26 July 2013 by Andrea Weiss

Through the Gates on the Qolora River in the Eastern Cape

What better way to spend a morning than navigating a beautiful river on the Wild Coast?

The Qolora River is navigable for short stretches

Should one be apprehensive about the prospect of bushwhacking up a river with a bunch of teenage boys?

The boys have kept us waiting at Trennerys Hotel on the Wild Coast, but we can’t claim it’s a hardship. Laid-back is the name of the game on this stretch of coastline in the Eastern Cape, and the sound of the sea makes the wait all the more enticing.

And here are the Gates, a narrow gorge with steep cliffs rising on either side (the remnants of a geological fault and water erosion). The water beneath us is said to be 7m deep.

The trip we are about to embark on is a three-hour outing by boat and on foot that will take us 1.5km up the Qolora River, from the mouth through a gorge to a waterfall and a deep pool, with a tempting high jump for the brave at heart.

The boys are from Rondebosch Boys’ High School in Cape Town and the local Isolomzi High School, teamed up for a winter holiday outreach programme. Our guides are Trevor Wigley, who grew up at a nearby trading station and is thus fluent in Xhosa, and Carlos Nkonki, a qualified nature guide.

First we take our seats on a launch that ferries us upstream to a spot next to a cliff, where some goats with blue horns are waiting for us (no, not a new species, just their owner’s way of keeping track).

Next, Trevor and Carlos lead us through the riverine forest, stopping occasionally to point out medicinal trees and plants, boulder-hopping across the river again to a second pool.

Trevor Wigley talks about the indigenous forest

Carlos (who’d disappeared a short while earlier) reappears in another, smaller boat that will ferry us in groups past banks covered in wild banana (actually a giant strelitzia). It’s primeval, green and beautiful.

Carlos Nkonki at the helm

And here are the Gates, a narrow gorge with steep cliffs rising on either side (the remnants of a geological fault and water erosion). The water beneath us is said to be 7m deep.

The Gates
Looking skyward at the Gates

Carlos docks the boat yet again at the end of this stretch of water, and we disembark to clamber over the rocks to the swimming pool. This is as far as we will go, but also the moment the boys have been waiting for.

The brave among them strip down to their swimming costumes and clamber up to a rock from which they leap, adopting exaggerated poses as they do so.

A long way down

The boys have been great: teasing their teachers, breaking into song here and there, joking among themselves, and yet, also, considerate and appreciative.

The pool

As I watch them messing about in the water, I think that you’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend a morning. And that these boys will probably remember their time in this little patch of paradise for the rest of their lives.

Where? Trennerys Hotel, Qolora, Wild Coast, East London. Ask the hotel to put you in touch with Trevor Wigley, who operates a business that takes visitors to many unusual and interesting spots on this stretch of the Wild Coast, just north of the Kei River. Tel +27 (0)47 498 0095

Trevor Wigley, at the far end of the boat, is an old hand when it comes to taking people to the Gates

Category: Adventure, Attractions

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