Wild Coast

The coastline region that stretches roughly 280 km from East London to the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve next to Port Edward in KwaZulu Natal was once the former Transkei independent homeland during the Apartheid years. These days it is known as the Wild Coast and is a largely rural area of rolling grasslands wedged between the Great Kei River in the south and the Umtamvuna River in the north. Its inland borders are the Drakensberg and the Stormberg mountains, and dotted between are small villages, brightly painted kraals and endless communal pastureland. It remains a traditional area populated by the Xhosa, who still practise customs such as dowry payments and initiation ceremonies. The Great Kei River was originally the border between South Africa and the Transkei and, as the N2 crosses the Kei River 65 km north of East London, the difference in the standard of living between the two areas is striking. Years of overpopulation and under-investment have taken their toll in the former Transkei. The landscape is deforested and seriously eroded and, away from the N2, and the roads leading to the resorts, the roads are in poor condition compared to the rest of the country. There are few tourist amenities here and you will get a more realistic picture of the poverty that still blights South Africa. Nevertheless it is a beautiful region and the coastline itself is rugged and peaceful, with a number of caves, beaches, cliffs and shipwrecks to explore.

Getting to the Wild Coast

The N2, the Wild Coast's main road, is well surfaced. However,
it doesn't run along the coast but rather from East London up to 100 km inland until it meets
the coast again at Port Shepstone in KwaZulu Natal, from where it heads north to Durban. The
towns along the N2 have thriving economies based around transport. There are abundant p
etrol stations, basic supermarkets and one or two small hotels, but these are mainly for commercial clientele so there are very few frills. Consequently the towns
along the N2 are
utilitarian and scruffy and always thronged with traffic. The long-distance buses stick to the N2, and the
Baz Bus
only deviates to Port St Johns. The coast itself is the area's main attraction and there is a fine selection of isolated seaside accommodation
between East London and Port St Johns. A number of roads lead from the N2 to the coastal resorts, often by way of ramshackle villages, and although there has been a lot of
road resurfacing going on in the Eastern Cape in the last few years, many of these are gravel.
If driving, it is always a
good idea to check on the latest state of the road, as the region is prone to seasonal flooding.
Note
Before heading for the coast from the N2, remember to stock up on petrol, food, cash
and everything you think you will need - the nearest shop or bank could be 100 km away.

Tourist information

Arriving at a resort without a reservation is not a good idea as they are often at the end of long and difficult roads. Remember most resorts are fully booked during the holiday season. All towns along the N2 have public telephones, so even with a last-minute decision it is possible to phone ahead and check on the condition of the road. For more information visit www.wildcoast.co.za.

Wild Coast Holiday Reservations, www.wildcoastholidays.co.za, is an excellent central reservations service that can advise on and book accommodation and hiking trails along the coast. This can be very useful when trying to find out about some of the more remote hotels. An excellent way of seeing the most inaccessible areas of the Wild Coast is by doing a tour of the rural regions.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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