Backpacking South Africa: Beach Time + Beginning my Wild Coast Adventures

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Backpacking South Africa volume 5: Jeffreys Bay, Port Elizabeth and Hogsback.

I arrived in Jeffreys Bay fresh from trekking, with an ankle the size of a fist that also happened to be black… Not a healthy colour for a white person’s ankle to be!

I made friends with some other Baz Bus passengers, Kate, Chris and Jacinta, as we checked into Island Vibe, our hostel for the next two nights. The bar was pretty busy but, after my mammoth trekking day, injuries and bus ride, I was absolutely knackered so lay on my bed whilst Chris and Kate chatted to me.

We didn’t find a whole load to do in Jeff Bay – though the hostel’s location on the beach was awesome and I could see the waves lapping the sand from my bed. Early one morning I caught one of the most stunning sunrises I’ve ever seen (see headline photo!).

Chris tried surfing and came back wave-battered and also Africa’s most sunburnt man. Kate, Jacinta and I went shopping and didn’t do anything energetic.

Last time I tried surfing I was tricked into doing ‘it off the reef’ (something that I discovered after is totally not suitable for beginners), was sucked into some kind of rip and held underwater where the seconds seemed to roll on for years as I considered the fragility of life and my surely-approaching death.

So yeah, I COULD have tried surfing for the ninth time to see if the difference between eighth and ninth was the difference between being terrible and being really good, but also, coffee and sunbathing. Yes please.

The food and street art in town were also 10/10…

I also made the mistake in Jeffreys Bay of having one too many glasses of wine and suffering the world’s most horrible hangover, complete with sick, a pounding head and a smashed phone screen that set me back £60!

I decided a detox was in order. After the two nights in Jeffreys Bay, Bethany, Jacinta and I caught the Baz Bus to Port Elizabeth (or PE as the locals call it): an industrial city which wasn’t a place we planned to spend time but was a necessary stop over. Jacinta was catching a flight the next morning and Bethany and I were getting the bus to Hogsback: a small town up in the mountains.

We arrived in PE at 10pm and departed again at 6.45am so it may have been the least time I’ve ever spent in a place! For me and Bethany, the next day was really interesting as the landscape totally changed from what we were used to…

The Wild Coast

The Garden Route from Cape Town to PE had been super Western. The landscape was definitely dramatic but in terms of the towns and amenities, you could have been in Europe, Australia or North America.

The beach houses in Mossel Bay weren’t typically African…

Leaving PE and heading east was a huge contrast. The first town we passed through had apparently been up in flames due to riots the previous day, and the townships along the roadside were really, really deprivated – our bus driver told us he often delivers food parcels to locals as he passes through. It felt more comparable to Malawi or Zambia than the Westernised South Africa I’d come to know.

It made me think about what a complicated country South Africa is. I won’t get too political here (let’s chat if you want to know my opinions based on my experiences) but the affects of the Apartheid are so real and seem never-ending. The divide between black and white communities – in terms of wealth, education and opportunities – is still enormous. The sad truth is I can’t see a day when it won’t be. I know inequality exists in all shapes and forms worldwide but there’s nowhere I’ve been that’s quite like South Africa.

The Baz Bus took us to East London where we caught our shuttle to Hogsback: driven by two locals who were rejoicing over weed having been apparently legalised that day. We were definitely headed to a hippie village in the mountains…

The drive was beautiful and our drivers told us this was the landscape that inspired the Lord of the Rings books. J.R Tolkien had been born in South Africa to English parents and was taken to Hogsback as a young child by his nanny and told stories of mythical creatures that lived up in the mountains.

I instantly fell in love with the incredible scenery and most of all – the bath!

I’d seen photos of the bath online and been told about it, and was so excited to check it out. The best bit was that it was actually at our hostel – in fact about 20 steps from my bed.

Yet again, my word count is stacking up so if anyone is actually left reading (gold star for you), I’ll carry this on in my next blog.

Thanks for reading!

Read my other South Africa backpacking diaries:

See you next time for more adventures,

Rose

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