Wild, unkept and untouched is probably how you would describe the Transkei. The Southern Transkei is inhabited by the Xhosa people, steeped in traditions and superstitions.
The coastline is scarcely populated, with Acacia Trees and traditional homesteads scattered amongst the hill tops in between the odd fisherman’s cottage and hotel.
The Xhosa people are herders, so don’t be alarmed when you find yourself sharing the beach with the local cattle. They are generally quite timid, and will shy away when approached.
You can pick one of a few routes to cross the Kei River into the Southern Transkei from East London. During daylight hours you can catch the Ferry, called “The Pont” by the locals.
I had not seen the pont since childhood, and found, to my amazement, it was still exactly the same. The thought of putting my car onto the motorized platform was a little nerve racking, but it was smooth sailing across the river, from bank to bank.
It manages 2 vehicles at a time and a few locals crossing the river with groceries for their village.
The coastline has a reputation amongst seafarers, and has been hailed as “The Wild Coast”.
Many ships have been wrecked along this Shore. One such ship was a Japanese War Ship, the Jacaranda, is about a 5km walk north from Trennery’s Beach Hotel along the beach.
The most popular hotels in the southern area of the Transkei, would be Trennery’s and Seagulls.
At the hotels, Xhosa Ladies are always around to sell their beautiful beadwork.
Trevor’s Trail up the Qolora River
We signed up for a tour with Trevor’s Trails. Trevor and Carlos will take you on a journey into the cultural world of the Xhosa People of the Transkei. The Xhosa Nation is highly superstitious in their beliefs.
Trevor is incredibly knowledgeable on the traditions and beliefs of the Xhosa People, as well as the fauna and flora of the area. His tours are interesting and insightful, even to the uninterested…
From the boat ride up the Qolora River, you may get to see one of the fish eagles living on the river.
You will embark on a short and beautifully scenic walk up the path, along the bank of the Qolora river.
Trevor explains how the plants and trees have been used for centuries for medicinal and spiritual purposes, as well as the traditions and superstitions that relate to each of these plants.
At one stop, he explains how the milk from the River Euphorbia (Euphorbia Triangularis) was used by the KhoiSan (Hunter-gatherer nomad people) for fishing. When hooks and fishing line were unavailable to the local people, they would drop the milk of the Euphorbia into small pools containing fish, this would compromise their gills, killing the fish and cause them to float to the surface.
Another is the Natal Grass Cycad (Stangeria Eriopus)…
It is believed that if the branch of this plant is held above your head in a storm, it will protect you from lightning. This practice can still be seen today.
At the top of the Qolora River, Trevor takes you by boat through “The Gates”, a spectacular passageway through high cliffs, cascading into the river.
As the sunsets in front of you, be sure to leave your footprints in the sand…
Footprints are what memories are made of…
By Morne Swartz
Originally featured on Travel Highlighter