When you talk about budget accommodation, it’s inevitable that you will end up at a backpackers, at some point. As with everything else, there is the good, the bad and the ugly but, as we actually enjoyed our stay at Coffee Shack, we’ll just focus on the first category.
Yes, we have had bad experiences but I’m happy to report that this wasn’t one of them. Since we want this site to be a resource for other travelers, we see no point in listing the bad ones so, let’s stay focused, shall we?
Let’s talk about the logistics…the road to from Mthatha isn’t great. In fact, as we drove towards Coffee Bay, a well meaning person pulled up next to us and said, “you know this road turns into a gravel road, right?”. Suffice to stay, the look on my stunned face said it all.
Of course, since we were both going about 80km/h, we didn’t get any details about exactly WHEN this fairly decent road would become less decent (to put it mildly), so we spent the rest of the drive, panicking.
I should mention here that since Mthatha was super busy as we drove through (imagine Black Friday at the Hypermarket), we didn’t want to stop for a toilet break, thinking we would find a petrol station near the outskirts of town that would be quieter. In the words of Julia Roberts, “BIG mistake. Big. Huge mistake!”
It doesn’t take long for that gravel road to appear on the horizon and we have NO idea how long the road will be in this condition. Finally, after about 25km of really crappy gravel, we finally find ourselves back on tarred road. Hooray! And even better news, there is a petrol station in sight. Then we find out that said petrol station has no water and toilets are out of order. I could have cried, if my eyeballs weren’t already floating.
Fortunately, we had fairly decent road all the way to Coffee Bay from that point but it was slow going, as we had to wait for the pigs to cross the road, squealing indignantly when we dared to hurry them up. Not a euphemism. There were literally pigs, cows and geese crossing the road!
The first thing we asked when we arrived at Coffee Shack was, “which way to the bathroom!?”. Once we checked in, we were given a tour of the backpackers and found out about all the things that happen everyday. You can sign up for surfing lessons at just R50 per session which including 2 hours tuition and all equipment. They also go on different outings every day, and you must remember to add your name to the list for supper every night (at a cost of about R75/night).
As with all backpackers, the shared kitchen is available and you are welcome to help yourself to coffee and tea. Although we were a bit surprised that it’s a shared ablution block vibe when it comes to toilets, we found the facilities to be very clean and it was perfectly acceptable for our 2 night stay.
I’m so glad they were fully booked when we were there, as we were allocated this dorm near the staff accommodation, which was away from the all night parties and boozing. You can specifically request quiet accommodation when you book with them.
The only reason we were there was to visit the Hole in the Wall anyway and this was the ideal base. Staff are very friendly and helpful and they are super knowledgeable about the area. While you can walk to the Hole, it will take you about 3 hours and, we found that the longest the kids are willing to walk is about 2.5 hours less than that.
The road to the Hole in the Wall is truly horrendous. We managed with our Polo, but only just. The steep hills and huge potholes added about 60 new grey hairs. Due to the gradient of the hills, you have to rev like crazy to make it to the top, but you have to do it while avoiding the potholes. The number of downhills meant that my stomach was in knots, contemplating the trip back to Coffee Shack. I’m actually getting anxious all over again, just thinking about it.
Coffee Shack does offer trips to the Hole twice a week but, since we arrived between the 2 excursions, we just missed out on the opportunity to join them. If you stay with them and you’re there at the right time, you will probably be able to join them and save yourself the stress. Give them a call and check when would be the best time to book so that your visit will intersect with their excursions. Also, Sunday nights are free supper nights. We enjoyed a hearty potjie with the yummiest isiXhosa bread I’ve ever tasted.
Supper is also a great time to mingle with the other guests. Of course, when you meet someone from Seoul and you say, “oh yes, you guys had the Olympics a few years ago!” and he responds with, “yes, that was in 1988…before I was born”, then you realize how friggen ancient you are and you want to curl up and die right there.
But it was fun. We enjoyed our stay at Coffee Shack and would definitely visit again, the next time we’re in the area.
Disclaimer: We enjoyed a complimentary stay at Coffee Shack in exchange for a blog post but all thoughts and words are our own. If we didn’t like it, we wouldn’t write about it.