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Christmas at South Africa's Wild Coast
Traffic jams, queues and crowds. Is this your idea of a perfect holiday?
Nicolas van der Leek (Nick)     Print Article 
Published 2006-12-10 09:26 (KST)   
In South Africa, Christmas is a time spent on the beach, or in swimming pools. We eat watermelons, have barbecues, buy copious amounts of insect repellent and sun cream. It's a time to sugarcoat feet with warm beach sand, and wash sweaty faces in the cool clean foam of the Indian Ocean.

December is a time when roads fill up with holiday traffic, starting with a swarm of party-mad school leavers, but eventually the whole nation joins in, creating silver snakes that swim in and out of the heat belly dancing on highways.

These arteries connect our great coastal cities, like Cape Town on the one end, Port Elizabeth and East London in the middle, with Durban (higher up along the East Coast) closer to Mozambique.

Section of South Africa. Kob Inn is 65km (on a dirt road) from Willowvale, on our East Coast.
©2006 Nick van der Leek
In between are thousands of kilometers filled with beautiful sandy white beaches, estuaries, surfers and holiday flocks. But crowds are not my idea of a soothing holiday "away from it all." This is what makes the Wild Coast (halfway up our East Coast) the perfect getaway.

Ssssh. This is a secret. Kob Inn is a charming hideaway, 65 kilometers from the N2 (near the city of East London) and about 45 minutes drive (on a gravel road) from Willowvale. I must admit, once we hit the gravel road, and civilization rapidly melted away, my girlfriend seemed to grow anxious. Suddenly there was just a road, with no telephone or electricity pylons, even our cellphones lost their signals.

View from the hill behind Kob Inn (of the lagoon and Mazeppa Bay)
©2006 Nick van der Leek
No, we were not heading towards a caravan park, or a couple of shacks on the beach. When we arrived, with the surf roaring over rocks right in front of a bunch of thatched, cottage style bungalows, she gave me a big squeeze.

The next morning, and every morning after that, we saw dolphins slipping through the sea just beyond the breakers. I also spotted a big black gash coming out the water -- the manager of the hotel said it may have been a Right Whale. We discovered the staff at the hotel to be friendly and competent.

Away from the maddening crowd. We had the beach all to ourselves.
©2006 Nick van der Leek
There's a lot to do. We decided to start slowly. We walked on empty beaches, exploring rock pools and enjoying having the wild scenery all to ourselves. We had a picnic between some rocks, packing wine and cheese and other snacks. Then, as we began to detox, destress and unwind, natural energy flowed back.

There's lots to do. We had a fantastic paddle up the Qora River.
©2006 Nick van der Leek
We went for a lovely, romantic paddle up the Qora River, and then battled against the rising wind to get back in time for lunch. It was a fantastic, fun-filled morning for all sorts of reasons. Suggestion: if you go canoeing apply plenty of sun block. We still got burnt on our knees and hands.

Before we left a bunch of us went up the coast on quad bikes (known in the U.S. as ATVs, All Terrain Vehicles). I'd never been on one before, and it was another highlight of the trip. Turning and accelerating can be a little tricky, but after a few minutes it's quite easy. It's amazing how quickly you can cover all kinds of countryside on these tomb-raider type bikes.

We descended an incredibly steep slope, crossed shallow streams, and buzzed between forests and local kraals (enclosures for cattle or other livestock) and rondavels (traditional-style houses), waving to the Xhosa people (Nelson Mandela was a Xhosa shepherd boy in his youth) before flying off in a collective cloud of dust.

After a hard day filled with fun, the food at Kob Inn is excellent, especially on Sundays when a seafood buffet is served. I found myself really looking forward to every single meal. Tea and coffee is served halfway through the afternoon, and the bar, perched right against the rocks, is a perfect haunt for night owls and triumphant fishermen. It has a pool table and plenty of booze.

Quad biking is plenty of fun through the jungles along the coast.
©2006 Nick van der Leek
For those into good clean (and sometimes very romantic) fun, I can't recommend a better place than Kob Inn. We didn't even get round to the forest trails, the tennis court or the trampoline. Even email is available (but it's expensive and slow) and there is a lounge with DSTV for the ultra bored.

Amazingly enough, you can even use your cellphone at the hotel, since there is a signal tower nearby, at Mazeppa Bay. There are also facilities for kiddies, like games rooms, a kiddy lounge and kiddy restaurant. It goes without saying that fishing around the hotel is excellent. When I was eight years old my father entered a fishing competition here, caught a Kob fish as long as I was, and won us a free holiday.

The seascapes, rocky scenery and quintessential rolling green landscape of the Transkei provide welcome relief for city slickers. Best of all, having the sea so close, means the spirit is soothed. You can even hear the sea at night, in bed.

The Southern Hemisphere, in full summer apparel, is an awesome alternative to the cold crunch of snow on Christmas Day.

Nature as nature intended. You and yours with your very own beach.
©2006 Nick van der Leek

We paid R720 (US$100) a night for a sea-facing cottage. Quad hire is R350 (US$50) for a three-hour gallivant.

Contact Kob Inn at 27 47 499 0011 or 27 83 4520 876. Note: American Express credit cards are not accepted, and the nearest ATM is in Willowvale.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Nicolas van der Leek

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