Hole in the Wall, Transkei, Eastern Cape.
24 to 30 October 2009

 
     
  Photos can be seen here: http://peterjasie.shutterfly.com

A few years before retiring we bought timeshare points from Quality Vacation Club as part of our retirement planning. The idea was to be able to still go on quality holidays without having to pay an arm and a leg. This proved to be a wise decision and we have been enjoying annual holidays to various resorts both in South Africa and in neighbouring countries.

We have categorised the resorts we have visited as “holiday” resorts and “adventure “ resorts.
A holiday resort would be a resort where you can go and relax and enjoy a normal holiday. An adventure resort has that extra excitement that makes a holiday just a bit different as well as exciting. And Hole in the Wall has excitement and adventure in abundance. You have tragedy, romance, shipwrecks and skeletons just for starters. But more about all that later on.

After a relaxing week at Caribbean Estates on the KwaZulu-Natal South coast, we crossed the Umtamvuna river into the Eastern Cape province. I remembered this area as the old Transkei Independent Homeland, the coastal area being known as the Wild Coast.

The road was an adventure in itself. The countryside is beautiful. You have rolling green hills dotted with rural huts and villages. This brings with it the problem of taxi’s, buses and trucks so a lot of patience is required.
The 80 kilometers between Mthatha (Umtata) and Coffee Bay, although tarred, is potholed in places and care is necessary. You also have to keep a lookout for cattle, horses, dogs, pigs and locals. But all of this is part of the adventure after all, you are going to the Wild Coast and the roads will put you in a perfect mood for that. The last 9 kilometers from Coffee Bay to Hole in the Wall is a twisty and turny and up-and-downy gravel road. Although the driver has to keep his eyes on the road, the passengers can catch glimpses of the blue Indian ocean with waves crashing onto white beaches below, some really spectacular views. I firmly believe that the so-called Wild Coast boasts the most spectacular coastline in South Africa.

The 460 kilometers from Caribbean Estates to Hole in the Wall took us just over 7 hours which gives some indication of our travelling adventure. From our house in Alberton to Hole in the Wall is 960 kilometers.
Caribbean Estates is a Friday check-out resort and Hole in the Wall is a Saturday check-in which meant that we had arrived a day early. No problem for resort Manager, Gerhardt Mynhardt, who promptly checked us in to an open bungalow, at their cost, for the night and arranged that we be moved to our allocated unit the next morning, now that’s what I call service!

The next morning we moved to one of the “Bay View” units, and what a view! I can truthfully state that this is the best sea view we have ever had at any seaside resort we have ever been to.
He also told us that the resort had just been totally revamped and the units now boasted electric stoves, microwave ovens and the usual electrical appliances instead of just gas stoves. The furniture had also been replaced so everything was brand spanking new.

If ever a resort should get an “x-factor” award, this resort must get it. Everything about it is just so unique and different, a “must visit” resort.

The fishing is a big attraction along the Wild Coast and if the catches on the photos on the pub wall are anything to go by, any keen fisherman must bring his tackle along.
Also on the pub wall are photos of Princes William and Harry who visited the resort recently.

The actual Hole in the Wall rock formation is an easy 15 minute walk from the resort and after unpacking we grabbed our cameras and set out to get our first look of the famous landmark. It was even more awesome than photos we had seen and we spent some time there taking photos from various angles. We resolved to go back daily at different times in order to get a good selection of photos.

The resort shares premises with the Hole in the Wall hotel which means that the hotel restaurant is also available to timeshare guests. You can either go full self catering or have some of your meals in the restaurant. We had a really nice steak, eggs and chips bar lunch one afternoon.

The bar cum dining room area is the gathering place for guests providing the ideal opportunity to socialise with fellow adventurers as well as resort management.

Gerhardt Mynhardt is one of those “Mingling Managers” and was always on hand for a chat or to make sure that everything was in order. We have been to many resorts and it is rare to find management as “hands on” as at Hole in the Wall.

The bar area also doubles as TV lounge and we could keep up to date with our soapies. There are also two pool tables and even four slot machines where you can get rid of your small change.

The following day was rainy and we had to stay indoors, but with such a magnificent view, it was actually a pleasure. We spotted several pods of dolphins swimming past and also saw some whales breaching a bit deeper in.

There are various walks near the resort and if you feel particularly energetic you can climb Whalesback a steep hill bordering the Hole in the wall rock formation.

A drive to the village of Coffee Bay about 9 kilometers along the coast to the North once again takes you along the magnificent scenic route all along the coast.

The nearest supermarket is in Mthata (Umtata) about 90 kilometers away, so if you are self catering better bring all your provisions along.

Our vacation was cut short by a prediction of heavy rains so we left a few days early. But we will be back to enjoy this resort and its beautiful scenery.

The Legend of the Hole in the Wall

Love made that 'hole in the wall', they say
By Brian Msebe

ON the road to the coastal resort of Coffee Bay, there is a turn that leads to the Hole in the Wall, one of the most beautiful spots on the southern African coast.
The creation of the natural phenomenon of the Hole in the Wall has, according to legend, a far more romantic explanation.
Many tales have been told about the impressive arch that was named in 1823 by the crew of the British survey ship, the Barracouta, because of the portal carved through an island rock castle with sheer dolerite walls.
The Portuguese had called the rock Penido das Fontes (rock of fountains), while the rock's Xhosa name is esiKhaleni (the place of sound), a name derived from the waves that continuously crash through the hole.
The hole lies directly in the path of the Mpako River and it is this, rather than the surf, that has created the hole.
Xhosa mythology tells of the water or sea people, semi-deities who resembled humans but with supple wrists, ankles and flipperlike hands and feet.
They were kind people, although sometimes a little mischievous, delighting in teasing mere mortals.
Legend tells of a beautiful girl who lived in a village on the Wild Coast near a great landlocked lagoon.
The girl was so fair that one of the sea people fell in love with her and persuaded her to come and live with him in the sea.
Her people were land people who speared fish in the river and swam in the lagoon where giant milkwood trees, with their dark, shiny leaves and comforting shade crowded the water's edge.
Long ago, they had decided that the sea was cruel and dangerous and had warned the young girl not to go there.
"Beware the sea people. They are born of the salt spray and are as cruel as the sea. They envy us because we rule the land and the sunny pastures," they advised her.
But the elders' words seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. Not even her angry father, who after discovering the unnatural liaison forbade his daughter from seeing her lover or leaving the village, could deter the young maiden, who found the sea endlessly attractive.
So attracted was she by the beauty of the sea that one night she slipped away in the dark of the night and met with her sea lover, who after hearing of the maiden's father's disapproval of the affair reassured her and asked her to watch and see what he would do to prove his undying love for her.
And so as the sun dipped low beyond the wall of the rock, the young beautiful lady watched with amazement as thin, willowy figures appeared on the top of the rock.
Excited and defiant, she started to run towards the lagoon, followed by the village folk who sensed that something strange was going to happen.
The sea people had brought with them an enormous sea serpent with green, glittering scales and a mighty head.
Using its enormous head, the monstrous creature (fish) rammed a gaping hole in the wall. A great spout of water gushed through with all the force of the tide behind it and on the wave came hundreds of sea people, singing, shouting and waving their arms with joy.
At the front of them all was the man who had come to claim her.
He rode the wave right to her feet, stretched out his arms and she moved to join him.
Then, as the wave retreated, forming and frothing its pleasure, she went with the people of the sea -- back through the hole in the rock wall and the villagers never saw her again.
That is the tale the Xhosa people tell. They say the sea went on eating away at the curved rock wall until it no longer formed a barrier between the sea and the river mouth.
They say on the nights when the tide is high, the sea people can still be heard above the noise of the waves, streaming through the Hole in the Wall in their search for a bride.

The truly awesome spectacle of Hole in the Wall, now an angler's paradise, is one of five of South Africa's myths and legends reflected on a set of stamps. Explaining why the Post Office chose to feature South African myths and legends on stamps, Philatelic Services communications specialist Louis van Niekerk said it was because of country's rich cultural heritage and diversity.
"It was decided that myths and legends would be an appropriate topic for a set of stamps, especially because this is the first time they are featured on a set of South African stamps."

The Great Cattle Killing

Near Coffee Bay is a prominent rock formation with a big hole in the middle, which has become a symbol for the Xhosa of a great historical tragedy, the "Great Cattle Killing".

It is a unique structure with a huge detached cliff that has a giant opening carved through its centre by the waves. The local Xhosa call this place "izi Khaleni", which means "place of thunder". At certain seasons and water conditions (high tide) the waves clap is such a fashion that the concussion can be heard throughout the valley.

A young girl called Nongqawuse had seen a messenger from the realm of the ancestors at a waterhole. She told her uncle Mhlakaza about her vision. As he was an important Xhosa priest, his social rank granted a great impact to the prophecy he derived from his niece's vision. He announced that soldiers who were incarnations of the souls of dead Xhosa warriors, would arrive on the 18th of February over the sea, come onto land through the "Hole in the Wall" and defeat the hated British. But, he continued, the Xhosa had to make a sacrifice to help the warriors by destroying all their crops and killing all their cattle. After the victory, there would be food in abundance for everybody. The Xhosa followed the instructions in his prophecy and killed their whole stock of cattle. The catastrophe took its course. Thousands of Xhosa starved and the British had an easy time conquering the remaining people.

Skeletons

From time to time human bones wash up on the beaches near Hole in the Wall. Gerhardt, the resort manager told me that in the past it was Xhosa custom to kill their “bad” fellow tribesmen by bashing in their heads with knobkieries and then bury them in shallow graves in the sand on the beaches. The idea behind this being that the tide will eventually wash them and their evil spirits out to sea. Over time the tides uncover the remains and then wash the bones up on the beaches. A Bit of a gory tale, but still part of the old Xhosa tradition.

Shipwrecks

Many ships were wrecked over the years along the Wild coast, here are some of the more famous wrecks.

The SS Waratah

The SS Waratah, sometimes referred to as "Australia's Titanic", was a 500 foot steamer. In July 1909, the ship, en route from Durban to Cape Town, disappeared with 211 passengers and crew aboard. The disappearance of the ship remains one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time. To this day no trace of the ship has ever been found.

According to newspaper archives, the 10 000 ton ship passed along the Transkei coast on July 28, 1909 after stopping off in Durban the previous day.

It was heading to London and would have stopped over in Cape Town before setting sail on the high seas. A Dispatch report from July 1971 said: “Two people had disembarked in Durban – one to find a job and the other after he dreamt that the ship would sink – and after being spotted by two other ships along the Transkei coast, the Waratah disappeared in what was to become ‘one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time’.”


As it sailed past the Transkei coast, between the mouths of the Bashee and Xora rivers, the ship is said to have encountered bad weather and battled to sail against high winds, a combination of tide and turbulent ocean swell.

Carrying provisions on board to last a year, the Waratah is said to have fallen victim to a freak wave, capsized and been sucked to the ocean floor with all aboard. In the 100 years since it disappeared various theories have tried to explain its demise.

The Grosvenor

But the most famous wreck of all is that of the English ship, Grosvenor.

Her tragic end came on August 4th 1782, while on a return voyage from India. She ran aground then sank in a very deep gully off a rocky little bay called Lwambazi. Although only 14 of the 150 people on board drowned, just six sailors reached safety at a frontier farm near Port Elizabeth. News of the disaster prompted the colonial government to send an expedition to rescue the survivors. They only found 12. For many years, however, rumours persisted of the 'un-found' survivors living with local tribesmen, and an expedition in 1790 discovered a colony of about 400 people of non-African descent living on a tributary of the Mngazi River. These were the sad remnants of the various shipwrecks along the coast.
The vessel was supposed to be carrying a large treasure, including the peacock throne of the Moghul emperors of India, so the wreck
was subject to many attempts down the ages to locate and salvage it.