Our 2021 Wild Coast adventure saw us walking from Kei Mouth south to Gonubie. Our previous Wild Coast adventures have included a day hike from White Clay to Hole in the Wall as well as overnight hikes from Qora to Wavecrest Beach Hotel and back and White Clay to Mdumbi and back. Barring the distance on the third day which may prove testing if you are caught at high tide this is an easy hike over easy terrain.
There are a multitude of options for this route. As part of the Strandloper Hiking Trail, the focus is largely on a slack-packing experience and this section certainly offers a number of options so that even if you choose to carry your own packs as we did you can lighten your load in a number of ways. We chose to walk the first section without our packs, we enjoyed meals in restaurants at Haga-Haga and Cintsa East and we bought one or two small food items en route.
We based ourselves at Yellowwood Forest, Morgan Bay, where we camped for a few days before heading out on our hike. We spent some time exploring the area, including taking a day trip up to Trenneries via the ferry at Kei River Mouth.
As there were a number of river crossings we had bought one or two extra pieces of gear:
Day 1: Kei Mouth to Double Mouth (13.5 km)
We left the eco centre and followed the route as explained, heading northeast toward Kei Village before reaching the coast and turning south toward Morgan Bay.
We stopped in Morgan Bay and had breakfast at the Mitford Hotel before shouldering our backpacks and heading up the hill above the Morgan Bay cliffs.
The campsite at Double Mouth is a semicircle of lush lawn set against a gentle slope 100m from the ocean. Mature trees (some species of pine) provide shade and shelter, sites have braai places and there is a large ablution block with hot and cold water for toilets, showers and baths(!).
The hut at Double Mouth is quite possibly in the most idyllic location of any hut on any trail in South Africa – not even the huts on the Otter Trail are set more beautifully on the shoreline. Set less than 100 meters away from the camp site in a grove of banana trees, the hut is built on stilts and when you are sitting in the huge deck outside its front door you are a stones throw from the waves below.
Day 2: Double Mouth to Haga-Haga (9 km)
Double Mouth refers to two rivers which share a common mouth as they join just before reaching the coast. The river mouth is less than 1 km south of the hut and was ankle deep when we set out on the second day.
This was a short day and we arrived in Haga Haga at lunch time. No sooner had we enjoyed a hot shower and a quick pasta lunch prepared on the camping stove than a fairly impressive rain squall passed through and kept us indoors for the afternoon.
Staying in the small room at the back of the Haga Haga Hotel was a let-down after the spectacular hut at Double Mouth. This is no fault of the hotel or the trail however and a clean, functional room with a steaming hot shower more was ample compensation.
We had a drink in the lounge and dinner in the bar/restaurant at the hotel. The hotel has a small shop that stocks a wide range of basic necessities.
Day 3: Haga-Haga to Beacon Valley (23 km)
This was the longest day distance-wise, however we timed the low tide perfectly and the long section to Cintsa East became and easy walk along hard, level sand. Do
On arriving at Cintsa East we asked directions up to the closest place for a bite of lunch. Cintsa West passed by behind the dunes as we covered the last coastal section before choosing to take the “high tide” route which meandered slightly inland through cool, coastal forests.
Day 4: Beacon Valley to Gonubie (14.5 km)
Crossing the Kwelerha River turned out to be loads of fun. The water was less than wasit deep, crystal clear and the river bed sandy and fairly even with only small “holes” caused by the outgoing flow. I wore an old pair of Salomon trail shoes as we had been warned about sea-life and I have experience in crossing a river where the rocks on the far side were less than friendly. To be honest you could get by without these precautions but even a small mishap could prove disastrous to the rest of your hike.
So the last day was by far the toughest. Even though we still had the tide on our side, the closer we came to Gonubie, the tougher the going on soft sand and rocky beaches became.
Crossing the Gonubie River was slightly trickier than the Kwelerha River crossing, the water being deeper with very little visibility and a fairly strong flow.
We were picked up in front of the Gonubie Hotel where we dropped the key before heading home.