Before reading this post, read Part 1 of the Blogitects’ Excellent (Mis)adventures.
Thorsten and I woke up early on Friday morning, eager to explore the Kosi Mouth beach and estuary. Amangwane Camp sits right beside the entrance to the nature reserve, run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and the beach is about ten minutes’ drive down a steep, sandy forest road.
A few notes on accessing Kosi Mouth:
- You need an Ezemvelo park permit (R60 per person plus R60 per car) to get into the park, and you can’t buy the permit at the Kosi Mouth gate. It’s best to enquire about this at the lodge where you stay — we bought our permits at Amangwane.
- A 4×4 vehicle is required to drive down to Kosi Mouth. The road is sand and you might slip and slide a bit — apparently that’s part of the experience — but we made it without a problem. (Our car was a 4×4.) You can also hike down to Kosi Mouth — it’s about two kilometers each way.
- Depending on the tides, it can be tricky to walk from the car park to the beach. We arrived at high tide and embarrassingly had trouble finding the beach, because the water in the estuary reached right to the edge of the forest and the ocean wasn’t visible. But eventually we found a helpful car guard/guide named Patrick, who showed us the way to the beach.
It’s funny that we struggled to find the beach because it’s freaking huge.
Thorsten threw his things down and plunged into the Indian Ocean, despite my incessant calls (screams) of “Be careful!” The currents were really strong, pulling straight out to sea, and there are obviously no lifeguards at Kosi Mouth. But eventually I joined him, cautiously. Despite the current, the water was shallow and surprisingly warm. We enjoyed a brief swim and then wandered over to the calmer waters inside the mouth, watching the tide move swiftly out to sea.
The weather was perfect — warm but not hot, with a light breeze. The only other people around were Patrick and a couple of local fisherman, way off in the distance. I laid back on my towel, put my hat over my face, and briefly dozed off in a moment of pure bliss.
We went snorkeling in the estuary, saw scores of colorful fish, then dried off and made our way back up to Amangwane for lunch.
In the afternoon we drove about 30 minutes south to the Kosi Bay section of the nature reserve, where we strolled out onto a long dock and stared into the calm waters of the lake. Thorsten went for a swim (I watched from the dock), then we walked ashore to admire Kosi Bay’s huge raffia palm trees.
On our way back to Amangwane, we stopped at a tiny roadside stall advertising “Extra Hot Chillis for Sale”. Nelli, the stall owner, buys her chilli sauce from across the border in Mozambique.
We bought a bottle and tried it that night in the guacamole I made. It’s one of the best chilli sauces I’ve ever tasted. We bought two more bottles on our way out of town.
The rains began that night. It was nice listening to the patter on the roof of our tent. But the next morning — Saturday, which was supposed to be our last day in Kosi Bay — we weren’t sure what to do. It wasn’t raining hard (hardly at all, in fact), but driving or walking down to Kosi Mouth seemed like a risk given the torrential rains predicted. We considered spending the day lounging around Amangwane, reading and napping, but thought we might regret doing nothing.
I wish I could go back and shake this Heather of two weeks ago. “Relax, godammit!” I would yell at her. “Calm the fuck down. Trust me, you will not regret this. Just lie in bed with Katie and READ, you idiot.”
But the Heather of two weeks ago (and Thorsten, too) wanted to make best use of the day, rain or not. We decided to drive to Tembe Elephant Park.
Road Trip Destination #3: Tembe Elephant Park
Tembe Elephant Park is a Big 5 game reserve, also part of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and is famous for being home to the largest elephants in Africa. It’s a self-drive park, but most of the roads are sand so 4×4 is required.
Tembe is just under an hour from Kosi Bay, and seemed like the next best option to the beach. But Tembe did not work for us. Here’s why:
1) Despite a lot of driving around, we spotted very few animals in Tembe. We saw lots of impala and nyala, one giraffe, and a glimpse of three elephant butts. But it was a slow game-viewing day, probably because of the rain, and normally this would be no big deal, but…
2) A couple of hours into our drive, right as we reached the most far-flung section of the park, we hit something. We would later learn it was an impala skull. Then we immediately heard a loud WHOOSH on the passenger side of the car. I got out (quickly, as this was a Big 5 game reserve with elephants and lions around) and discovered two flat tires. Yes, that’s right. Two.
We hardly noticed that the rain had stopped.
I looked at the map. We were about eight kilometers (five miles) from the park entrance and hadn’t seen another car all day. I grabbed my phone: no signal. I looked at Thorsten, who was several feet behind the car, staring angrily at the little impala skull in his hand. I screamed my refrain: “BE CAREFUL!”.
I considered the prospect of spending Saturday night in the wildest reaches of Tembe Elephant Park, peeing into my water bottle and praying Africa’s largest tuskers don’t decide to play kick the can with our car.
“What do we do?” I wailed to Thorsten, who had no immediate answer. “What the fuck do we doooooo?!”
In the end, we drove. Or Thorsten drove while I clutched the armrest and tried not to pass out. Thorsten drove eight kilometers to the park entrance, on two flat tires, because he had no other choice. Fortunately the roads were soft and sandy — otherwise we never would have made it.
The two tires were ripped to shreds, and so were my nerves. But the story doesn’t end here, of course. This was only day four of what turned to be a ten-day journey.