Authur: Sylvia von Lindeiner – Wildau

There is a little place in the Transkei called Coffee Bay which can fully be described as a hippie paradise perfect for all the gypsy souls roaming along the coast from one backpacker hostel to the other.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, a cargo ship stranded at this very place in the wild coast and spilt a shipment of coffee beans all over the seashore. Apparently, some of these beans took root and started to grow into baby coffee bean trees but, unfortunately, the conditions were not suitable and they did not endure. This is where Coffee Bay got its name.

The first time I arrived at Coffee Bay in the Wild Coast was over ten years ago. As a young 20-year-old girl ready to explore the world on her own and seeking as much adventure as possible. I still remember it as if it was yesterday. It was after having spent almost two weeks in Port Shepstone that I decided to move on with my travels and head to the wild coast. I caught a lift with an Irish guy who also stayed in Port Shepstone for a few days to Port St Johns. This was where I met a group of Germans who said they still had space in their car and were planning to travel to Coffee Bay in a few days and I decided to tag along.

Once we arrived in this little town we immediately got hit by the vibe. The reggae music playing in the background somewhere, the typical long haired hippies in their tie-dyed shirts and the general feeling of chilled relaxation hanging about the hammocks under the trees and people chilling near the Babalaza bar. As soon as you go for a stroll to explore the town (which mainly consists of two streets and a river) you will find a handful of local kids selling their wares “You want mushrooms?”

The Transkei is a wanderer’s paradise. No time, no rules, no restrictions. You just lose yourself in the sense of the place.

Coffee Bay has one of the most beautiful beaches. So my new group of friends and I spent time at the beach all day, be it playing cricket, surfing or just chilling and listening to the typical odd person play the guitar and sing. We went for amazing hikes to Hole in the Wall followed by long picnics at the beach or bumpy rides back to Coffee Bay in the back of someone’s bakkie. Yeah- pretty weird- we thought the same- but it was all part of the vibe. The evenings were either spent at the bar (where all buffalo rules apply) or in the little hut we shared listening to music, laughing for hours, talking endless rubbish or just watching the stars. We didn’t care about anything in the world. We had no worries. We were young and wild and free. Literally.

Who we were, where we came from- none of that mattered. Which was the beauty of it all- In normal lives, what you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. But in that moment of our life’s we were what we were right there and then. People had no past to hold against anyone. No yesterdays on the road. Just here and then. It was a beautiful time of our lives.

This was my first experience of Coffee Bay. I always remembered it with special memories and always wanted to return to this crazy place.

So when I was 24 my boyfriend at the time and I headed back to this crazy place that caught a special place in my heart. This time I experienced Coffee Bay in a completely different way. It now turned into the perfect romantic place one could think of. It wasn’t about meeting new friends and all that. It was more about us two and our time together. Even though the town itself was a bit more developed and commercial, we still had endless empty, untouched beaches to ourselves. (ok- not completely empty- we had to share with a few cows) and a little hut right on the beach. We watched the sun go down while sitting on top of the hills with a bottle of wine and started our days early with walks on the beach. The Babalaza bar still existent and was where we met a few other travelers who partied a bit with us on one night. But we didn’t overdo it or anything. We rather had early and well spent days exploring nature.

My second experience of Coffee Bay was therefore also indescribable as I now experienced it as this amazing, romantic little place in the middle of nowhere. And it made me realize that love makes you see a place differently.

Three years later I returned once again. This time, however, with a few friends I studied with in Port Alfred for a quick weekend getaway. It was different. I am glad that I did not stay in the same hostel once again as I think this would have ruined my memories of Coffee Bay even more.

My perfect little romantic-hippie-getaway was packed with young students and backpackers and the parties were pumping. I am not sure if it was just my perception or if it really changed into more of a commercial touristy town.

I think what it really was, was that it was a different time in my life. I outgrew Coffee Bay. Sometimes you shouldn’t always return to places that already hold the most amazing memories. They were amazing at that time in your life for a reason. How could the previous times in this little town have possibly been topped. What did I think? This time when I returned I was no longer in the adventurous phase of a 20-year-old girl who felt young and wild and free nor was I in love.

Yes- the natural beauty of Coffee Bay and Hole in the Wall was obviously still there… and I obviously also partied with everyone else and joined in with all fun activities- but my last visit to this beautiful town made me sad in a way as it made me realise that at times one should not always return to places with incredible memories.

It taught me a lesson. I now believe- as amazing as it was back then- it would have been enough to leave it at that. I’m not saying I had a bad time the third time- but it couldn’t hold up with the previous times. And to cut a long story short: Don’t ruin your memories. Rather create new ones in new places.

Travel isn’t always pretty- sometimes you can return to the most amazing place which may hold beautiful memories of your past- and it will hurt. Because it will make you realise that life carries on… everywhere. Travel can therefore also break your heart in a way- but that’s okay. The journey changes you and it should!

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