Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jewel of the Wild Coast

Truth be told, I've never been complete enamoured by the Transkei and Wild Coast. "Ohhh, but it's so gloriously African!" many cry. It sure is African, which is great if you're into this sort of stuff:


For jaded individuals like me, however, it's basically scrub and dirt. Regardless, I was quite overwhelmed with recommendations for spots like Coffee Bay and Port St Johns, and since I was in the neighbourhood, I decided to see what all the hooplah was about.

Oh. My. Word.

I didn't realise that the Transkei had discovered "green".

Port St Johns is like an island of paradise inside one of South Africa's poorest and most rural provinces. It's a tiny coastal town in pretty much the middle of nowhere, and from the hammocks and bedrooms of the Amapondo lodge, travellers are offered one of the most amazing vistas in South Africa, easily rivalling anything that I've seen on the Garden Route.

The people here are almost as awesome as the view, and about half an hour after I touched down at my new home base I made myself comfortable with the locals in a Wednesday night tradition: a full-blown poker evening at the bar.

Moody lighting, yeah?

I still vouch for poker as a remarkable social tool. After all, it gives you an excuse to sit around a small table with about a dozen strangers and instantly be part of something cool for a few hours. I don't tend to do terribly well at the game itself: even though I spend most of my time playing with hardcore -- and sometimes world-class -- players, it seems that absolutely none of their skill ever rubs off on me. But it's still a nice game, anyway.

The poker session, of course, was only the kick-off to an absolutely fantastic evening. Shortly after getting knocked out of the game, I consoled myself with an awesome curried beef dish (no noodles!) and sat down to chat with some of the other backpackers. Amongst the ranks of rovers and vagabonds, I came across something that I thought I'd never see: not one, but TWO fellow South African travellers! That's right, folks, it turns out that I'm not the only domestic tourist in existence after all.

If these guys are anything to go by, then I can safely say that South African travellers are amongst the most interesting and awesome people in existence. If you ever come across one, be nice -- the divine powers will smile upon you for your courtesy, and reward you with some of the most interesting conversation and stories that you're ever likely to stumble across. Throw in a roaring campfire and some drum-playing, and you've got yourself a pretty epic lineup for the evening.

The bedrooms are soooo coooool!

I can't possibly describe all the totally neat stuff that I've encountered in just my first night at Port St Johns, so I'm going to spend the next few days gushing about it instead. A really, really fantastic place.

The dorm room that you see above is just an example of a really ornate and extremely Africanised abode. Murals and reed curtains clog up the joint like hairs and peas in a blocked drain, except that this particular blocked drain is something that everybody feels really, really awesome about. The beds are welcome and comfortable: though I may be biased, since I only staggered back to my room at about 2am. A far cry from my resolution to be asleep by ten.

8/10. It gets some bonus points for lookin so gosh-darn cool.

I'm going to try take some more pictures for further blog posts that will actually do this place some justice. I keep feeling like I'm falling short in that department.

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