When A Transkei Cottage Calls

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

For those travelling southward from a westerly direction, the journey to the beautiful Transkei coastline will take them via Eastern Cape. Whereas travellers from southern and northern region will make their way past the South Coast and Port Edward toward a spectacular land of beauty.

However, this week's journey will be a unique trip of time travel in history.

This well-travelled route during peak season periods, will see thousands more visitors paying homage to our beloved Madiba in and around his rural hometown of Qunu. This village is also where true to form, this erstwhile statesman’s love for children is displayed in the special tunnel built underneath the N2 freeway, which allows young children to reach the safety of their school without crossing the busy road. Qunu which is situated 30km north of Umtata, is where Madiba spent most of his childhood, but it was in the neighbouring hamlet of Mveso where he spent the earliest years of his life.

The surrounding villages of Idutywa and Mazeppa Bay, is where hikers travel on foot through the mountains and across coastlines to share a piece of the natural beauty of this region. It is also where families of all cultures and creed either make a tough living through farming or fishing, or come to enjoy unforgettable seaside holidays.

As “owners” and tenants of holiday cottages, some families had obtained the once famous 100-year leases from small local municipalities. The property rights of those tenants and so called owners of bygone eras spoke of informal agreements, which while being upheld to reasonable standards, were a far cry from today’s well regulated rental and ownership procedures. Many a fisherman's cottage built below high tide shoreline restrictions, remain popular today despite challenging weather conditions and shortcomings of sound building practices seen in bigger towns. Fishing families were provided a fair living amid spectacular surroundings, while regular holiday makers contribute to the sparse local economies of the region.

Previously known as Eastern Pondoland, and the place of nomadic San and Khoi people, the Amo Pondo region is home to12 different Xhosa-speaking tribes, who remain experts in the fields of cattle and grain farming. This is also where historically, kings and their royal offspring determined not only the land borders, but also the farming of livestock and food distribution to local communities. Homesteads, complete with huts and fields are passed on through the sons in families, and usually remain home to all generations despite younger who leave to explore employment opportunities in large cities.

What has remained a fascination to most, in addition to traditional land ownership rights, is the rural custom of elders who remain physically and socially active in their cultural communities. They say their longevity is mostly due to no excesses and remaining welcome residents in their childhood villages. Reaching a ripe old age in these communities, also means that the elders feel needed to help care for young children, while their parents seek employment elsewhere.

With Butterworth as the oldest town in the Transkei, visitors and new residents have much to explore, both from a tourism and ecological perspective in and around picturesque villages such as Haga Haga, Hluleka, and Hole in the Wall, Coffee Bay, Umgazi and more. This coastline offers pristine hiking trails and shipwreck sites, most which are only accessible on foot through dense vegetation of forests and protected mountain reserve areas.

While open cast mining and new freeway proposals may change unconventional property ownership opportunities in the future, the unbeatable lifestyle on the Transkei coast will remain a sought-after commodity.

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