South Africa: have you tried slackpacking?
Written by: Richard Farrell
If you fancy exploring the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape in South Africa on foot (but don’t the idea of a backpack stressing your shoulders) then this could be top of your bucket list. The 85-kilometre / 55-mile trail stretches before you in 6 easy days, and you sleep in a bed every night.
This hike takes you through gorgeous scenery which is more often than not a ramble along a picturesque coastline. Therefore if you are reasonably fit you should be up to the challenge of wading through shallow rivers, and taking your fill of nature in one of its most glorious moods.
Hiking Though the Foothills of the Eastern Cape Coast
Be close to nature
You could overnight at a remote fishermen’s lodge favoured by the 4×4 angling fraternity at the end of an invigorating day. There you meet people who shun five star accommodation in favour of being close to nature. The local tribes are easy going too and friendly so you are in good hands.
That said, this is not an adventure to undertake on your own at least the first time. You must plan your progress with the ever-changing tides so you walk on firm sand when approaching estuaries and river mouths. However, a good guide adds far more value than just that.
Where Time Stands Still Waiting for Change
On the Eastern Cape Wild Coast, time and development have largely stood still. There is a highway in progress to open up the coast. However, construction will take a decade so now’s your chance to drink your fill of heaven and experience a warm, friendly welcome before word gets out.
Rivers, great and small enter into the ocean here at the end of their meandering journey through the hinterland. However, the ocean is a wilder place where fine ships have foundered. Here are bittersweet shipwrecks, and testaments to gallant sailors who died serving their master, the sea.
Time to Pause and Take in the View
Explore a landscape of craggy cliffs and tumbling waterfalls
To the north, wide floodplains give way to massive, rugged cliffs that the only the brave or the foolhardy attempt. At places waterfalls leap out over crags, before they tumble down dizzying depths. Elsewhere, there are open beaches and small sandy coves to tarry for a while over packed lunches.
Join us on our journey as we take a ferryboat ride across the Qora river mouth, followed by a 6-kilometre / 4-mile stroll along fishermen’s paths to the Mazeppa point. Follow in our footsteps and you’d spend the night at a country hotel and wake to the sound of birds.
The Old Bridge at Mazeppa Point
On the second day the bearers shoulder our backpacks as we head for Nxaxo 20-kilometres / 12 miles away. Today is like a walk in the park with fine swimming beaches all the way to Wavecrest. The following morning we head for Qolora, a slightly shorter 16-kilometres / 10 miles. We exchange local guides and porters bearing our baggage at the Kobanqaba River mouth, after fossicking for seashells and driftwood for an hour while the tide goes out.
The Beach at Morgans Bay
Not much further on we stop at the romantic wreck of the Jacaranda for a light lunch. She dragged her anchors in a storm when her engine failed and the waves cast her on the rocks. From there, it’s an easy walk to Morgans Bay. There, we discover a small town complete with golf course and a lighthouse.
Day five is the most spectacular as our feet soak up 14 kilometres / 9 miles along the top of cliffs rising directly from the waves. The going is easier after we cross a river at Double Mouth reserve and follow shell-strewn beaches before arriving at Haga Haga.
Pullens Bay Near Haga Haga
We spent the night at a small resort atop the cliffs after staying up late chatting. The final stretch to Chintsa is a similar length. It offers whale- and dolphin-spotting after winding our way up a height and crossing headlands. Our destination spoils us with choices but we enjoy our last night in a thatched cabana.
Slackpack along an unspoiled coastline
We were sad to reach the end of our hike along the unspoiled coastline of the Eastern Cape of South Africa and so will you. We don’t expect the place will be the same after feeder roads from a highway reach these isolated places. Until they do, if you visit you may be the only people in your home town who know these places exist.
Why not contact Mundana today and ask about special deals to South Africa?