Wild Coast Trail: Mngazi to Coffee Bay
Duration of the hike: It's a five day trail, but you can change it to suit your needs, as long as you make sure to finish in a place with access to the main roads. You can hike in either direction.
Number of hikers in the group: There seems to be no limit, but a minimum of three hikers is advisable to spread the cost.
Fitness: You have to be fairly fit, even if you're not carrying a backpack. The distances vary from 12 to 16km per day, and some of the hills are long and steep.
Safety: We never had any reason to feel threatened or unsafe. The people we met were friendly and our guide Mbuyie seemed to know everyone that crossed our path. We slept with our doors open.
Best time to go: Any time of the year is good, but bear in mind that the Wild Coast is in a summer rainfall area.
Get a good map: We used Peter Slingsby's Wild Coast map, second edition (www.themaps.co.za). It provides loads of additional details of lodges and contact telephone numbers. A GPS might have come in handy, but our guide assured us that there was one in his head!
Packing tips: Pack as for a normal hike, but leave the food and sleeping gear at home. Remember a windbreaker and rain gear, and take a book for the down time in the afternoons. Pack your favourite snacks. For lunch, you can buy things like bread and tinned food at the many spaza shops along the way, and cold beer and cooldrinks at shebeens. Our gas stove came in handy to heat up food for lunch.
Travel tips: The roads are in a terrible state. Expect roadworks and long delays. The drivers of minibus taxis are as reckless as their city counterparts. Take water in the car and make sure the spare tyre is in good shape. Try to travel during the day, as cattle often wander onto the roads. Allow a full day at each end of the hike for traveling home.
Cost: When you book, make sure to choose the fully catered package, with dinner, bed and breakfast at either VBAs or backpacker lodges plus the necessary shuttles included. Your guide can arrange for porters. Besides the cost of getting to Port St Johns, be prepared to spend about R2500 per person. The porters ask an additional R150 per day per porter.
Contact: We booked through Paul Colvin of SA Adventure Trails (082 323 4022; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.trails.co.za). You can also contact guide Mbuyiselo Mangala directly on 084 725 5904 or email@example.com