MDUMBI, DWESA & THE MOTHERLOAD OF RAIN
A pretty cool thing happened at Mdumbi. We had just set up camp and were about to drive to the local tavern to stock up on beers, when two people walked over and asked if we had a blog called Pass the Map. A bit sheepishly, we responded in the affirmative. Turns out Albert and Alexia, a very nice couple from East London, had mapped out a little bit of their Malawi honeymoon using our blog. They had even stopped off at magical Makuzi Beach, one of our favourite places in the world. We tend to forget that other people actually stumble upon this thing from time to time – bumping into Albert and Alexia was a most pleasant reminder.
Mdumbi Backpackers is a little piece of Wild Coast paradise, about 20km north of Coffee Bay. It’s a relatively easy drive from Port St Johns, if you take the N2 to just past Umtata, then head down the tarred Coffee Bay road. Turn left a few kilometers before town, and from there it’s only about 20km on a fairly decent gravel road. But we weren’t so keen on that route. Looking at our map, it seemed like there was a whole network of roads running between the N2 and the coast. So, armed with another piece of paper from John Costello – this time a photocopied Slignsby’s Wild Coast Map – we set off down the coast for Mdumbi. Peter Slingsby’s maps are excellent and have amazing detail – we’d highly recommend getting your hands on one if you’re planning a trip through the Wild Coast. We pulled into the Mdumbi carpark about four hours later, after negotiating one or two river crossings and driving through some of the most beautiful countryside we’ve ever seen. Around about the same time, we noticed big, angry storm clouds rolling in from the south.
Over the next few days, we experienced most kinds of rain that you can get. It certainly wasn’t camping weather, but it was Easter and we didn’t have a reservation, so we took whatever we could get. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. In the gaps between the rain, we managed to squeeze in an awesome paddle up the mangrove-lined Mdumbi estuary, as well as a bit of beach time. Mdumbi’s beach has been hailed as one of the best in South Africa, and regardless of the weather, it’s easy to see why. We were a bit sad, however, to see jet-skis roaring up and down the river and through the waves. They might be fun for whoever’s driving them, but that’s where the fun ends.
Our next stop was the Dwesa Nature Reserve, roughly 100km down the coast. Again, we stuck to the coastal tracks, many of which were in a terrible condition after all the rain. Needless to say, it was very slow going.
This time we did have a reservation – a charming little wooden cabin set right in the forest. Considering it was still pouring with rain when we arrived, we were over-the-moon to finally be out of the tent. Incredibly, it just kept on raining (and raining and raining) at Dwesa. It was a pity, as neither of us had ever been and we were super keen to explore the forests and the rugged, undeveloped coastline on foot. But we could hardly get worked up about it – according to the lady in the office, it had been a really dry summer, and these late rains were a welcome relief.
At R316 per night for a 2-sleeper, the Dwesa cabins are some of the best value for money accommodation we’ve encountered in South Africa. Even better, there’s no cell reception or electricity. Each cabin does have a gas fridge though, and if you’re nice to the guys at the office, you can charge your camera or laptop there. We’d love to get back to Dwesa at some point. It’s a bit of a mission to get to, which is always a good thing, and judging by the little bits of forest and coastline we did see, it’s a pristine piece of coastal wilderness just waiting to be explored.
Naturally, just like in all good rainy holiday stories, we awoke to beautiful blue skies on our last morning. We were tempted to stay another night. But the journey was calling – it was time to hit the road.