DAY 1 12 km

go! - - Hike Wild Coast -

Port St Johns to Mngazana

It’s an or­deal to get from Cape Town to Sec­ond Beach in Port St Johns, where the hike starts. It’s a long drive on roads of vary­ing qual­ity and there’s the ex­tra lo­gis­ti­cal com­pli­ca­tion of hav­ing to leave your ve­hi­cle at the hike’s start or end. We stayed overnight in Cof­fee Bay, parked the car there, and took a taxi to Port St Johns. ( The drive is about 190 km; the hike along the coast is about 60 km.) It’s a hot Sat­ur­day in Septem­ber. Mid­day. Port St Johns is a ca­coph­ony of peo­ple, mu­sic and hoot­ing cars. There are five hik­ers in our group: me, Catharien Rob­bertze, Dian Wes­sels, Liezel van Beek and Le Roux Schoe­man. Yongama Man­jezi (23) is our guide. He has worked for Wild Tours for three years. “My name means ‘to over­come’,” he tells us. Fi­nally we start walk­ing, along the beach and past the mouth of the Bu­l­ulo River, into a lit­tle con­ser­va­tion area called Si­laka Na­ture Re­serve (4 km²). Al­most im­me­di­ately I for­get about the drive, the pot­holes and the busy town be­hind me. Si­laka is like a new world, un­touched by man. Five cows re­lax on the beach, as if they’ve been placed there de­lib­er­ately for In­sta­gram. Yongama is pas­sion­ate about his job and shares fun facts as we walk. “Snakes eat this for en­ergy when they’re fight­ing,” he says, point­ing to a bright or­ange flower. “I’ve cooked this to cure a stom­ach ache,” he says about a green-coloured fruit. The trail steep­ens and Yongama sighs: “Yeah, the heart­break,” he says. I have a flash­back to eight years ago: Heart­break Hill. It’s im­pos­si­bly steep and the heat is sti­fling. I huff and puff to the top, all the while think­ing about the mean­ing of Yongama’s name: To over­come, to over­come… The climb is worth ev­ery drop of sweat be­cause the view from the top is fan­tas­tic. We watch as a whale frol­ics in the In­dian Ocean far be­low. A lit­tle way fur­ther we walk through a small set­tle­ment – “Mol­weni!” the res­i­dents call out – and even­tu­ally we ar­rive at Um­ngazi River Bun­ga­lows & Spa, a lux­u­ri­ous hol­i­day re­sort, where we buy chips and cooldrinks at the ho­tel shop. We eat our snacks on the river­bank, wait­ing for the re­sort mo­tor­boat to take us across. Late in the af­ter­noon, the weather changes. Clouds gather, the tem­per­a­ture drops, the wind picks up and the ocean starts to brood. We head to the Mngazana River for our fi­nal river cross­ing of the day, where a ferry op­er­a­tor called Good­man Tatile is bat­tling the wind and the waves to get to us in his small row boat. The poor man will have to do at least four cross­ings to get all of us and our lug­gage to the other side. I’m a lit­tle ner­vous when I climb into the un­steady boat. A spring tide is com­ing in and about half­way across the river I can feel the cur­rent tug­ging us to­wards the un­known deep. I’m very glad when we make it to the other side, where Robert Tatile, Good­man’s brother, helps me ashore. It’s a Tatile fam­ily af­fair in this neck of the woods: Good­man’s wife Nosikele is wait­ing at our overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion when we even­tu­ally ar­rive af­ter a short hike next to a sprawl­ing man­grove for­est. The beds in the hut are neatly made and there’s a power point where we can charge our phones. In an­other build­ing there’s a shower and a flush toi­let. Din­ner is tra­di­tional Xhosa fare: chicken, rice, cab­bage and pota­toes. We eat in Nosikele’s liv­ing room. I fall into bed at 8 pm, happy and sat­is­fied.

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