Published: March 20th 2011December 12th 2010
The journey to Coffee Bay was long. After a 7 hour drive to Mthatha, we waited for a shuttle bus, which would take a further 2 hours. After dropping us at the Shell Ultra City, our driver seemed to abandon us for about 45 minutes, which was slightly worrying, but he did eventually return. While swapping busses I bumped into Albjon from Kruger, who had just come from Coffee Bay. He assured me that I would have a good time there, so I was pretty excited. The shuttle was fairly uncomfortable because it was packed full of people (as Coffee Bay was so popular), and there were a ridiculous amount of potholes in the road. The driver did his best to avoid them but it was a fairly pointless venture. I also met the guys who had previously annoyed Daniel and I on the Baz Bus during the journey, and they turned out to be really nice. They were all 17-19 and volunteering in schools in Polokwane and Botswana. I was impressed that they were doing that at such a young age, and enjoyed chatting to them. When we got to Coffee Shack, we had a warm welcome from all the
staff, some free beers, and a little tour of the area. It was a really nice atmosphere. I knew straight away that I was going to like it.
I dumped my stuff in my doorm and spent the evening socialising in the braai area. The food there was SO GOOD. It was also only R45 for a meal, which was a bargain. Every meal came with some yumtastic Xhosa bread. After 2 months in Asia I would have been pleased to see any bread at all, but this stuff was seriously good.
Coffee Shack had become somewhat legendary amongst SA backpackers, and I could instantly see why. The staff were all really friendly and every single one would stop to greet me when I saw them. The food was great, the setting was beautiful, and the music was really good too. The drinks were dangerously cheap, and at R6 a shot it was pretty hard to resist. If there is one thing to be said about Coffee Shack, they definitley know how to party. One night they put on a 'space party', which was really fun. It was just a normal night but with stupid tin foil costumes
and free punch, but we had a really good time. There was a 'Killer Pool' game going on, as well as various drinking games. Sarah, one of the volunteers I'd previously met, was running really low on money. As a result, she decided that she couldn't afford to buy dinner that night. But, since red wine was only R7 a glass, she could definitley stretch to a few drinks. This of course ended in disaster for her, but it was pretty entertaining for the rest of us. Her 'space' outfit consisted of a bright orange sarong and some glittery make up. I can't judge though, she made more of an effort than I did. I didn't even bother to change out of my shorts, hoody and running shoes. I definitley didn't have any motivation to make myself look presentable while I was backpacking.
The only negative thing about Coffee Bay was the weather. For the first two days it was fairly miserable, and the rain meant that the famous Coffee Shack surfing lessons (which at R40, must be the cheapest in the world), weren't on, and neither were the other activities. I wasn't sure what to do with myself
for a while, but thankfully Joseph, one of the locals from the village, offered to take me and a few other girls to the village to meet his family. Although it was incredibly wet and muddy, it was really nice. I made the mistake of wearing my white Nike's, which got ruined straight away. I had to take them off to cross a river and gave up on them after that. Strangely, walking barefoot through mud is actually quite a pleasant feeling.
We sat in Joseph's house for a while and he told us lots of fascinating stories about village life, and tried to teach us some Xhosa words. It was really interesting. After that we went to meet his Mother, along with a huge group of young kids, who were all related to him in one way or another. They were really cute, and loved having their pictures taken. We spent ages playing with them, before Joseph asked us to collect some water for his Mum. This was not an easy task. His sister tried to teach us to carry heavy buckets on our heads and while she made it look easy, it really wasn't, and actually bloody
hurt. But it was fun trying. I don't think I did too badly in the end. When we got back, Joseph's Mum had made us samp and beans for lunch, which was really kind of her. It actually tasted really good too. She couldn't believe I was 22, as she was convinced I was only 16.
On the way back to the Coffee Shack I managed to fall spectacularly, landing face first in the mud. Typically, that wasn't right until the end of the day, and I got some funny looks from everyone when they saw that I was covered head to toe in mud. Luckily I found it pretty funny.
Liraz turned up at Coffee Shack when I got back, and it was really nice to see her. We talked about doing the bunjy jump at Bloukran's Bridge in Storm's River (which is the highest one in the world) and agreed to do it together. This was good because I was already feeling nervous about it. She was heading to East London after Coffee Bay, and I thought about joining her there. I wasn't enjoying having to plan where I was going in advance, as I much
preferred to just go with the flow, so I spent a long time 'umm'-ing and 'ahh'-ing over it, and found it really difficult to make a decision.
The next day we were greeted with glorious sunshine, thankfully! So a big group of us did a 10k hike to 'Hole in the Wall' with Joseph. It's a cliff where erosion from the sea waves have worn a hole through the middle. Along the way, Joseph told us lots of stories about the Transkei, and at one point sneakily ran off to pick some mushrooms, which didn't go unnoticed. That is one strange thing about Coffee Bay. Literally everyone is trying to sell you either weed or mushrooms, whether its 8 year old kids or little old ladies. I didn't bother with any of that though, I was having a good enough time without it. But I think that contributes a lot to Coffee Bay's popularity.
That night I get a text from Daniel saying he was with someone I knew. I found this pretty intruiging and unsurprisingly, it turned out to be Liraz! She really did know everyone. They'd met in East London, and there was a funny story
about how they realised they both knew me. When I first met Daniel in Nelspruit, one of the first things he said to me was 'Oh, your name's Emma, like the baby in Friends'. Friends always seemed to come up in conversation in SA, I don't know why, but in Coffee Shack I'd got talking to Liraz about it because she loved it as much as I did. We laughed for ages about it, and I told her about what Daniel said to me. In East London she of course got talking with Daniel about Friends, and relayed my story to him. Then he realised it was actually him that she was talking about! The funny thing about the Baz Bus is that you continue to meet the same people at different points along the route, which is quite nice. I looked forward to meeting up with them both again.
In between partying I was busy submitting my application to the American TESOL Institute for my course/placement in Chiang Mai. This meant that I had to spend a lot of time messing around with the computers, which was the last thing I wanted to do, but it had to be done.
I stayed at Coffee Shack for 4 nights. I could have easily stayed longer, but the Baz Bus timetable meant that if I didn't leave on the 5th day, I'd have to wait another three. I think that's why Coffee Shack advertise that if you stay for 4 nights, your 5th is free. the sneaky buggers.
On my last day, I got another message from Daniel saying 'Don't go to East London! It's Shit! Me and Liraz are so bored!'. That made my decision for me, so my next stop was Cintsa. I'd been told it was beautiful, and the volunteers I'd met on the bus were heading there too, so I decided to tag long with them. It was sad to leave Coffee Shack because we'd had so many good times there, but the worst part was paying the tab! Ouch. I think I repressed the memory of how much it actually cost me. However, a good time was had by all so I have no regrets.
We all crammed onto the shuttle back to Mthatha, which was really uncomfortable. There was barely enough room for all of us, and at one point the driver tried to shove a surf board in with us as well. Thankfully it didn't fit so he put it on the trailer with all the other luggage. You'd think he'd have tried that in the first place. I was the last to get on the bus, and the driver had to shove me in before closing the door. I was pretty much on the lap of the person next to me, and the guy behind me had his knees jammed into my back for the whole journey. This felt like a typical journey in SA! The bus was so heavy that it struggled to get up hills, and it wasn't long until it overheated and broke down. Twice. If we didn't make it to the Shell Ultra City in time we'd miss the Baz Bus, and Coffee Shack was fully booked so we couldn't go back, so it was a pretty tense moment for us all. Eventually we found some minibus taxis who were willing to take us, and just about made it on time. We all breathed a sigh of relief, and relaxed while we headed to Cintsa.