Driving south to the Wild Coast I glanced down at my feet. Right foot on the accelerator, left foot chilling next to the clutch. No shoes. Barefoot.
OK, I’d forgotten to take shoes on our six-day beach walk. Too late to turn back.
It was fine. I’d make do. I said nothing. Didn’t want Aitch cackling about my dodgy 49-yr-old memory glands. I’m not known for being a meticulous packer or planner, so what the hell . . I was used to making do.
It was April 2004 and our hiking route was southward. From Kobb Inn about 60km to Morgan Bay. Another group would head north at the same time and the organisers saw to it we met up and swopped vehicles so ours would be waiting for us in Morgans Bay at the end of the hike. Slick. Good friend and colleague Allan Marais happened to be in the other party so he drove my diesel VW kombi and I drove his petrol 4X4 Mitsubishi. He messaged me that evening: “All’s well. Your kombi is parked outside the hotel. I filled it up to the brim with petrol”.
Luckily I know Allan Marais, so I simply replied, “Great. I filled your Mitsi up with diesel. Also to the brim”.
We’d be staying in hotels and cottages on the way. Slackpacking! What a pleasure! Good weather, lonely beaches, light daypacks with only water and lunch in them. Friendly local people acted as porters on each leg and carried our real packs ahead of us. Cold beers, good meals and comfortable beds awaited us each night.
We felt positively Victorian as we surveyed the number of people it takes to make pale city slickers feel like we’re roughing it!
A good reminder that few of the famous bold and dashing explorers would have made it out of their ships if it hadn’t been for local guides who showed them the way, found food and water for them, and negotiated safe passage through occupied territory. And who cooked and cleaned for them – sometimes even carried them!
Past the Jacaranda thirty three years after its 1971 stranding:
One day was really windy. All the rest were clear and calm. We kept Africa on our right and the Indian Ocean on our left and sauntered along blissfully.
There’s nothing to eat here, there’s nothing to drink here, so what’s up, bovine beauties? Beach comfortable to lie on? Looking for a furry tan? Wanting to be seen to be seen?
River crossings – by boats and wading
Janice had to fly home a day early from a little airstrip near the beach. Work! It’s the curse of the drinking class. There she goes; Look, she’s waving:
Morgan Bay with its spectacular cliffs
And shoes? Didn’t need ’em. I walked barefoot most of the way, slipping on my yellow flip-flops when the rocks got pointy. Mostly it was beach sand or smooth foot paths, really easy on our feet.
See the purple arrows for the section we walked? Friends walked from Port Edward to East London in 2016. Way further, and carrying all their kit! Allie Peter and Mike Frizelle wrote about it. A lovely and highly entertaining read of ancient old goats staggering from shebeen to shebeen fuelled on Transkei dumpies, Wild Coast weed and cataflam. Especially cataflam anti-inflammatory pills!
Our two walks in the wilderness with the Taylors, Foggs, Janice Hallot and Gayle Adlam blur into one and I have got the photos all mixed up, so here are some more memories from 1999 or 2005.
On the drier of our two walks there was little surface water about, so around the campfire one night . .
. . when my companions were suitably lubricated, I put one of my (many) pet theories to them. Tomorrow, instead of walking about scaring the animals, let’s go to that waterhole we saw where a stream joins the Mfolosi river and get comfortable and simply lurk there till lunchtime! Let the animals come to us. Who’s in favour?
To my surprise and delight they were all so mellow and agreeable they voted in favour and we did just that. It was wonderful! We got comfortable a nice distance from the water and watched as all sorts of birds and animals came to drink. My idea of heaven: Lurking with telescope, binoculars and books!
These were slackpacking walks, so our kit was carried to the outlying camp by these handy bongolos. Here you can see Dizzi looking for her luggage, saying “Where’s my bongolo? Why don’t they have number plates?”
On the wetter walk it got hot one day and we asked our Rangers if we could swim. They said they knew just the spot. Miles later we got to the river at their swimming hole. But it was occupied:
Two buffs, an ele and a lioness had all had the same idea. We didn’t argue with them, we trudged on. Miles later we crossed the river again, and had a swim. Sort of. Luckily no pictures were taken. These were of a shoes-off river crossing, footwear and footprints:
The walks end with a last night back at base camp. We had left celebration supplies there in anticipation.
Then a champagne breakfast kombi drive before we left the park.