Back to the Western Cape
Two weeks ago, T and I were in a country beetle house in the Drakensberg Gardens, Southern Drakenberg mountains. The place was beautiful, the stay was challenging.
We went out to the mountains for several hikes, came across a secret river where we fell asleep in the sun, and even found a Bushman's Cave. The Bushmen are a tribe of nomads, hunters and gatherers named "San", who are also the earliest inhabitants of South Africa. In this cave, we discovered centuries-old murals.
Let me tell you, you know when you go to a museum, and your breath is taken away before you've even gone in, by how beautiful the garden is? So Museums are fostering their nature, but nature doesn't touch its art. In fact, it doesn't even show it off, which made it even more astonishing. You stand there in awe. It revealed a story before our eyes, and our assumptions built a plot. It was better than graffiti, so much less dramatic. How can people who live in the wilds, be less dramatic than street artists, I can't tell you.
We left the beetle house and KwaZulu-Natal with a sense of relief, into the unknown. Relief, because there were problems in this house and we kind of wanted to move on. To the unknown, because we didn't know, even on the day we left, where we were heading.
We stopped at a Cafe with wifi on the way, to look for a place to stay and found a guest house in a town on the Wild Coast called Coffee Bay. Off we went, back in T's mother's Honda, our most reliable companion. We call her La-di-dah.
Along the way, we continued listening to Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom and got excited whenever we passed by a place he mentioned in his book. We also stopped in his hometown, Qunu, and peeked at his homestead like two pervs.
After six hours drive, we were welcomed by the Eastern Cape province. Coffee Bay is a tiny community, and yet, there's a lot to see. Its rolling hills, beautiful beaches were oceans and rivers meet, round huts with traditional Xhosa thatched roofs and streets filled with oxen and goats. The Hole in the Wall where the water made a natural arch in the rocks. We stayed there for two days. There were very nice people, like the owners of the place and the meagre number of guests we got to meet. But there were also less pleasant characters, who try to live within their financial means, even if they have to use other people's money and time to do so. A rough-looking guy with glazed eyes who offers to keep an eye on your car in exchange for cash, even though it's protected behind a fence, and you wonder if he'll call his friends if you refuse. One of these women you find in most touristy places around the world, who walk around carrying bags of worthless bracelets galore, but not carrying a basic understanding of the words "No, thanks."
Of course, everyone out there tries their best to make a living, I get it. Some do it badly. A fisherman passed by our cabin and offered to sell us five crayfish for 200 rand. T offered him a hundred for two, and the guy refused.
"I'm offering you a better deal here." T tried to explain. The guy thought about it for a few moments, holding the poor lobsters upside down from their whiskers. They moved their legs in a tremor as if trying to explain their captor the simple math. Finally, he hesitantly agreed.
Another example is one guy who met us on the way and refused to let go.
It was our second day at Coffee Bay, which we spent mostly walking. We wanted to go to the neighbouring town, Mdumbi, whose way on foot involved crossing a river by rowboat ferry. On our way to the Mtata river, a three-hour slow walk with stops and admiration of the scenery, we met a guy who said he lived in Mdumbi and was also walking to the ferry. We were both irritable because we knew that as non-locals, a lot of attempts to make money would go through us. At first, he was just chatting with us, very animated with neon yellow sunglasses, a bit exhausting but harmless. After we got to the river, T gave the ferry guy R20. One of the staff at the guest house told us the price was R8 per person, so he respectfully asked him to keep the change.
"You short." the ferryman said, gently.
We only had a R100 note, and the ferry guy didn't have enough change. The only way to solve the problem was to pay for the chatterbox that joined us, which made him think Voila! I found some rich friends. He continued with us on the shore for another fifteen minutes before giving up trying to get more money out of us and disappeared in the horizon with a brisk walk. As he went away, I thought, what a brave man. He wakes up every morning, to walk around and try new and ineffective methods of making money. His life story revealed how he built himself from nothingness into extreme poverty. At least he's out there, doing something. Not sitting around, writing about things he'd already done.
We walked for another couple of hours to Mdumbi and drank the best beer of my life. Not because it was anything special, but because we were exhausted. After a whole month at the Beetle House where every exit from the house required taking the car, we walked a full day. We were not as in shape as we thought.
We had a late-night. T made his crayfish, and of course, when I see a person working, I can't remain sluggish. I stood right next to him with one hand in my pocket and a drink in the other and gave him unhelpful remarks. We ate dinner and drank into the night with other guests and the crew around the fire. The next morning, we woke up early to get back in La-di-dah and hit the road.
This time - King Williams Town. Another town on the way, where we stayed in a guest house. They offered a reasonable price for a bed and a cold breakfast of two eggs that most likely were fried the day before. It was served before coffee, accompanied by a surprised expression from the hostess that we're even asking about coffee. The whole morning experience was surreal, and we found it quite amusing.
From there, we continued to a world-famous surf town four hours drive away - Jeffrey's Bay. We found a hotel with a particularly fancy room and managed to bargain our way down to the price of a regular one. With all the horrors that Coronavirus has brought upon us all, I must admit that it was at least providing us with excellent discounts. We stayed for three nights, where we lived like kings.
We then continued towards Plettenberg Bay, our new abode for the coming month. On the way, we stopped at Nature's Valley. This is a nature reserve on the beach where there are unique places to visit. T and I walked along the rocky shore, which became increasingly narrow. He wanted to see the creek that was beyond the rocks, a place he had visited years before but didn't know that it was almost impossible to cross at high tide. At one point, we had to return.
At the last minute, while staying at an Airbnb flat, almost desperate to find a place to rent for a month, we found a spacious apartment, with a large balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Returning to the Western Cape, oddly enough, feels like a return to a kind of home and comfort. Shhh. Don't tell the Western Cape, but I think we'll stay here until we can catch a flight and move on.