When I turned 21, my parents gave me the most beautiful silver heart locket. This gorgeous little symbol of love has embraced my neck through most of my life. It has witnessed much adventure and travelled to many places, a constant reminder of my love for my family and my heritage.
I lost my heart to Trennerys – somewhere between the pitch black Wild Coast sea sand dotted with paintbox cows, the rolling green Transkei hills, the mirror glass water of the Qolora lagoon, the ruggedly spectacular beach, the enchanting wooden deck winding between the dune forest and our charming little luxury thatched rondawel.
I only realised my heart was missing when its silver chain slithered to the floor with no locket on in our hotel room as we arrived back from a full day of adventure. Although by no means would I have chosen to leave my heart behind, I actually could not imagine a better resting place for my special little totem.
We visited the Trennerys Hotel on the Western end of the Transkei Wild Coast for a blissful weekend away and arrived early afternoon, following a most unusual ride across the muddy brown waters of the Kei River Mouth. The Kei River Ferry is reason enough to visit the area – it is a very rustic looking pontoon boat that fits two cars and ferries everything from people and vehicles to horses, dogs and cattle to and fro across the wide river mouth. Our Kombi was tightly nudged between the local pedestrians laden with their weekly shopping, a couple of motocross bikes and a very clever dog who trotted up the ramp and hitched a ride all by himself across the river, without even buying a ticket.
Once across the Kei, the landscape changed into the typical rolling grass hills of the Transkei, dotted with colourful little homesteads, pigs with cute little piglets, cows splattered in multicolour and happy-go-lucky goats sunning themselves across the tarmac.
As we dodged the goats and turned through the gates of the hotel, driving between rambling buildings under lush trees, we knew we had arrived somewhere special. There is something in the air at Trennerys that immediately takes you back to your childhood. The smell of the warm Indian Ocean, the chirruping of crickets in the hot sun, the distant sound of crashing waves and the laughter of children splashing in the pool. The sound of happy families led us to an outdoor restaurant next to a big pool, which judging by the packed tables was THE place to be.
“Welcome home” beamed the duty manageress, and although at first I thought this was a bit odd, I realised fairly soon that this was exactly how it felt at Trennerys – like we were coming home, surrounded by old friends and family, rather than visiting for the first time. We ordered a couple of seafood baskets to share between the six of us and the food that arrived blew us away in terms of its delicious freshness and abundance.
After lunch we checked into our charming rooms – the kids stayed in a two bedroomed family chalet and us in an adjacent luxury rondawel for two – then headed straight for the beach. We were greeted by the Wild Coast at its very best – showing off with dunes of soft sand, crashing waves of warm water, coastal forest around a huge lagoon and herds of Transkei cows lying on the beach chewing cud.
We headed for the lagoon and the boys were delighted to spot fish activity. They ran to dip their lines into the water and present their flies to the hunting fish. There was loads of action which resulted in one little kob for Luke and quite a few that got away.
The bird life was incredible and we watched in fascination as a group of Pied kingfishers helicoptered above the water before diving in for their catch and returning to their dramatic dead branch covered in seaweed that waved in the wind.
After cocktails, a delicious three course dinner, a good night’s sleep and a huge breakfast, we waddled to the beach with full tummies, this time on a mission to hike to the Jacaranda shipwreck. The Jacaranda by all accounts looks amazing – a huge rusty hull of a boat which crashed in 1971 and is still visible during low tide.
Although the tide was on our side, the Wild Coast tricked us out of reaching the Jacaranda. It sabotaged us with a string of incredible things along the way and we got so side-tracked by photographing cows, fishing for kob in the muddy waves, climbing up the little waterfall that trickled straight onto the beach, saving the live octopus that has beached itself and collecting an incredibly heavy bottle of mineral laden pitch black sand, that by the time we were supposed to turn back, we were still kilometres away from reaching the rusty wreck.
Our rumbling tummies beat our yearning to photograph a famous landmark and we turned back and thoroughly enjoyed our return hike to Trennerys, making it just in time to order another delicious poolside lunch before the kitchen closed. It was at this point that I realised that I had lost my heart and it could have fallen anywhere along the 12km return hike making it impossible to find.
We ended our day with a sunset fish, this time kayaking up the river from the lagoon while Fish Eagles circled around us and shiny mullet leapt out of the water in front of our canoe. All too soon it was our last night and we celebrated and commiserated with cocktails followed by a decadent huge, soft and succulent lamb shank each.
On our last morning, we headed off to Trevor’s Trails, a “must see” according to the delightfully friendly staff. This involved piling into an open bakkie, trekking through a local village and across picturesque green hills, walking through a pristine forest and cramming onto a small motorboat before cruising between the most incredible little canyon called “The Gates” up to a series of waterfalls.
Here we watched an incredible demonstration of something between bravery and stupidity as our tour guides swan dived and back-flipped off a terrifyingly high rocky outcrop into the murky water below.
Most of us were far too chicken to follow suit, but Cian scampered up and leapt off like there was no tomorrow. Ralph managed to jump off a lower ledge and Luke plopped into the rapids from even lower. The best Jacob could do was to sit down and slide into the swirling brown water. But even that was one up on me – I made myself look very busy, photographing my rainbow nation shoes and making sure I captured the moment from every angle. No way was I going into that brown soup without being able to see the bottom.
We ended our adventure by sitting at the edge of the canyon, watching the angry waters swirl into the gorge beneath us and having stick races – throwing twigs into the rapids and seeing who’s reached the bottom first. We cruised back up the gorge, hiked up to the open bakkie and dodged goats in the road back to Trennerys where we said out final goodbyes. Who would have thought that we could make such an intimate connection to a place and its people in such a short time? We travelled back across the pontoon ferry and through the stormy skies to our home town of Port Elizabeth mostly in silence, reliving our last few magical days in our heads.
If I could choose where to lose my heart, Trennerys would be right up there on top of my list. We fell in love with its spectacular scenery, its warm friendliness and its sublime atmosphere and I can’t wait to follow my heart back there in the future.
Trennerys is located in the Old Transkei, at Qolora Mouth, Eastern Cape, just North of East London, South Africa.
Accommodation is on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis and rates range from R810 – R930 per person per night, with special rates for children aged 12 and under. (Rates as at April 2018)
Yours in travel
PS: If you visit Trennerys and find a silver heart locket, you know where to find me.
Check out the video highlights of our family adventure at Trennerys Hotel:
Click here to watch on YouTube if the video does not display properly on your device.