Friday, May 6, 2011

Wild, though pushy, Coast

We’ve heard repeatedly throughout our trip that the Wild Coast and Coffee Bay in particular are not to be missed, so this was our next destination. After one particular 2 ½ hour taxi ride in Lesotho with my pack on my lap and a 102°F fever last week I decided I was done with taxis for a little while, so we took a bus to the Wild Coast. It ended up being an overnight bus that was supposed to leave at 11:55 PM and arrive at 7:05 AM but instead left at 1:15 AM and arrived at 9:25 AM. We both slept a bit and were pleasantly awakened at 6 AM when the driver started blaring rap music on a bus with no individual volume controls for the speakers. After this bus ride we took another three hour bus ride to a different city and then a 1 ½ hour shuttle to Coffee Bay. Turns out that South Africa is really, really big. Much bigger than I ever realized and sometimes a real bus is well worth the expense.

Coffee Bay has three backpackers that we have termed The Party Hostel, The Dirty, Pushy Hostel, and The Other One. Through a series of events and partly by default we ended up at the Dirty, Pushy Hostel. They definitely had the best campground of all three and in that regard this hostel was the right choice for us. In other regards it was dirty and pushy, namely the kitchen was dirty and some of the staff was pushy. We have stayed at a lot of backpackers in the past month and a half, and this one gets the vote - hands down - for the most disgusting kitchen of them all. There were plates of half eaten meals on the counters, a sink full of dirty dishes, pots and pans, a dropped egg left under the door of the refrigerator, a bowl in the fridge containing one slice of a rotting apple. You get the picture. We ended up staying four nights due to the fourth night being free and having to wait for the guided hike we really wanted to do. We cooked the first two nights and then we were too disgusted to return to the kitchen and simply ate out the rest of the meals.

The staff member who did the guided hikes was, I’m sure, a very nice guy but he was very pushy. He really wanted us to take all of the guided hikes offered by the hostel and kept after us about it, but we heard from other guests that these same guided hikes were offered by the other hostels at much cheaper prices. We checked into this and it was true, so we booked a guided hike with each of the other hostels. Then we avoided the pushy guide at our hostel. He was also in a drum band that performed tri-weekly at the hostel and we were invited repeatedly to hear him perform. On the nights they didn’t perform there were free drumming lessons for donations that we were invited to three times in one night. Okay, enough complaining about the hostel. It left some things to be desired but what do you do? It was good for camping. Oh wait, one more complaint. On our last night we decided to upgrade to a dorm room because we had to get up very early the next morning and it would help us pack up quicker. But now we have bug bites all over our bodies. Anne even has bug bites in her belly button. Seriously. So we think there were bed bugs.

Coffee Bay was very beautiful. There were trees and cliffs and beaches. I don’t quite know how to word it, but there was a weird feeling to the place as a tourist. I think it had to do with a meeting of the poor and those who came with money. The hostel warned us more than most places to be careful and not to leave anything anywhere. Any time we left the confines of the hostel we were approached by someone asking for money or asking us to buy something – beads, grass bracelets, firewood, mussels, weed. We were even occasionally approached while inside the confines of the hostel. I found it very off-putting. Anne was even approached by a boy who wanted to kiss and hug her for money. It was disturbing.

I was on antibiotics during this time from whatever I had last week (the doctor thought maybe Tick Bite Fever or some other infection from a tick or flea bite, but I’m not sure how he could tell because he spent more time talking to Anne than me). Since I had a year’s supply of doxycycline that I wasn’t going to use, he said to just take it for this infection. I had to take two a day so the sun sensitivity was doubled, which is unfortunate since we spent three days on the beach. My face was bright red and felt like it was on fire no matter how much sunscreen I put on. It made my fingertips and nose tingle. Definitely done with doxy now.

While in Coffee Bay we spent time reading books on the beach, swimming in the Indian Ocean, and just generally relaxing. We did two hikes, the first to the Mapuzi Caves and the second to Hole-in-the-Wall. The caves were pretty cool and very beautiful, right on the beach with waves crashing in to shore and inhabited by goats. Our last day there we went to Hole-in-the-Wall, which was awesome. It really was just a hole that was worn away by water through a rock wall but it was beautiful, and also beautiful was the three hour hike back along cliffs overlooking the ocean. It was a definite highlight of our stay here for both of us and certainly redeemed some of the weirdness from the begging and the hostel.

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