I don’t like unfinished stories. Tales that leave me hanging in anticipation, desperate to know what happens next. The kind of ending that happens in each episode of a great TV series – the hook that keeps me binge-watching to satisfy my craving for completion.
When we visited Trennerys hotel on the Wild Coast of South Africa a few years back, I created my own unfinished ending. We embarked on a day hike to the Jacaranda shipwreck and got so side-tracked by all that we experienced along the way, that we turned back too early, satisfied by a full day of fun, but leaving before the end goal of the day was completed and ticked off.
So when deciding where to venture for a winter beach-hiking weekend, the Jacaranda shipwreck raised its rusty hand and lured us back to Trennerys with its promise of satiating completion.
The Jacaranda cargo ship ran aground on a stormy night in 1971, beaching itself in a small bay between jagged rocks on the coast east of the Kei River. It rests around 4km from Trennerys hotel and its huge rusty red hull and tall mast grace many artworks on the hotel walls. Despite being warned that the constant pounding by the salty waves of the Indian Ocean have taken their toll and dramatically reduced the wreck to a corroded outline of its former self, I was set on finishing what we started and completing our quest to find its rusted remains.
With the benefit of hindsight, I planned our pursuit perfectly, remembering fondly the many temptations that were bound to hinder our progress along the coastline. I recall well how the pleasurable distractions along the way completely slowed us down and resulted in what should have been a morning hike stretching into a full day. When hiking with teenagers, hunger morphs rapidly into irritability, and I was not going to be caught foodless with hangry teens this time.
Armed with a backpack brimming with snacks and plenty of drinking water, we started the day carbo-loading from Trennerys’ delicious breakfast buffet – making sure we all indulged in the spread of cereals, tropical fruit, yoghurts, traditional hot breakfast fare and ending off with sweet cinnamon-sugar flapjacks with fresh cream.
With full bellies, we started the hike along Trennerys’ magnificently wild beach, with endless rows of waves pounding on our right and a serene, still lagoon on our left. The water was freezing and we squealed as we removed our shoes and tiptoed through the icy stream where the Qolora river flows into the sea.
The Wild Coast began almost immediately to try and distract us from our mission. As we walked along the beach, a fish eagle swooped low and circled overhead, moving just too quickly for us to photograph it, despite our best efforts. We followed the fresh trail of a Cape clawless otter – the only other footprints on the remote beach – hoping for a glimpse of the shy animal but we were just too late.
As we neared the rocky headland, we were tempted towards the rock pools brimming with sea life. Cian spotted an octopus, crushed some barnacles and presented his offering to the pulsating creature. The octopus gently reached its long suckered tentacles to politely take the tasty morsels and pop them into its beak. As Cian reached into the water, the octopus reached back for him and tried time and time again to pull him into the pool, clearly impressed with his ability to provide good food. We sat for a long time watching and enjoying being in the presence of this fascinating creature. We could easily have stayed all day, but I was resolute to fight the temptation and insisted that we push on to the Jacaranda.
So we said our goodbyes to the little fellow and set off again, scrambling over rocks, tiptoeing through river mouths and marvelling over the sparkling black mineral laden sand that made giant artistic swirling patterns between the yellow Wild Coast beach sand.
As the winter sun warmed the shores, the Transkei’s iconic Nguni cows started heading to the beach and we admired each one’s colours and uniquely patterned coat.
The hike follows the coastline, across multiple sandy bays with shallow river mouths and over the rocky headlands sheltering the beaches. There are a couple of places where the rocks are not passable, and we scrambled up the cliffs and followed the cow tracks to find the path through the rolling green hills to the next bay.
As we rounded another headland full of grazing paintbox cows, I was ecstatic to spot rusty metal sticking out of the waves in the bay ahead and yelled out “There it is!!!” We had found the Jacaranda and despite being warned otherwise, it was still clearly visible – even at high tide. We made our way across the beach and onto the rocks above the remains and watched what was left of the hull – an outline of a once magnificent ship – as it appeared and disappeared between the breaking waves.
As we sat in the bright sun watching the shipwreck, we tucked into our picnic lunch and the boys lay on the rocks napping in the warm winter afternoon as I rested in Ralph’s arms mulling over life.
My quest for the Jacaranda was so much more than the sighting of a shipwreck.
It had brought us together as a family – hundreds of kilometres away from the city, to one of the most beautiful coastlines on our planet. We had let go of our everyday troubles and shared a weekend of fun and an adventure filled with nature at its very best. As I reflected on the octopus, the cows, the eagle, the rock pools and the sandy beaches, my heart was full of gratitude for being able to share such an awesome experience with people who matter the most in my life.
My quest for the Jacaranda was now well and truly complete.
About the Trennerys Hotel
Trennerys is the perfect family hotel. It exudes old time charm, with comfy rooms, tropical gardens and loads to do for all ages. Accommodation includes a delicious breakfast buffet and three course dinner (on Saturdays this is their famous seafood extravaganza). There is a games room, tennis court, swimming pool and a stunning beach and lagoon.
Their Wintercation special runs from June to August 2021 (excluding school holidays) and is R895 per person sharing per night (including dinner and breakfast) with a minimum stay of two nights. Book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 047 498-0004.
Visit www.trennerys.co.za for more info.
Yours in travel
Check out our short film of the Jacaranda shipwreck: