The Coffee Shack

Our descent into Coffee Bay is a knuckle biting shitshow. After blowing the right tire I proceed to smash the new spare off of countless massive potholes all hidden by puddles formed by the torrential downpour. The pea soup fog is seriously not helping. Yes, Dean and Waldo had both warned us against driving at night for this very reason (and also because of animals in the road, drunk drivers aaaand frequent carjackings), yet here we are in that exact situation like the fucking fools that we are. We can’t even blame this blunder on alcohol.

With our collective will shell-shocked and the tire iron in the wheel well we both agree that it is well past due to harden the fuck up and get serious about the seriousness of this trip and our self preservation.

We finally make it to the water and the road skirts around towards some lights that we assume is Coffee Bay. “Let’s just find a place to crash and get a fucking beer.” I hear that, I’ve been driving for over 8 hours now and this last part has been stress city. Could use some food too, we haven’t eaten since mowing down leftover schweinshaxe from Bierfassl back in Sani Pass.

We come up to a split in the road, cross a river on a little bridge and head towards some buildings. There’s a gated place with what looks like a hotel behind it. A sign says laundry. That’s a good idea. I flip on the Hosdar. Hmmm not really feeling this place, Ocean View, all the lights are off, gate is closed, not sure it’s even open. Isn’t close to anything either, “Let’s get a little further into Coffee Bay and see what it’s all about. Try to find a cool hostel.”

We back track across the bridge and head further in. At night in the dark rain it’s hard to get a sense of what anything’s about. The town is tiny and has one road in that turns to dirt as you get close to the smattering of buildings on the hillside. We carefully navigate a loop around the place to see what it has to offer. Doesn’t look like much. A pizza joint, a burger joint, a hostel that says it’s booked (shit)… that’s pretty much it.

We come to a corner store with a washed out road beside it. “Couple of signs for hostels down there.” We tentatively take the Polo down the road a sec… nope, too sketchy, it’s scraping the underbelly, fuck. This car is never going to make it to Cape Town. I awkwardly spin it around and park in front of the corner store. It’s called Bomvu River Store.

We hop out and take a look at the car for damage. The rain has stopped, thankfully. New tire seems ok. No cracks, no fluids leaking. These Polos are the most abundant vehicle we’ve seen on the roads so far. Hopefully they’re the Hilux of hatchbacks.

Across the road a car comes out of a gated parking area. It pulls up right beside us and the driver rolls down the window. “Howzit guys? Saw you go down and turn around. Do you guys need help?”, “Just gonna look for a place to stay.” The guy thumbs behind him, “Friends backpackers. Lots of availability. 150 a person or up to 600 for a private (10 – 40 bucks). Just go tell them what you want. Talk to Darvy at the gate over there”, “Awesome man. Thanks a lot!”, “No problem, you guys have a good night.”

We walk down to the gate he pointed at, open it and walk inside. The entrance is dark. Hmmm go right? Nope nothing over here. Left? Come to a door. It’s locked. Ahhh no buzzer or anything. “Darvy?” Nothing. Weird.

We start to hear a drum circle in the distance, further down the road. “Follow the sound?”, “Yeah let’s check it out. This place is totally empty and weird.” We walk back out the gate and down the road. There’s a din of conversation mixed with moving water. There are signs for another hostel called the Coffee Shack down by the ocean.

We get to the coffee shack and it’s a full on party. The drum circle sound is a couple of African dudes showing some young Euro-types how to play djembes. The place is teaming with a massive posse of probably 50 early 20-somethings. Sounds like they’re all French. 

We go up to the front desk and there’s a lady behind it helping some girls get towels. We wait for her to finish and she politely introduces herself as Belinda. “Wow, you’re the second Belinda we’ve met today” (The other being Dean’s wife from the Hawklee Lodge). We ask if they’ve got a room and she says they only have one room left. It’s an En-suite double, across the beach on the hill. Sounds perfect. “Sorry, there are a bunch of happy French people here”, “Ohhhh they must have won the World Cup!” (a group of them are dancing on the bar now next to the drums), “Yes, exactly. Now they’re drunk as skunks down there having a time. Whole bus full of them”, “Ha, that’s great. We’ll have to join them.” “Looks like WiFi is down for the night. Sorry. Follow me, I’ll give you a tour.” She comes around the desk and walks us out to the main courtyard.

“Are you hungry? We’ll get you some food”, “Famished, actually.” Belinda dips into the kitchen, “Oh sorry, the kitchen is closed”, “No worries, we’ll fend for ourselves”, “Oh, just kidding, she says they’ll make you something anyways. Here’s a ticket for the bar. Just go in and grab whatever beer you like.”   

We walk passed a group of singing French folk and into the bar crowded with more singing French Folk. We trade our tickets for a couple of beer called Hansa. Free food and a beer on check in? The room is only 25 bucks or so. This place is awesome. They back that up with an amazing location right on a beach by the Indian Ocean, a massive firepit, cool bar w a pool table, what looks like a surf school and rental equipment, and a large, comfortable outdoor partially covered seating/dining/drinking/lounging area. Our Hosdar is strong.

Thanks for the reminder Hansa but I’ve already proven my driving ability to be significantly reduced today without your help.

We come out of the bar with our Hansas and Belinda is there with two massive plates of rice, stew and bread. Whaaa? This is the free meal? That their closed kitchen just whipped up for us? Ok, this place is killing it. It’s damn delicious too!

“Sit and eat and I’ll get Nomanda to take you to the cabin when you’re done.” So nice, we scored big time on this find.

Peter and I sit and eat our stews while we watch some highlights from the France / Croatia final. Ahhh this is great. Needed to relax after nuking the tire and that terrible drive. And Symptom. I grab us a couple more beers from the bar and we take a minute after our meals to just de-frag. This is nice.

We go back to the front desk, Nomanda perks up and hops off the counter, “All ready?” She walks us back out to the front road, “Where’s your car? Let’s drive over there.” She jumps in the front seat of our car, makes fun of how shitty it is, and takes us across to the cottage over the bay and beach. She’s funny. Constantly making fun of us for our accents, nationalities and especially the spare tire. “Nope, nope not this way. You’re gonna have to u-turn now. Why you going left?”, “He’s Canadian. A left-hand driver”, “Oh you gonna need to adjust fast here, boy. No that’s a drain, please don’t drive into the drain. You know how to drive though, right?” She’s a riot. These African girls are spunky.

We get out and she walks us up to a little round hut on the hill that looks back across the water to the main area. “There’s a gate down there and a path to the beach. You can walk across rocks in the river back to the bar. Just watch where I go when I leave. All good?”, “Yep, I think so”, “You’ll figure it out, let’s get a beer later.” And she skips down the hill, through the gate, and across some rocks back to the main area.

Well this is cool, we’ve got a little hut to ourselves on the cheap. We drop our stuff off and take a break with some road beers on the bed and a little table.

We open up Megan and Waldo’s roadtrip care package and down the milk stout and then get a little flavor shock when one of the beers Megan gave us has a lemon taste to it. Oh yeah, look at that. It’s like a nummy shandy.

There’s a handy notice in our cabin’s bathroom about HIV. Major problem in Africa, I’m glad to see Coffee Shack promoting this level of awareness in their hostel. I wonder how many free condoms they’re gonna dish out to these drunk Frenchies tonight.

Alright let’s go back and see what Belinda, Nomanda and the flock of French are up to.

It’s dark. Where are those rocks? Well the tide’s receded enough to just walk across the shallows towards the lights.

We grab a couple more Hansa from the bar and chill outside. Looks like Belinda is done with work, she spots us in the crowd and comes right over to chat. She’s got a good smelling hot toddy. She’s been here 18 years. Says it’s a bit of a hassle at times but for the most part it’s fun owning the Coffee Shack. She gets to meet a lot of people. We ask about a tire place in town, might have to get a spare before we leave in case we blow another tire on other shit roads on the way to Cape Town. Magic Tire maybe. She says we can get to PE (Port Elizabeth) or just passed it on a good drive tomorrow. Will probably take 7 hours or so.

“Alright boys, enjoy. I’m off to bed. If you need anything, ask Nomanda.” “Nighty night!”

“So Belinda’s are super nice”, Peter starts giggling, “What’s so funny?”, “Have you ever listened to the podcast Belinda Blinked?”, “Belinda Blinked? What the hell is that?”, he pulls out his phone, “Oh dude, this shit’s hilarious. Oh yeah here it is. My Dad Wrote a Porno”, “My Dad Wrote a Porno?! Ok, I’ve gotta know what we’re talking about here”, “This dude’s dad wrote a porno. They read it on the podcast and comment on how fucking silly it is. It’s bloody brilliant dude, you’ll love it. I’m downloading them now.” Sounds ridiculous. This should make for some fun listens as we cross South Africa.

We have a few more beer chilling in a couple of adirondack chairs shooting the shit while My Dad Wrote a Porno downloads. The drunk French dudes are starting to go to bed. One is sunning his bare ass at the firepit. Another almost takes a header onto the stone steps. These guys are wasted.

Alright, we’re exhausted and have another 8 hour drive or some shit tomorrow to Port Elizabeth where we can start this Garden Route that we’ve heard so much about. Time to cross the river back to our hut. The countdown to the SASS is on! Just two days and we’ll be hanging with Mark in Cape Town.

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