Our journey continued southwards on a fairly decent tar road. By the 4th day one gets used to the Wild Coast road hazards and every one was already in a relaxed frame of mind. After 15 km the tar came to an end near the Isimilela Hospital as we dropped down to drive along the banks of the Sinangwana River. The road soon gets enveloped in dense forests then pops back into bright sunlight at the village of Pamba. The heading is due west at this point and once more the road plunges into the forest to cross the Luzube River, after which a fork without signage beckons a decision to be made.
Well, fortunately we know where we're going, so it was a sharp left at the fork, heading directly for the coast. This particular section of Day 4 is absolutely charming and more so when the weather is good. There are a few very steep climbs where signs of vehicles that struggled earlier is clearly evident, but in a 4WD vehicle it's no problem. The views that unfold are really attractive with grassy hills dotted with colourful rondavels, sweeping down towards the coast.
Closer to the coast, a road heads away to the left (NE) which leads to Shark's Point and Mpande Beach - both which offer idyllic and quiet beaches. Our tour did not include this side excursion due to time constraints. Just before reaching the coast, the road sweeps away sharply to the right and ascends a very long and steep hill with gradients in the 1:5 range. The coastal views are glorious and we always stop near the top of this hill for a leg stretch and some photos. (See group photo lower down)
The road drops down very steeply into the next valley, where the day's tough moment was waiting for us - the crossing of the Gogoldwini River. During our 1st Wild Coast Tour, we lost a vehicle here, after its engine sucked water in. We are consequently very wary of this crossing and more so when we tour in the wet season. This crossing had been discussed in detail since the beginning of the tour, so there was plenty of hype amongst our guests. We offer to tow guest's vehicles across with their engine's switched off.
However on arrival at the crossing, the river was not more than about 50cm deep. Relief for the cautious guests and disappointment for the adventurous ones. The river mouth which is less than a kilometre away is accessible and another one of those magnificent golden brown beaches begging to be enjoyed.
After another steep climb up the far side of the valley, the road forks and we turned right heading north into the densely wooded hills, with the occasional small village with 'goggos' (grandmothers) and small children waving and smiling. The next river to cross is the Sazinge which also has a washed away bridge and requires fording the riverbed. Similar to the Golgodwini this one was also tame compared to previous years.
There are lots of rivers along the Wild Coast and one soon becomes accustomed to the familiar pattern of descending a long way down to almost sea level to cross the river and then just as steep a climb up the far side. Our route took us past the village of Mdikane, then a long and serpentine-like descent into the Mthakatye River Valley. The western ascent is steep and rutted as the road passes the Old Mthakatye Trading Post and a little further along there's a pharmacy! (Good to know in case of an emergency)
The road heads north again, then west as it skirts the next river further inland where the crossing is much easier. The villages were passed by one by one with names like Ludaka and Mdumbi, the latter which takes its name from the Mdumbi River. This pass is much longer and convoluted than the previous ones, but presents lovely scenery on both sides of the valley.
A road forks off (with a signpost!) to Mdumbi River Mouth. This very popular beach sports a number of backpacking outfits on either side of the river and is a much loved spot by hikers and surfers.
The route heads westwards passing through the villages of Gazine and Sidabadabeni, before commencing with the biggest descent of the day - to the crossing of the Mthatha River. This a major pass (which we have yet to film) and offers fabulous scenery. The bridge is still intact.
Climbing up the far side of the valley we came across a cement-mixer truck that had experienced brake failure coming down the pass in the opposite direction. It hit the side of the cutting with sufficient force, to spin it 180 degrees facing the way it came from and turning it over on its side. It must have happened mere minutes before we got there as the driver and helper were still sitting on the side of the road with only minor injuries. Our offer of assistance was declined.
It wasn't long and we intersected with the main tar road between Mthatha and Coffee Bay and arrived at our hotel with time to spare, before gathering for happy hour and a good meal. The Ocean View Hotel is located in a nice quiet corner of the bay and has direct access to the beach. It's a beautiful spot and the food is good.
Next Week: Mapuzi, Whale Hill and Hole in the Wall
PASS OF THE WEEK
The Mlengana Pass is located just off the R61 between Port St Johns and Mthatha. It's a little tricky to find, but worth the effort of some precise navigation. The pass provides access to the second most famous rock on the Wild Coast - Execution Rock. This pass will be included as part of our Wild Coast V4 Tour in May.
* * M L E N G A N A P A S S * *
NEW PASSES ADDED THIS WEEK
Mount Nqwibi Pass - This short pass of 3,2 km connects Hlobane/Vaalbank in the north with the village of Bloemendal in the south. It has a classic low-high-low profile with a summit height of 1350m. KZN.
UPGRADED VIDEOS ADDED THIS WEEK
Leeunek - This steep, mixed surface pass has the classic low-high-low profile rising 262m over 6 km producing an average gradient of 1:23, but many parts of this pass are at a stiff 1:7. The road, which has a summit altitude of 1351m ASL, connects Vryheid with the Black Umfolozi Valley. (KZN)
Bloedrivierpoort - This gravel pass is fairly straightforward with a few sharp corners and mostly easy gradients. It descends 101 vertical metres over 3,2 km producing a gentle average gradient of 1:32, with the steepest section near the summit measuring a stiff 1:11. More significantly, the pass gives access to the memorial of the Battle of Bloedrivierpoort (1901). The road is suitable for all vehicles. (KZN)
Almansnek - This fairly minor tarred pass, designated under road number P34-4, connects the town of Paulpietersburg in the north with Vryheid in the south. It climbs 72m in altitude and is 2,7 km long, producing a comfortable average gradient of 1:38, with the steepest part being at 1: 11. (KZN)
Trygve Roberts / Editor
Definitions: "Perfume" ~ Any smell that is used to cover a worse one.