Xora Mouth: an untainted piece of the world in the heart of the Transkei
Walking in amongst mangrove trees with the mud squirming between your toes and crabs crawling over your bare feet is possibly not everyone’s cup of tea, but to me it is one of the finest out there. Xora Mouth is located in the heart of the Transkei and on one of Africa’s most renowned coastlines, the Wild Coast. The Transkei is a living symbol of our nation’s raw, innate form. There are no skyscrapers that fringe the coastline and no beach chairs scattered on barely visible sand patches. There are, in fact, barely any western-style houses evident. Mud huts in varying colours are placed over the countryside with their abundance often distorted, given their close proximity to one another. Many of these huts hold prime views over the deserted beaches often filled only with cows and goats. Occasionally, local individuals seeking oysters or mussels can be found, tools in hand, ridding the rocks of their ever-diminishing food source. This is an area where the sound of the waves is not distorted by the sound of cars; where everything is natural, including the walkways down to the beach.
This coastline is not called ‘wild’ for no reason, over the years many ships have found their fate on numerous off-shore reefs. Of the most peculiar is the story of ‘The Waratah’, which was last seen off the mouth of the Xora River. No trace of this ship has ever been found, although numerous curious divers have tried their luck. Perhaps we have a new Bermuda Triangle on our hands.
There are many legends that follow this stretch of coast and many will never see this coastline to put truth to these legends as it is well off the beaten track. Xora Mouth can seldomly be accessed without a four-wheel drive or without serious damage to your two-wheel drive. A poverty stricken Transkei and corrupt government have left little funds for the upkeep of roads, schools and hospitals in the area. The Xhosa people indigenous to this area, live in their humble abodes made of mud and thatch, often with as many as 8 people living in one hut. Although many individuals would look upon their living environment and respond with a ‘shame’, a closer look reveals a beautiful truth to the area. People live extremely simply without many material possessions, yet they have a peace in their hearts that allows them to be present and not living in the past or future.
Accommodation and activities
Xora has about 18 cottages situated on the river estuaries’ slightly elevated bank. They are all old buildings with a slightly rustic look. Cottage owners are those who lived in the former country of Transkei and any latter housing development is deemed illegal and broken down. This is very necessary, for otherwise the Wild Coast may become the new Plettenberg Bay or Ballito. Few if any cottages are rented out, however two km along the beach is a wonderful backpackers known as Bulungula. This backpackers offers basic meals and various activities from fishing and canoeing to hiking and horseriding. All activities involve the surrounding Xhosa community which stimulates the local economy through the employment of locals. From the cottages one has a clear view of the estuary below and on a clear day can even see fish swimming around the mangrove island. At high tide the water pushes into the mangrove trees to the degree that one can paddle between the trees if using a canoe. This is a wonderful thing to do. Another rather thrilling adventure is to swim around the island (although my dad did catch a shark on one corner of the island, we tend to dismiss the apparent danger of the activity). The river although not as teeming with fish as 20 or so years ago still has many species and keeps the avid fisherman (or woman) on their toes (on a boat or from the land). Particularly fun is the chad season where bites are frequent and fish dinners too.
To me it is not even the wonderful activities’ that make the place so special, it is its situation and the local people. One can go for a walk on a beach anywhere in the country and enjoy it, but there is nothing quite like walking on a desolate beach to make you feel alive. One can fish on most rivers, but there is nothing quite like being the only boat fishing on a whole river (whilst sipping gin and tonics or drinking a cold beer from a fisherman’s snake bite kit).
Visiting a local shebeen is a must do. Here you can buy black label quarts from as low as R8 as well as local beer Chubuku if you are feeling very brave. You will initially be looked up and down for you are an mlungu (white man) but your presence will soon not only be acknowledged but too rejoiced and lovingly included in the songs sung with the beer breath of the locals. Handing out sweets to the local young is debatably a bad thing as you are only present to witness their smile but not present when they have tooth pain, yet no dentist or begging skills, yet no drive to work.
Is the area dangerous?
Many people’s first opinion is it’s so dangerous in Transkei. The facts are it was very dangerous prior to 1994, but now I would honestly say that it is safer in these Xhosa communities than it is in most of the large cities of South Africa. Their sense of community is a security greater than an electric fence, their sense of peace is security greater than burglar alarms.
If you get the chance visit this area, do so, as it is truly beautiful; not the kind of beauty one finds in Sun City or other synthetic, rather meek copies of Gods’ creation. This is one of the last parts’ of the world that man has not destroyed or altered (to a large degree) and is thus well worth seeing. Just ensure you pack enough food, possibly bedding as well, as shops are few and far between. Enjoy the wild adventure!
Find backpackers, campsites and lodges on the Wild Coast at Getaway Accommodation.