We left Port St. Johns to start heading along the rest of the Wild Coast. Several of the villages can not be reached by a coastal route. You have to drive back to the main road and then back down to the next coastal village. This was the case for Coffee Bay.
It is speculated that the village got its name when a ship crashed into the shoreline spilling its large load of coffee beans it had into the water. We fell in love with this place. The whole area had a friendly laid back atmosphere to it and the beaches were beautiful.
Choice Of Backpackers
There are two backpackers right across the street from each other. The Coffee Shack is well known for its partying that goes well into the night. The other one called Bomvu Paradise is a little more mellow. We chose the quieter one. Or so we thought. The first night we had the only room available. The door to it was directly off the bar area. Even with earplugs in we could still hear the loud beat of the music. It was a nice place though. The staff were very friendly. The food was great and reasonably priced. The 2nd night we were moved to a quieter room.
Hole In The Wall
One of our outings here was to another area close by called Hole in the Wall. It has a more expensive resort there by the same name. An Irish girl we met at the backpackers came with us since she didn’t have a car. It was a pleasant drive on a dirt road that followed rolling hills along the shoreline.
We parked at the resort and headed to the beach to start our walk. We bumped into a couple just coming back. They recommended we take two young Xhosa boys with us. They would take us to the best views and would only request five rand each. ($1 Canadian)
We made our way along the beach to the hole in the wall. It was a impressive rock of great size. It was out a ways in the water and had what else, a big hole in the center of it. The boys then took us up a hill behind us to get an even better view of the surrounding area and the hole in the wall. I can’t recall ever being on a beach that had a cow wandering around on it!
A Hike To See A Xhosa Village
The backpackers provided a group of us with the services of a local named Sallice. He was going to take us to his Xhosa village. We had met him the night before at the backpackers. He was taking us to his village in the nearby hills to meet his family and see his house. We had a long steep hike to get up to the Xhosa village. As we passed through the area many people were outside of their dwellings greeting us and Sallice as we went by. We arrived at three buildings. Two were rondavels with thatched roofs and one was square with a tin roof. Sallice lived there with his mom, dad, two sisters and his 18 month old daughter. He is no longer with his daughters mom, she lives in another village. Sallice brought her to live with his family as the mom did not want the responsibility of a child. He pointed to a house in the distance where his fathers second wife and children live. Multiple wives are still a part of Xhosa tradition here.
We were taken into his house and I think we were all instantly humbled by how he lived. The houses are made from brick and mud. The bricks are made from a mix of clay, grass and cow dung. We saw some bricks drying out in the sun. We were amazed at how hard and strong they were. The floors are also made of cow dung. We were told the thatch roofs can last for up to 30 years before they need totally replacing. Surprisingly there is no smell from any of the dung.
We were then taken outside and introduced to his family. His mom, dad, sisters, daughter and 2 other local children were all sitting around on the ground. In the center of them was a pile of what they call mealies. It is maize or corn on the cob as we would know it. Sallice asked us to all sit down and try some. They taste a lot like our small corn we have in the can. He insisted we eat some more. I think we were all thinking the same thing. We did not want to eat any more of their food knowing they have so little.
This was a very happy family. Sallice talked amongst us in English as he bantered back and forth in Xhosa with his family. They would burst into laughter many times. One time during the laughing Sallice told us they were making fun of the mom. She gets very nervous if they go into the big city, which would be Umtata. This happens to be an area where Nelson Mandela grew up. She has to get one of them to help her cross the streets. The crossing lights are too confusing for her.
Sallice then showed us their garden. It had maize, pumpkin, and a few other vegetables planted in it. We said our goodbyes to his family and continued up a very steep hill.
A Visit To The Local Sangoma
We would now make our way to the local Sangoma (doctor) for the village. We joked that anyone who made their way up the hill to the Sangoma must not be very ill. We assumed he must make house calls if someone is too ill to make the journey.
We arrived at a small hut and we were asked to take our shoes off and step inside. We have seen a Sangoma a few times now. All of them seem to sit inside their home in the darkest part. Maybe to keep cool. The Sangoma came out of the dark and gave a nod to greet us all. Sallice asked us to sit cross legged on the floor in a circle. The Sangoma had a very old and weathered face. Sallice translated for us as the Sangoma told us some of the ways he treats people. He had a very good sense of humour. He asked the single Irish girl if she would like to stay to be his 2nd wife.
Traditional Xhosa Entertainment At Our Backpackers
We stayed here for two nights. Each evening we had entertainment from Xhosa people that lived in the village. The first night we had a large group of male and female dancers as well as many drummers. It was an amazing evening. Prior to the start of the main dancing a few ladies and men were gathering around the fire. They had a couple of their small children with them. They started a chant to get the small babies to dance. It was so cute, one of them couldn’t have been much older than a year. She could already move her waist and hips to the chanting and do a bit of shrugging of her shoulders to mimic the traditional movements.
The dancers lined up and started a chant as they made their way up to where everyone was sitting to view them. The men wore colourful skirt wraps. The woman had white paint in tribal patterns on their faces.
What an experience to be sitting in a remote village in South Africa listening to native drumming and watching traditional tribal dancing. The drumming is done by hand on homemade drums. The drums are made out of carved trees and animal skins. Their drumming skills are incredible. You really start to become one with the beat. Your heart races as you listen.
The dancing was a mixture of different movements. One of them is a trance like dance. They vigorously shake their body while chanting and different vocal sounds were being made. The dancing went on for about an hour. Then they left and the drummers really went into action. We listened to intense drumming well into the evening.
The second night we had a group of young girls come to dance. I would say they were from the ages of then to thirteen in age. The only clothing they wore was skirts and decorative bead necklaces. There was one drummer for them to keep the beat to while dancing and singing. We have never seen anything like it before. These girls could move their bodies so fast it was unbelievable.