Coffee Bay is another of the popular-among-backpckers destinations along the coast between Durban and Cape Town and I can see why. It’s remote. The hostels and eateries are good. And, there are Wavestorms
We left Umzumbe early in the morning to allow plenty of time to get there and some seven hours later or so we arrived.
But first, we drove down through the Transkei, through to the Wild Coast of South Africa. If you read most accounts online, they’ll warn you of potholes, gravel roads, and a need for a 4WD, to bring pens and candy to give to kids who will stop you to ask, to watch out for crazy drivers, to know how to change a spare tire…
In our experience, it wasn’t so bad. Yes, there were lots of potholes. Yes, there were a ton of animals and people in and around the road. Yes, there were some fast drivers, some tight turns, and some more potholes… but our mini SUV (a Ford Ecosport) handled fine, no kids asked us for anything despite the fact that we stocked our glove box with pens and notepads just in case, and we didn’t see any accidents (thank god). The drive took a long time and Annie was probably fed up with my music (and/or my singing… I can never tell), but that was about it. Hooray for safe driving.
Horror stories aside, the drive is rather scenic, especially once on the Transkei. Rolling hills and valleys, small villages with colorful rondavel homes. It’s all beautiful.
Per the recommendation of a few friends in SA, we stayed at the Coffee Shack, located right by the water, and just a short walk to the surf. It’s a backpacker hotspot, as it is a mainstay of the Baz Bus – a backpacker bus company in SA. This was unbeknownst to us at the time of booking but it was fine. On Sunday nights they serve a free dinner, and everyone gets to chatting around the big tables.
We met some cool people all at various stages of wandering, the most interesting of which was Mario, an African-Canadian who left behind the gym the gym he owns to WALK from Cape Town to Cairo. Yes. Really. He figures it’ll take him 2-3 years. I figure he’ll write a book about it. Check out his Facebook page at CrossingAfrica.
While the hostel was packed, we had some privacy, as we were booked in a rondavel higher up on the hill. We had our sleeping privacy, but not our own sonic privacy, as a couple in the room next to ours had just met on the Baz Bus and seemed to both be quite keen to get to know one another better… and I’ll just leave that at that.
We took a walk up the hill to the main beach, befriended some stray dogs, waved at some stray goats, and checked the surf.
In the afternoon the surf picked up, and we paddled out together, however a few minutes later, I found myself alone, as Annie had turned in to shore, fearing sharks.
No big deal I thought, until I saw a dorsal fin… “It was a dolphin” I thought to/told myself. “Relax.” Sure enough, a few minutes later I saw four dorsal fins coming right at me, then dipping away in that classic “Haha you thought we were sharks but we’re actually dolphins! Yay!” manner that dolphins always seem to have.
That night it POURED rain, and we cooked dinner in our little rondavel, and headed to bed, wishing we had thicker ear plugs.
The next day we both went running and both came home sucking wind from some of the steepest grades we’ve ever run, but the views at the top were spectacular, as is common for the entire area.
- Don’t… trust your map when planning a drive through the Transkei or anywhere in South Africa (outside the cities maybe). Google Maps and Maps.me were consistently underestimating the drive time to our destinations.
- Do… bring plenty of snacks and fill up on gas early/often. Gas stations/rest stops are much fewer and further between, and this is especially true on the Transkei.
- Don’t… drive this route at night. Sure, we didn’t have any problems, but we drove by day. After dark, this drive would be a nightmare.