|A can of coke! Besides what he wore, that was all he brought. Oh well. Nick, Roni and I had been up the night before packing and re-packing. Did we have enough, too much? Should I bring the water filter? Should I wear my boots or would the Tevas be better? Lindile (Lin-dee-lay) met us at the Amadiba Adventures office and on our way to the walk's start at the Wild Coast Sun Casino, stopped to buy his only supply - a can of coke - before we set off into the Wild Coast.
It was something I'd read about when researching the trip, and we were finally going to walk a stretch of the fabled Wild Coast. The name is essentially a euphemism, for the whole region was actually known as the Transkei under Apartheid. It was one of the many "homelands" created under the oppressive regime arguably to allow the native African cultures to develop independently, but really it was a strategy to divide the non-white population and prevent unity while keeping a cheap labor force near enough to white centers of population and industry. These "Bantustans" contained 80% of the population to 14% of the land.
As we walked, it was clear the region had developed separately. At first glance, it was an idyllic rural lifestyle. Farms and livestock amidst colorful thatched roof rondavels all set in rolling hills overlooking the Indian Ocean. The flip side of this is no electricity or running water, dirt roads, etc. The former homelands are basically third world countries within a first world one. In spite of the lack of development, though, the people were happy, friendly, and content with their simple lives in a place linked to their heritage. I was reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography at the time, and he wrote many times of his longing for the blue skies, green grass and clear streams of his boyhood home. As we walked along it was clear why.
The first afternoon we had stopped into a local shop or "Shebeen" for a rest and a drink if anyone wanted. They didn't have much on the shelves, just dried staples, sugar, beans and, rice, a small selection of toiletries and random items like pencils and a few kitchen items - Walmart has nothing to fear here!
We pattered away with the locals a bit and Nick offered a trio of older women or "mamas" as they are called a beer if they would sing a song. The gratefully accepted the beer (40 oz) and then left the shop. Within a few minutes they came back in singing and dancing the "baboon dance" which is apparently a traditional Xhosa dance. Such fun and energy, we all sang and clapped with them, as they let it all hang out in the shebeen.
We then continued on to spend the first night in a tented camp created to house hikers. The accommodation was simple, but we were well fed and had a hot shower courtesy of some boiled water poured into a camp shower suspended from a tree and surrounded by a wall of palms.
The next morning we wandered back a slightly different way and had a great run-in with some boys playing soccer. A light rain was falling, but they seemed not to mind.
We forded a shallow stream and made our way up to the homestead where we would spend the night. This family had some power supplied by car batteries they hooked up to some solar panels. After dinner, the kids can in and put on some tapes and danced for three hours straight. This was pretty standard fare for a Friday night. The Grandmother came in and watched and sang and every now and then would just burst out with "ULELELELELELELELE!" while the kids danced. We joined in for a few tunes ourselves.
The next day we had a short 1.5-hour walk back to the Wild Coast Sun Casino that was the starting point for the walk. Talk about a contrast between the glitz of a casino and not even three hours away they spread cow dung on the floors of the rondavels to keep the dust down.