Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hiking the Wild Coast

I spent my first Christmas away from home hiking 85km of South Africa's treasured coasline. We spent four nights and five days hiking through Xhosa country, also known as the Wild Coast. We hired a local guy to guide us on the hike. Albert was totally awesome, knowledgable and fun to be with. He was generous with information about his culture and stories of his childhood. Also joining me were Jared, a friend and PCV and Malee, our guide's girlfriend from Germany. We covered a huge variety of terrain including river crossings, kilometers of beaches, rolling hills, goat trails, grazing fields, villages, jungle, swamps, cliff edges and peaks. It was a difficult hike with steep ups and downs and even soaked to the bone by the rain and battling illness due to giardia I was happy to be present in every moment. We stayed with local families along the way. They cooked for us and provided us with clean bedding and hot food. We slept in rondavels which are the typical building structure of the Xhosa people. Probably the most powerful part of my whole experience was realizing how far "off the grid" these people live with no electricity, running water, no money, no mail, no phone or TV and very little education. And as wonderful of an experience as it was to swoop in, experience their lives for 5 days and leave, I have to remember that as I sit her writing about it, back with my comforts of the modern world, they are still there working all day to meet their basic needs for survival. They have no concept of the world outside of what they can access on foot or, for an adult in the family, a very rare trip to town that is a day away. "Humbling" is the only word that comes to mind to even begin describing my experience.

We met this man and his sons fishing on one of our beach crossings. We bought their two biggest fish. They were so excited to sell it and we were so happy to have fresh fish for dinner that night. It was to die for. The best part was that even though it was our last day of hiking it was the first day I felt like eating. I was in heaven.

Just a taste of the beautiful coastline. I sometimes felt like I was on the scene of a movie.

These guys were so happy to have their picture taken. These are the baskets they to put their harvest in and transport it. Hard to believe people still work like this.

These girls came to our rondavel and asked if they could dance for us for money or sweets. They were awesome. The little one was so cute and right on beat. We gave them both money and sweets. Push play below for a little taste of our show.

This is Malee, Albert's girlfriend from Germany. I really enjoyed getting to know her on the trip.

We spent our first night here at a four rondavel home. The family lived in two of them, they cooked in one and we slept in one. I'd been landlocked for so long it was nice to hear the ocean in bed.

If I were a cow I'd hang out here too. Cows come down to the beaches because there are fewer ticks.

So this is the gang. We hung out on this beach for a while. From left to right: Jared (PCV), Malee, Albert, Darcy

These kids were having so much fun in the water. As soon as we called them over for a picture they came running with all their heart.

Who needs a bathing suit?

Ahhh, so beautiful!

This rondavel was totally pimped out with lanoleum on the floor. Most of them are just packed cow poop, very clean and cozy.

This was one of the river crossings we took. Kim, on the far right, is Jared's wife. She only joined us for the first day.

We took a snack break and shared the shade and hillside with these great cows. The backgroud was simply perfect.

This is a typical looking village that we would walk through on the hike.