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Wild Coast: South Africa
Why the Wild Coast is wild!
The S/E Coast of South Africa can be divided into the Wild Coast and the Garden Route. Travelling north from Cape Town on the West Coast the area between Cape Town and Oranjemond is known as the Skeleton Coast. There is a reason for each of these names, but let us look at the Wild Coast today. The photos should begin to explain why the Wild Coast is called what it is.
This part of the coast line extends from Port Edward in Kwa-Zulu Natal and ends in the Eastern Cape at East London about 450 km to the south. It covers the area that is inhabited mainly by the Xhosa people who are mostly subsistence farmers and live in tribal villages along the coast and into the interior as far as the Lesotho Border to the north-west. The large towns in this area are mainly along the national road that runs through the interior with Umtata, Kokstad, Butterworth and Mt.Frere being some of these “Central Place” towns (they supply the surrounding areas with essential services).
There is no road along the coast, and villages there are connected to the interior by secondary roads (using the term roads rather loosely) that join the main road. They are in a variety of conditions and can be divided up from fairly good to pretty bad. Along the coast are a few small settlements like Port St Johns and Coffee Bay, that are mainly resort towns. Developers and mining companies (Titanium can be mined in the sand dunes) have been pushing for a coastal road to be developed, but many of the locals would rather see this remain the Wild Coast. There are some superb hiking trails along this coast and the few resorts are quiet, secluded and unspoilt.
There are some interesting areas to explore with their history. The ship called the Grosvenor went aground along this coast in the 1782 and the story of the survivors makes an interesting read. The ship had a valuable cargo including gold on board. Of the about 150 people who managed to make landfall only 13 are known to have survived the trip south along the coast to Cape Town to tell the story. These travellers had a nightmare journey along the coast. Others are said to have become part of the Pondoland Community and intermarried with local tribes. The legendary treasure of the Ship has been searched for by many but never recovered. When you look at the photos you can understand why.
The coast consists of steep cliffs interspersed with sandy beaches and rocky headlands. Rivers flow into the Indian Ocean at regular intervals, often forming beautiful unspoilt estuaries. Fishing is good and many of the local tribal inhabitants find a variety of sea food available at low tide.
Some of the photos in this article were taken from a helicopter that was hired to explore the coast by a company that is upgrading the hiking trail along this coast on behalf of SA Tourism. It is a great place to hike and you may even meet some of the descendents of the survivors from the Grosvenor, or the ghosts of those who did not survive!
May the Wild Coast remain wild for many years to come! Tell me what you think.
With economic needs and development becoming a priority don’t however hold your breath. Plan a trip in the meantime, while there is still time.