A bit like a thriller movie where you know everything’s going to turn out all right, you still get caught up in the exhilaration and challenge of the unpredictable terrain. We take the scenic coastal 4X4 route from Kosi Forest Lodge down to Thonga Beach Lodge. As relatively inexperienced off-road drivers, this is the perfect opportunity to test our skills in relative safety. We alert the Thonga Lodge staff that if we don’t arrive in several hours, they must please come and find us. Inquiring about cellphone signal, the answer is evasive – “It’s patchy but just climb up a nearby hill or two and you might get lucky. Oh, and by the way, don’t use GPS, it will get you lost.”
And so we set out intrepidly from Kosi Forest Lodge “straight” towards the coast. As we drive the homesteads lessen and we enter a wild wetland, passing shallow, deep blue lakes where storks rest undisturbed. Following the directions “After the homestead with the wooden fence, head straight over the dune” we rise up onto the peak at Dog Point, a lush dune overlooking a vast and stunning swimming beach. We feel like early pioneers, privileged guests in a space where few tourists have been before.
After a picnic lunch and delicious swim, we turn right and follow the sandy coastal road. The assurances “it’s the only road” lead to some intense debate about the myriad of criss-crossing tracks to and from the beaches along the way. We take a wrong turn and get stuck on one steep sandy pass, but we are able to roll backwards and turn back to the main road.
We drive through pristine indigenous forest and climb more steep sand dunes, passing exotic-sounding coastal resorts with names like Black Rock, Rocktail Bay, Lala Nek, Manzengwenya Beach and Island Rock.
Finally we see the welcome Cashew Nut Road and we know we are nearly at Thonga, to be welcomed with homemade iced tea and cool washcloths. Afterwards we are full of “that wasn’t so bad”s and we find ourselves highly recommending the adventurous route to the first person we encounter. It really is a spectacular opportunity to go where few have been before and is one of the highlights of our beautiful experience of the two remote Isibindi lodges. Go on – just do it!