The Awesome and Untouched Wild Coast of South Africa

The Wild Coast of South Africa, also known as the Transkei, is a beautiful, rugged and unspoiled coastline that stretches north of East London along sweeping bays, footprint-free beaches, lazy lagoons and rocky headlands.  The Transkei section of the Wild Coast is rural South Africa at its best, and the roads to the coast lead the visitor through the Xhosa heartland, a stunning landscape of rolling green hills dotted with thatched huts, offering interesting glimpses into a culture far removed from the stresses of modern life.

Apart from Port St Johns and Coffee Bay, most villages north of the Kei River are made up of only a handful of fisherman’s cottages, the occasional backpacker hostel and the odd hotel.  There is a wealth of comfortable Wild Coast accommodation for the visitor, making it an ideal destination for peaceful, laid-back holidays away from the tourist hoards.  Road Travel can assist with all your accommodation requirements in the Wild Coast.

The Wild Coast is blessed with fine weather during the winter months, when the Sardine Run attracts a frenzy of activity from gannets, seals, dolphins and predatory fish as it moves slowly north along the coast.  High vantage points along the coastline make great lookout points for dolphin and whale watching.  Humpback and Southern Right Whales migrate from the Antarctic to the shores of South Africa to calve and are often seen from the coast.   A unique and much loved quirk of the Transkei is the frequent sightings visitors have of cows on the beaches.  Even though beaches have no grass or drinking water, herds of cattle still love coming down to the beach to sleep, relax and chew the cud.  They are easily approachable and make great photographic subjects.

The area is also a firm favorite with anglers, offering excellent fishing grounds both at the coast and in the estuaries, particularly at the mouths of the larger rivers like the Kei and Mzimvubu which are navigable for several kilometers upstream.  Launching a ski boat for a day of deep-sea fishing is an exhilarating start to a wonderful day out at sea with magnificent views of the coast.  Other Wild Coast activities include golf, fly fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing, abseiling, surfing, canoeing, horse riding, game viewing and bird watching.   From its people, to its unforgettable beaches, waterfalls and famous landmarks, the Transkei Wild Coast offers a wealth of things to see and experience.  This coupled with a great climate, hot summers and mild dry winters, makes it an ideal off the beaten track destination.

Nelson Mandela was born in Mvezo near Mthatha in 1918.  He spent his childhood, the happiest years f his life, in the modest rural village of Qunu.  Here he did what most Xhosa boys do, herding the livestock, playing in the rivers and skidding down the granite stone he called “The Sliding Stone”.  The Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha runs tours to both Mvezo and Qunu.  The ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ exhibition details Mandela’s life history in his own words.  The museum is currently undergoing extensive renovations, so please do get in touch with us at Road Travel and we can give you more details.

The Wild Coast is very rural and tradition still plays a big part in people’s lives.  The Xhosa and Pondo people live in bright thatched mud huts that dot the hills, mostly without electricity and running water.  They farm vegetable patches and keep cows, goats, sheep and pigs.  Customs involve ceremonies, drumming and dancing.  When something is wrong, locals consult Sangomas, or healers, who prescribe herbal remedies.  While you can visit Xhosa and Pondo villages on your own, we at Road Travel would suggest going with a registered guide who can interpret what you’re seeing and advise you how to behave.  Village tours can include a simple but delicious traditional meal, a visit to a sangoma, drinks at a shebeen and even home stays.  Contact us for more details.

The sensitive Wild Coast eco-system is being threatened by the planned construction of multi-lane toll-road highway, as well as proposed open-cast titanium mining in the Xolobeni dunes.   A coalition of organisations and individuals who are concerned about these developments and hope to press for ecologically sensitive economic solutions for the Wild Coast region, have formed the Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC) campaign.  If you would like to support the campaign, join the mailing list, or learn more, then please visit their website for more information:

Some portions of text used with kind permission from

Our Soweto

We Love Soweto, its a place of contrasts with the same vibrant feel as Johannesburg, with a cheerful energy and a bustle of activity.  This is the perfect place to learn to understand what the words “Rainbow Nation” really mean.  Here you’ll find rows of tin shanties and luxurious mansions, piles of garbage and pitted roads which offset green fields and rustic streams.  Soweto is the most metropolitan township in the country, setting South African trends in politics, fashion, music, dance and language.

Soweto may sound like an African name, but the word was originally an acronym for “South Western Townships”.  Soweto is a melting pot of South African cultures and has developed its own sub-cultures.  Afro-American influence runs deep, but is adapted to local conditions.  In their speech, dress and gait, Sowetans exude a sense of cosmopolitan sophistication.

The establishment of Soweto is, like Johannesburg, linked directly to the discovery of Gold in 1885.  Thousands of people from around the world and South Africa flocked to the new town to seek their fortunes or to offer their labour.  More than half the population was black, most living in multi racial shanty towns near the gold mines in the centre of the town.  As the gold mining industry developed, the need for labour increased.  Migrant labour was started and most of these workers lived in mine compounds.  However other workers had to find their own accommodation often in appalling conditions.

In 1903 Kliptown, the oldest of a cluster of townships that constitute present day Soweto, was established.  The township was created to house black labourers, who worked in mines and other industries in the city, away from the city centre.  The inner city was later to be reserved for white occupation as the policy of segregation took root.  Only black families were located into Klipspruit and the housing was on a rental basis.  Klipspruit was subsequently renamed Pimville.  Some residents were to be relocated to Alexandra township (near the present day Sandton).

During the 1930’s the demand for housing for the large numbers of black people who had moved into Johannesburg grew to such an extent that new housing was built in an area known as Orlando, named after the first administrator Edwin Orlando Leaky.  In the 1940’s a controversial character James Mpanza led the first land invasion and some 20000 squatters occupied land near Orlando.  James Mpanza is known as the “Father of Soweto”.

In 1959 the residents of Sophiatown were forcibly removed to Soweto and occupied the area known as Meadowlands. S ir Earnest Oppenheimer, the first chairman of the Anglo American Corporation, was appalled by the housing shortage and was instrumental in arranging a loan for the construction of additional housing and this is commemorated by the Oppenheimer Tower in Jabulani.

Since it came into being, Soweto was at the centre of campaigns to overthrow the apartheid state.  The 1976 student uprising, also known as the Soweto Uprisings, began in Soweto and spread to the rest of the country.  Other politically charged campaigns to have germinated in Soweto include the squatter movement of the 1940s and the defiance campaigns of the mid to late 1980’s.  The area produced many political, sporting and social luminaries, including Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, who once lived in Orlando West.  Other prominent figures to have come from Soweto include boxing legend, Baby Jake Matlala, singing diva Yvonne Chaka Chaka, The Soweto Gospel Choir and soccer maestro Jomo Sono.

Infused with the history of the struggle against apartheid and abuzz with the energy of Egoli, the city of gold, Soweto is a must-see for visitors who are looking for a deeper insight into our country.  With heritage sites, restaurants and shebeens aplenty, Soweto is well worth visiting to experience the real South Africa – a place of friendship, vibrancy and contrasts.

Soweto’s history and bright future has guaranteed it a place on the world map.  Those who know little else about South Africa are often familiar with the name “Soweto” and the township’s significance in our country’s past and future.  Contact us at Road Travel to experience the real Soweto.

Ingrid Jonker, famous in life, legend in death

Ingrid Jonker is a South African icon often compared to Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and Anne Sexton, due to the intensity of her writing and the tragic course of her life.  She was the shinning star of the “Sestigers” (artists of the 60’s) who gathered around poet Uys Krige, on Clifton beach in Cape Town.  They were the first generation of Afrikaners to turn away from the brooding Calvinism of their fathers and look to Latin Europe for new inspiration.  They scoffed at religion with its dubious morals on race and sex and, with flagrant disregard for Apartheid, and mixed freely with Black artists.  They had wild affairs that they wrote into novels that were banned before they were even published.  In one decade they changed forever the course of Afrikaans literature.  Ingrid Jonker was their brightest star.
Jonker was born 19 September 1933 on a farm in Douglas, near Kimberley.  She was the daughter of Abraham Jonker and Beatrice Cilliers.  Her parents separated before she was born and Jonker’s mother moved back home with her two daughters.  Jonker’s grandparents moved to a farm near Cape Town.  Five years after the move her grandfather died, leaving the four women destitute.

Her short life was characterized as much by genius as by torment.  Rejected by her father before she was born – the prominent MP threw out his wife in disgrace – Ingrid watched her mother descend into poverty and spiral into madness until she commited suicide when Ingrid was 10.  The fear of ending up like her mother haunted her all her life.  Especially as she found herself rejected by men and was forced to contemplate abortion.

Jonker started writing poems when she was 6 years old and by the age of 16, she had started a correspondence with D.J. Opperman, South African writer and poet, whose views influenced Jonker’s work greatly.  Her first collection of Afrikaans poems, entitled Na die somer (“After the summer”) was produced before she was 13.  Although several publishers were interested in her work, she was advised to wait before going into print.  Her first published book of poems, Ontvlugting (“Escape”), was eventually published in 1956.  Jonker married Pieter Venter in 1956, and their daughter Simone was born in 1957.  The couple moved to Johannesburg, but three years later they separated.  Jonker and her daughter then moved back to Cape Town.  Her father, already a writer, editor and National Party Member of Parliament, was appointed chairman of the parliamentary select committee responsible for censorship laws on art, publications and entertainment.  To his embarrassment, his daughter was vehemently opposed to these laws and their political differences became public.  In a speech in parliament Jonker’s father denied her as his daughter.  During the same time period she had affairs with two writers, Jack Cope and André P. Brink.  One of these affairs resulted in a pregnancy and she underwent an abortion (a crime in South Africa at the time).  The mental distress of her father’s rejection and the abortion contributed to her decision to enter the Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital in 1961.

Jonker’s next collection of poems Rook en oker (“Smoke and Ochre”) was published in 1963 after delays caused by the conservative approach of her publishers.  While the collection was praised by most South African writers, poets and critics, it was given a cool reception by the more conservative white South African public.  Rook en oker won Jonker the £1000 Afrikaans Press-Booksellers literary prize, as well as a scholarship from the Anglo American Corporation.  The money helped her to realize her dream of travelling to Europe, where she went to England, The Netherlands, France, Spain and Portugal.  She asked Jack Cope to accompany her, but he refused.  Jonker then asked André P. Brink to join her.  He accepted and they went to Paris and Barcelona together.  During the trip Brink decided against leaving his wife for Jonker and went back to South Africa.  Jonker then cut her tour short and returned to Cape Town.

Jonker had started writing a new collection of poems just before her death.  A selection of these poems was published posthumously in the collection Kantelson (“Toppling Sun”).  And then she witnesses a shattering event: a Black baby was shot in his mother’ arms…  She underlined from Dylan Thomas: “after the first death, there is no other”.  And she wrote: “The child who died at Nyanga”.  Like Dylan Thomas she understood that she could no longer soar above the horror and the moral collapse of her world.  During the night of 19 July 1965, Jonker went to the beach at Three Anchor Bay in Cape Town where she walked into the sea and committed suicide by drowning.  She was 31 and the greatest poet of her generation.  Her life had made her famous.  Her death made her a legend.

Nelson Mandela read one of her poems, “Die kind (wat doodgeskiet is deur soldate by Nyanga)” (“The child (who was shot dead by soldiers at Nyanga)”), in Afrikaans, during his address at the opening of the first democratic parliament on May 24, 1994.

Die kind wat dood geskiet is deur soldate by Nyanga

Die kind is nie dood nie
die kind lig sy vuiste teen sy moeder
wat Afrika skreeu skreeu die geur van vryheid en heide
in die lokasies van die omsingelde hart

Die kind lig sy vuiste teen sy vader
in die optog van die generasies
wat Afrika skreeu skreeu die geur
van geregtigheid en bloed
in die strate van sy gewapende trots

Die kind is nie dood nie
nòg by Langa nòg by Nyanga
nòg by Orlando nòg by Sharpville
nòg by die polisiestasie in Philippi
waar hy lê met ‘n koeël deur sy kopDie kind is die skaduwee van die soldate
op wag met gewere sarasene en knuppels
die kind is teenwoordig by alle vergaderings en wetgewings
die kind loer deur die vensters van huise en in die harte
van moeders
die kind wat net wou speel in die son by Nyanga is orals
die kind wat ‘n man geword het trek deur die ganse Afrika
die kind wat ‘n reus geword het reis deur die hele wêreld

Sonder ‘n pas

The child who was shot dead by soldiers at Nyanga

The child is not dead
The child lifts his fists against his mother
Who shouts Afrika ! shouts the breath
Of freedom and the veld
In the locations of the cordoned heart

The child lifts his fists against his father
in the march of the generations
who shouts Afrika ! shout the breath
of righteousness and blood
in the streets of his embattled pride

The child is not dead
not at Langa nor at Nyanga
not at Orlando nor at Sharpeville
nor at the police station at Philippi
where he lies with a bullet through his brain

The child is the dark shadow of the soldiers
on guard with rifles Saracens and batons
the child is present at all assemblies and law-givings
the child peers through the windows of houses and into the hearts
of mothers
this child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere
the child grown to a man treks through all Africa
the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world

Without a pass

After Jonker’s death, copyrights and control of her literary estate and papers were awarded to Jack Cope by the Master of the Court.  He established the Ingrid Jonker Trust.  He remained a trustee of the Trust until his death in 1991.  Jonker’s daughter Simone Venter is the beneficiary.  Copyright is still vested in the Trust.  The prestigious Ingrid Jonker Prize for the best debut work of Afrikaans or English poetry was instituted by her friends to honour her legacy after her burial.  This yearly prize is awarded alternately to an Afrikaans or English poet who has published a first volume in the previous two years.

Jonker’s poetry has been translated from Afrikaans into English, German, French, Dutch, Polish, Hindi and Zulu, among others.  She wrote a one-act play ‘n Seun na my Hart (“A son after my heart”) about a mother’s illusions about her handicapped son.  Jonker also wrote several short stories.  In April 2004 Jonker was posthumously awarded the Order of Ikhamanga by the South African government for “her excellent contribution to literature and a commitment to the struggle for human rights and democracy in South Africa.