A typical scene on the walk through one of South Africa's last frontiers (all photos: Bindya Parbat)
Words: Conor Eastment
The Mountain and Ski Club (MSC), has consistently been one of the largest societies at UCT. Formed and run by a bunch of outdoor adrenaline enthusiasts, we tend to enjoy exploring areas rarely frequented. Almost every week we have the opportunity to send people out onto the mountains, crags, slacklines and while bad weather doesn’t normally stop us, there is the option of an indoor session at the climbing wall on middle campus - a little closer to home.
All this ‘hard work’ normally culminates during the vac’s when our members have more time to gallivant around pristine natural environments. Ice Climbing in the Drakensberg? Chainsaws and alien vegetation in the Cape Fold Belt Mountains? What about chasing a low- pressure system to catch some snow on the slopes of Waaihoek? These are some of the things MSC likes to get up to.
However, there is further opportunity within the club for those who like their gallivanting to be slightly more progressive and adventurous. The club has an annual expedition fund available for members to apply for. Basically, the person with the coolest expedition idea gets money for their wanderlust. Previously this has sent expeditions to the Himalayas, Mt. Kenya, Mt. Elbrus in Russia, Patagonia to name a few.
This year, the fund supported a slightly different style expedition. Replacing crampons, down jackets and climbing chalk with spearfishing guns, bucket hats and spaza shops. For approximately one month, a group of stoked hikers set out to trek the distance of the Transkei.
Historically a significant area of South Africa, the Transkei was formed during the Apartheid regime as a Bantustan predominantly for Xhosa South Africans. Starting on the border of the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal in the sleepy town of Port Edward, the 280km route winds south along the grasslands and cliffs of the Wild Coast ending on the banks of the Great Kei River Mouth.
Many nights of DMC's were had in places we are almost sure no one has set up camp in before.
Our expedition was not the first time anyone has trekked this route, in fact there used to be a formal path with hiking huts and set routes for each day. However, the maintenance of the route quickly deteriorated leaving the full route predominantly untouched, apart from a few small sections such as that between Port St. Johns and Coffee Bay. As a result, the MSC group executed the full route with no assistance. Relying on the large size of their backpacks, reducing capacity of their stomachs and natural resources surrounding them, to become part of a select group of adventurers to have witnessed the true magic of the Transkei, its majestic landscape and hospitable people.
If you manage to bump into one of the blessed few who participated in this expedition you’ll probably struggle to get them to stop talking about how amazing the experience was.
There is real adventure and unique beauty within our country, you’ve just got to get up and go find it. A carbon emitting flight across the globe is not always necessary to find adventure.
Don’t agree? Apply to MSC’s expedition fund next year and maybe you could get some support to go and find out for yourself.