2016.04.26-05.02 (5 days hiking)

Report and photos by Rose Dix - Hike Leader: Keith Ashton (12 hikers)

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]

Our participants on the trail were Keith & Margaret Ashton. Dave Sclanders & Hettie Randall, Jenny Rooks, Stella Wells, Margie Forbes, Kurt & Jenni Bacher, Allison Gunning, Liz Logan & Rose Dix

After months of emails and changes (and more changes and even more emails), 12 of us met at the psychedelic Amapondo Backpackers in Port St Johns for an interesting introduction to our forthcoming hike. A trip back to the Swinging Sixties with no electricity and some wild drumming....The lights came on again just as we had hit our pillows, so a quick scramble to re-arrange our luggage and find the many missing articles. (Some people, of course, are more organised than others, and never lose anything )

As Amapondo had a Trance Party booked for the night coinciding with the end of our hike, they kindly transferred our bookings to the much quieter ‘Jungle Monkey’ cars had to be juggled while we waited to meet our charismatic and highly acclaimed local Guide – Jimmy Selani.

The hike which Jimmy offers had us puffing over some hills (which he quite rightly called ‘heartbreakers’) and then strolling over beaches, varying from soft ankle-deep sand to sea-smoothed rocks to huge boulders which needed careful negotiation. River Crossings were very easy and Jimmy had arranged ferries for the deeper rivers, but mostly we could just wade across.

Tree lined bays littered with the ubiquitous cows which love the soft warm sand as they snooze away their days to the sound of waves and dream happy cow dreams.

Tea breaks and lunches were all at well chosen view points, mostly overlooking the wild waves and cliffs which make this coast the most beautiful and spectacular of all coastal places.

We were blessed with perfect weather and we spent one afternoon bobbing around in the waves and taking long walks on these still pristine beaches, often chatting to the friendly and welcoming local Xhosa people who seemed amazed that we had walked so far (at our age???)

For the few alcoholics amongst us, the exciting walk to find the nearest shebeen, often accompanied by a flurry of exuberant kids who showed us the short cuts, was a fun highlight of our hike.

Our Xhosa “Home Stay”nights were mostly spent in rondavels with comfy mattresses, and warm duvets, arranged in a circle – this was such fun, as we sat around in a big family, listening to Jimmy telling us interesting stories (both fictitious and factual) before falling asleep at the witching hour of 7.30 pm.

Meals were deliciously wholesome and served in the most generous quantities – scrumptious, crusty, home made bread – pumpkin – a lovely mix of cabbage and onion – sometimes chips as well...and chicken with each meal. How these ladies can cater for such a big party with such a variety of food under the most trying conditions is worth more than a passing thought. Breakfasts were indeed hearty and generous enough to keep us going til lunchtime Water is sadly scarce, yet we were provided with hot showers and flush loos...making us even more grateful for the luxury of our own lives.

A brief summary of the trail route was :-
Day 1 : Port St Johns to Madakeni
Day 2 : Madakeni to Tsweleni
Day 3 : Tsweleni to Hluleka
Day 4 : Hluleka to Tshani Village
Day 5 : Tshani Village to Coffee Bay

The distances each day were listed as being between 12 & 14 km but even to us hardened hikers the distances seemed longer, except for the last day which was shorter. Jimmy had arranged a local Taxi to take us back to Port St Johns and the ride was comfortable and fun...with an experienced driver who dodged cows (Transkei Robots as Jimmy called them) with aplomb.

Keith – thank you yet again for arranging this hike – and for being such a caring and encouraging leader...and for adding the much needed factual summary.

Jimmy is an excellent, thoughtful guide – he even arranged ice cold beers to be delivered to us when the shebeen was some distance away.

This was a truly beautiful experience...and I would encourage everyone to ‘JUST DO IT’ –