Look, we’re not total idiots. When we bought a flipping old van from the 70’s (that still has its original air-cooled engine), we knew we were going to breakdown. Heck, even if you have the newest monster sized motor home type things you’re likely to break down at some point driving on these pothole ridden roads. Probably less than us, but still. It’ll happen. But I was hoping that because we made the rule only to drive in the day light, it would be OK…
Before leaving Morgan’s Bay, we made some difficult decisions. We made the decision to skip some of the places along the coast that we were hoping to see (Cebe River, Dwesa Nature Reserve, Bulungula Eco Lodge and then either a homestay situation or at Wild Lubanzi). This was mostly just because we were running out of time. It’s sad but it’s true.
The reality is that navigating through the rural Eastern Cape takes time. To give you an idea, from Morgan’s Bay to Coffee Bay was 6 hours. But Morgan’s Bay to Cebe River was 4 hours, then from there to Dwesa another 4 hours, from there to Bulungula another 3 hours… You get the picture. Essentially each time you want to move to another place you drive back inland forever, then out to the coast for another forever. We were worried about the time, the petrol and the van. The roads of the Eastern Cape aren’t exactly Optimus friendly.
So off we went to Coffee Bay. Taking the 6 hour drive (which means easily 7 or 8 hours in the van) by the horns. Everything was going really well. We passed the most stunning rolling hills with little huts dotted all over it. Then we went past Zithulele and things went to crap. The van literally just stopped working. Like, not spluttering and backfiring, but actually just rolled and stopped. Nothing happening at all. Turns out hitting one too many potholes at the wrong angle meant that something (a bolt or 5) that made it work in the wheel area had snapped (there’s a technical term for it, but I don’t know what it is).
As luck would have it, the sun was busy setting, we were in the middle of freaking nowhere and couldn’t fix it ourselves. I’m not going to lie. Panic set in just a bit. The kids though. I don’t even think they noticed. We were midway through Bad Dad audio book and we just kept it going and they stayed chilled the whole time.
But the panic was totally for nothing. We had some of the friendliest people pass by and offer to help. We also called the backpackers where we were staying and they came through along with a mechanic and were able to help us to be able to get to our spot for the night.
By the time we got to Sugarloaf Backpackers we were starving! Luckily they had a restaurant right there so we had a bite of supper before calling it a night. Also I have to give a shout out to the guys at Sugarloaf. They rescued us, gave us really decent rates for our stay and they were really so great in every respect. The staff were so friendly, they chatted to the kids, took Seth out for a surf lesson (more about that another day) and we just generally enjoyed our time there.
As it turned out we ended up staying there for longer than we anticipated (a full week) but we got to do and try so many great things in the area.
I know Coffee Bay gets a bad wrap. Before we went everyone told us that it was just full of petty crime and people doing drugs. That we should skip it. And yes, I’ll acknowledge that there were people smoking weed but honestly, you get that everywhere. We didn’t have any negative experiences there and we really just enjoyed our time there. I would go there again.
There’s so much more to it than just a beach. There is a coffee shop where they grow and hand grind their own coffee, there are so many little restaurants where you can enjoy the best brownies I think I have ever had and of course, going to Papazellas. Such great pizza.
This first video gives you a bit of an idea of the intense beauty of Coffee Bay, the surroundings, the power outage and resultant lack of being able to buy any food without cash monies and of course our visit to Papzellas for the best pizza I’ve had since leaving Cape Town.
This video is a little deeper. Visits to coffee shops, eating brownies but also talking about getting stuck on the side of the road and wanting to give up on the whole thing. But not really because we can’t even if we wanted to. Well we can, but not really.
This was our first Backpacker experience and we loved it. Such a cool vibe, everyone is chilled and it’s much better than a caravan park for short stretches. We enjoy caravan parks for when we want a bit of space from interacting with people because that just seems to be the general vibe there, everyone stays to themselves. But in a backpackers it’s a bit more communal which is fun.
Some more pictures of our stay there. The hike to Hole In the Wall, day checking out the local culture and more coming next.
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Day 45 – Coffee Bay 1. Had one of those days where we question things. Why we’re doing this. What we’re doing. Why it’s so hard. Sometimes it’s so easy to lose sight of the reasons and get caught up in the stress, the expectations and the planning. 2. There is no shortage of animals out here that’s for sure. Donkeys, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, dogs, cats, chickens and so much more just wandering around at every turn. It’s quite something to get used to. 3. Spent the morning working and entertaining the kids. Midday we popped out to the shop to draw money from the ATM (which isn’t an ATM but rather some kind of money swap thing) but their power was out so we headed back. 4. Seth worked for the whole day basically, so I did some journaling with the kids and we played endless games of ping pong, foozeball and pool which are all at Sugarloaf backpackers. 5. Slack lining is flipping difficult. It’s impossible not to shake just trying to get on. 6. We ended off the night at Papazellas which is basically infamous for their pizza. Everyone told us to stay out of CB but mentioned that we should still go to Papazellas ?? it was worth it. Really good pizza. Also got talking to Papazellas himself and it’s quite a thing doing this for 10 years. 7. We’re still staying here or hereabouts until we get the van properly fixed and visit the hole in the wall. Excited to see it for myself and not just the pictures. 8. Seth is Hella allergic to cats but I couldn’t resist a snuggle when this one curled into my lap. Luckily we have lots of antihistamines in the van haha.
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Day 46 – Coffee Bay 1. We are really enjoying our time in Coffee Bay. Everyone is friendly and its natural beauty is hard to beat. Sure there’s very limited shopping options and whatever but that’s not what this is about. Rural Transkei is everything I expected (potholes, not much food shopping options) and more in a great way. It’s amazing here. 2. Another slow morning working and catching up but then we headed out to do a money swap thing. We stopped at a local coffee shop that actually grows their own coffee, hand grind it and serve it there – it was lekker ??. They also do a Xhosa bread that we didn’t try but are definitely going back for. And every night they have a drum thing at 8pm but we couldnt make it this evening which sucks. 3. We try to support local during our time here so after that and because we couldn’t get milkshakes at the espresso place, we went to Friends. We had ice cream and we also had the most delish brownies I think I have ever had ever. 4. We popped into another little shop and the girls both bought new clear glasses. They are obsessed with the nerd look – I love it. 5. We took the long way home through a side route down the river mouth, got all the way to the CB beach and realised that we’d have to cross the Lagoon to get to our backpackers. So we went the long way round again. Which means it was the long, long way round. 6. If every second local artisan in Hogsback was selling custom hiking sticks (which they were) every single local vendor here sells beads. All the beads in the world. Too many beads. 7. It’s so gloomy here which sucks a bit. Hoping for better weather tomorrow when we hike to the Hole In The Wall. 8. Spent the evening playing games and teaching the kids how to play pool. Fun day!