Friend Rohan owns Detour Trails and arranges the most amazing bespoke mountain bike holidays all over Africa. We joined him Easter 2010 on a ride from the Mtamvuna River to the Mtentu River. At least I did. Aitch drove the kids to Mtentu in the kombi (or maybe in friend Craig’s Colt 4X4 – not sure).
Both hands on the handlebar, so no pics of the ride. I only fell off once, and no-one saw. On the way we stopped for a refreshing swim in a clear deep pool in a steep valley.
Once we got to the magnificent Mtentu River mouth (see the feature pic above) I abandoned my bike and joined the family for lazy hiking, while the keen MTB’ers rode out and back each day.
An easy stroll across pristine coastal grasslands took us to where the Mkambathi River drops straight into the sea at high tide.
At low tide the falls (very low flow here) drop onto the sand of a beautiful beach. Tommy knows there’s bait under here somewhere for his fishing!
Everyone loves this little bay. Aitch, Jess and Tom each had a spell where they had the whole beach to themselves: (click on pics for detail)
Upstream along the Mkambathi River you find Strandloper Falls. The last time we’d been we said ‘Must Bring Our Diving Masks And Snorkels Next Time!’ – and we remembered.
Then we strolled back:
Back on the Mtentu River, Rohan had kayaks for us to paddle upstream in search of another waterfall
Then back downstream to the Mtentu mouth
Paradise – three hours south of Durban. There’s a lodge there now, so it’s even easier to stay.
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!
My auntie Pat (Mom’s sister) used to pass through Harrismith every year on her way (with husband and 2 daughters) to the Wild Coast. They would call in again on their way back three weeks later and she would be as brown as a ripe old berry. I mean seriously deep berry red-brown deep deep tan. Skin looked like rich dark leather. On her way back to Blyvooruitzicht where she’d make all the other gold mine cherries jealous. Internally tanned too, I guess, from the booze and cigarette smoke. Happy as Larry. Looking forward to next year’s trip already and already sad that she would lose her tan up in BlayFore, as they called their home settlement. She proved she was absolutely right to do so and to ignore all the health police by keeling over dead one year, approaching Harrismith after another glorious holiday at Mazeppa Bay. Heart attack. Nothing to do with tanning.
On Wednesday, June 12, 2013, pete wrote:
Check Tom’s lips in the pic: Yikes!
Under a previous regime if I’d brought him home looking like that I’d have been in for BIG trouble!!! They’ve had sunblock maybe five times in the last two years!
On 2013/06/15 10:41 PM, steve wrote:
In the old days you had not had a proper summer holiday if you didn’t have a cold sore to prove it. Now, in Australian cities, it’s punishable by public humiliation.
It wasn’t that we were actually, y’know, OLD, but . . . well, we needed a break and a brief flashback to our glory days, when the chicks used to hurl themselves at us. Well, that one. In the harbour, remember? So we piled into a kombi and headed off to the Wild Coast, looking for That Famous Stuff they sell down there, and hoping to rendezvous with the Swedish Hockey team. OK, the Swedish Old Girls Hockey Team, who were rumoured to be doing pre-season training in Lusikisiki (or, as we called it after crawling out of The Shy Stallion shebeen) Lo-squeaky-squeaky.
As we neared the coast there was a lo-ong downhill ahead of us and I stopped the kombi and got onto Abbers’ mountain bike and whizzed down with glee. As I reached terminal velocity I did think Uh-Oh! as I felt the effects of the Black Label kicking in. At the bottom I coasted to a halt. I don’t do uphills.
It was the Black Label by the quart and sweet wine that did it, I suppose, but when we got to the actual coast where the waves break against the rugged shore, we were looking for some action. We needed a break from all the Sixties music we’d been playing, broken only by one awful interlude when Bruce snuck an Amy Winehouse CD into the player! So we lay down and had a snooze.
But Abbers had brought that borrowed mountain bike, and we no longer wondered why. Seems he wanted to get away from the competition and meet up with a longtime connection he had met when salvaging the good ship BBC China which foundered off Grosvenor back when he was but a boy in his forties. Off he went on his own, heading vaguely south, trapping that fiets stukkend.
When he got back much later there was a distinct whiff of some smoky vegetation about him and the Msikaba mosquitoes avoided him like the plague. We pumped him for information, but all we got was a mumbled “Loose-titty-titty” and the fact that he had not found the now-overdue Swedish Old Girls Hockey Team, but that when we did he dabzed wrestling with the goalie. Abbers’ head did clear after a few days and he set off fishing so as to be able to answer spouse Les reasonably honestly, give or take; but the fish were having none of it. You could actually see them giving his bait a wide berth and wrinkling up their nostrils.
wikipedia: MV BBC China was a 5,548 GT general cargo vessel. In October 2003 the ship was diverted to Italy while carrying gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment to Libya. In October 2004 it ran aground near Port Grosvenor, was declared a total loss and subsequently demolished with explosives. BY ABBERS! This is true.
trapping that fiets stukkend – pedaling vigorously
Meanwhile, unbeknown to us . . . a few rivers further north, the Swedish ladies K4 paddling team was training on the Umtamvuna:
This is true. OK, they might not have been there that same weekend but they did go there! And they were Swedish. And gorgeous.
On a boys getaway weekend to Manteku on the WildCoast my kombi makes it easily down to Drifters’ camp, though I do think Uh! Oh! as we drive down, Might be interesting getting out!
Five glorious days later we pack up and head out. But it has rained and the hill is too much for the kombi. What now? We’re the only vehicle in miles. “No problem” says our Drifters camp manager. “I’ll get some oxen”.
Oh, the shame! My ‘friends’ roar with laughter and start preparing. To lighten the kombi? To attach the tow rope? To clear big rocks away? No. None of the above. TO TAKE PICTURES!!
To this day I am reminded of this by these helpful ‘friends’. If I mention any car trouble they helpfully tell me: “Check for ox shit in the axles”.