink only with a left hand, and what happens if I drink it with a right hand? YOU DOWN DRINK IT IN ONE.
Trying to surf was something imaginary for me, until I hit this place and decided I want to try to catch my first wave on the surf.
What an experience! I made it thanks to our great instructor Neil from Coffee Shack. Without his help and a lot of patient most probably I would be still in the water, trying my best and keep on falling from a board.
“Lie down on the sand and imagine you are on the board. Put your hands right next to the ribs. Do a little push up and then put your strongest leg front….” We must looked funny surfing on the sand with imaginary board and pretending to get balanced. It was a lot of laughs though.
It was time to try our luck also in water. At the very first try I forgot which of my legs is strongest, whether should I put it back or front, where to put my hands…..
It was the way too much of thinking and doing nothing. Of course the result was just a clumsy fall into the water. Again and again and again and again and here we goooo! I made it. I caught my first wave even though I thought I could never do it. But I was not the only one. We’re a group of beginner, first timers, who all made it. Coffee Bay, a place where impossible becomes possible.
Now I understand why all these surfers have such a great bodies. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of effort to catch a wave but the feeling is just amazing.
A little bit more of practice and sooner or later I will get a role for surfing part in one of the movies. I’m sure that will never happen but I’m sure surfing is definitely something I want to do it again and again and again, especially at such amazing place as Coffee Bay.
Breeze of the Indian Ocean
Imagine coming to a city where there are about 230 sunny days a year but most of a time of your staying rain is there. Well, it happened to me in Durban. I had only few hours of a sun which I spent on the market and on the beach.
I love markets and also Victoria market in Durban is something special. It’s a place which can prove that Durban really is melting pot of different cultures. Visit market is definitely one of the best opportunities to learn more about customs and habits, culture of a country you are travelling through, And if you are exploring South Africa, Victoria market is place to visit. Almost everything you can get there. Fresh tomato, new hair style, CD music or maybe skin of a snake would be helpful. Of course I was wondering why somebody would buy skin of a snake and what this is for. It’s simply for your good luck and protection as guy who was selling it told me. But how? Firstly you have to crush it and then put it on your hand and lick it. But instead of skin you can buy all kinds of tuber and pieces of bark which can be prepared as a tea. For your good luck and health you supposed to drink at least 5 litres of it. Now I know the recipe and what to do when I’ll be lack of my good luck and health.
I have to tell you this place is not just interesting but is also very cheap. So if you want to do shopping in South Africa, Durban is the place to do it. And if you want to do cheapest shopping in Durban, go to Victoria street market. My backpack is heavier for 2 pairs of jeans for which I paid R100 only and finally I got an adapter.
After shopping I went directly on the beach but unfortunately not for a long time. Just have a short walk there, say hello to fisherman and had amazing view on Indian Ocean from the top of Moses Mobhida Stadium. I’m telling you the view from there is really awesome.
And this is where my sightseeing tour ended thanks to the rain. But it really didn’t matter that much as I met wonderful people in Happy Hippo, great hostel where I stayed. Bay the way, this hostel is just few steps away from the beach.
Meeting people on the way is one of the reasons why I like to travel. And I really enjoyed pancakes party inside of huge Happy Hippo kitchen with these funny German guys. Štefan, I have to say your pancakes are the best. Especially the one with a chocolate!! Hopefully we will met on the way again. I’m still waiting for the one with vanilla cream
On the Way to Durban
It was time to move on. Most of a time I hate traffic jams, but this morning in Johannesburg was different. Slowly we’re moving through the city while our Baz Bus driver Johny was entertaining us. »As sooner as we get out of Jo’burg, much more boring road will start and you can sleep as much as you can but now you should excuse me for driving so crazy. I just want to get out city and enjoy view of the nature. »
No one slept while we’re passing wonderful Drakensberg Mountains so called Dragon Mountains. Story says there was a dragon that created this wonderful and amazing place. I must say it was very creative one. Always when I see mountains I want to climb and reach the summit, and Drakensberg Mountains were not an exception.
But I was on the way to Durban, place of a sun and beach. Before coming to our final stop in Durban, Johny started telling us basic info where to go and what to do. “Guys, I have to tell you Durban is not just the sunniest city in the South Africa but it’s a subtropical place. It is a melting pot overflowing with cultural diversity and home of the largest concentration of people of India descent in the South Africa…”
At that time, already tired of the whole day travelling, I remembered my longest bus journey ever. It was exactly in India. I’m sure some of you might have heard for very famous road in north of India going from Manali to Leh. It was amazing drive with wonderful panorama of the Himalaya which took us 26 hours total. The price was not just a ticket but it cost us a lot of freezing, feeling adrenaline due to slippery and dangerous road. And there was only one driver. “Mam, they are professionals and doing this jobs almost every day, so no worries”, was the answer when I asked ticket seller if 24 hours of drive isn’t too much for one driver only. Tired, annoying and feeling paranoid we made our driver to stop 20 minutes before our final destination as he was driving almost with eyes closed.
You will never experience something like this if you get on a Baz Bus which is very convenient and flexible. Distance from Johannesburg to Durban was not a piece of cake. Nevertheless it last 10 hours but comparing to story above it was much more than luxury.
Sometimes I ask myself, why sitting on the bus, gazing out of the window, meeting new faces make me tired. Any idea? I just know one of the best ideas of Baz Bus is possibility of hop off directly in front of the hostel I’m staying in Durban. Let’s see if Hippo is truly so happy in Happy Hippo hostel.
In the embrace of SOWETO
What and where exactly Soweto is and why backpackers should spend time there?
The idea how of Soweto was established is simple. Move anyone who wasn’t white as far away from the chosen race as possible to the outskirts of Johannesburg, but still close enough that they could be used as a cheap labour.
Soweto is the biggest, most political, most dynamic and easily the best known of South Africa`s townships. Now must be wondering why backpackers should go to this part of Johannesburg, where most of white Jo’burgers haven’t been.
Definitely by far best the way to explore Soweto is staying at Lebo’s Soweto Backpacker hostel and do the very special bicycle tour they offer. I just loved it. Even though the night before was not easy in a sense of dancing and parting, I got up and grabbed my bicycle. We’re cycling along the streets and neighborhoods where tourists normally would never go and this is something that always inspires me. Drinking local homemade beer, learning local dancing steps, playing soccer with children, trying to learn my first Zulu words or staying in safe hotel where nothing can happen to me?
Loads of music was coming from almost every house and it made us cycle and dance at the same time. At the moment I felt like there is neighborhood competition who has better and strongest speakers. I can imagine what kind of story this would be if I do the same back home. Sooner or later policeman would ring my bell telling me, “Lady, you are disturbing your neighbors. Please put your music down or…..” But I’m in South Africa where music never disturbs, it’s just part of a life.
Soweto is home of friendly people, strong community where you have a chance to experience real African culture and have a lot of fun.
Guys from Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers hostel would say: »Give me Hallelujah!”
Sister, Welcome to South Africa.. Barbara
And a new blogger has arrived! mama Africa! AKA Barbara from Slovenia
To be honest I have been dreaming of visiting this continent, in my eyes its always associated to energy, joy and music. Thanks to Hostelling International South Africa and the lucky star under which I was born 28 years ago in Slovenia I’ll be travelling in South Africa for 30 days and sharing my stories with you. (By the way, for those who are wondering where the hell Slovenia is, let me help you out. Search for a small shape of chicken in the middle of Europe right near to the boot and there you are.)
Like many times before I packed my backpack one day before hearing the important call: “Passengers flying to Johannesburg are kindly requested to proceed to gate 10”, I said to myself and to my friends “I really don`t have the feeling so soon I`ll be down there at the edge of Africa.” But this is part of me; packing, travelling, getting lost on the way, wondering why sky is blue and not green, adsorbing the world like sponge is seeking for a water.
You know what? I’m excited and very curious how South Africa can surprise me in next 30 days and I believe or better to say I know I’m not the only one.