1. Makwani village, between Mbotyi and Magwa. Three homesteads (or households, each with a cluster of huts) remain. It is a beautiful, intensely resourced landscape that hides grinding poverty. As elder patriarchs die, their families depart for nearby villages with roads, schools and clinics. Further inland along this trail, the villages of Mzaba, Tsothsha and Mdeni are rapidly depopulating. Ndakane emptied out a decade ago.

    Once a veritable paradise for a sedentary farming lifestyle, built around large families that provided the intense labour necessary to thrive, it would require a very different approach, based on modern information-dense methodologies such as permaculture, to meet modern needs. But it would still require sizeable communities and a willingness to develop autonomous schooling and health systems.

    The area has been earmarked as a future national park for the last ten years.

  3. If the Wild Coast is an impact zone for the meeting of African continent and Indian Ocean, it has also been an impact zone for a dramatic human, cultural and ecological exchange between British colonisation and a last stand by a Mpondo culture that once had a fierce reputation for warrior independence. During the hundred years of battering wars initiated by the British against the neighbouring Xhosa, the Mpondo chose to stay aloof, becoming the last subjugated people of South Africa.

    By 1900 British missionaries, administrators, traders and military enforces reigned. In their wake came the plants of other countries, such as these Eucalyptus (gum) trees. Huge plantations exist around Mtambalala (and in many other places), originally serving as a ‘barrier’ between human habitation and the large sprawling indigenous forests of this area. Hidden forever is the blood of countless human beings massacred here by the last aberration of the colonial order, South Africa’s then bantustan Transkei, as it imposed these plantations against intense resistance.

    Mtambalala contains one of the most depressing human rights violations of the old order, never properly exposed in the post-1994 Truth and Reconciliation Commission process.

  4. Edge. Indian Ocean meets Africa. Behind lies a vast expanse to Antarctica. The African continental plate is stabilised, in contrast to other tectonic plates, including the small East African plate that has resulted in the rift valley formation that will in time rip that world away from the African continent.

    The wave forces rolling over this often dramatically stormy sea are humbled in comparison to the massive forces underlying deeper earth movements.

  5. Mostly inhabited by small, sparsely settled rural communities, northern Mpondoland - like most of the Wild Coast - plays host to small congregations of cottages. These cottages - here (above), at the mouth of the Luphatana river - originated as holiday homes for the small settler elite that inhabited the administrative and trading towns established in the wake of an intense missionary opening-up of the Eastern Cape during the nineteenth century, culminating in conquest by 1900.

    In their wake followed the alien infestations such as these bugweed plants (below) now a serious pest everywhere.

  6. Rock is a canvass for natural art, for soulful beauty, for meditative tranquility. It is also a niche for strangulation and colonisation. It is an exhibition, a study in ecology.

  8. Start of a river

    A fairly minor river, with its headstart about 5km from the sea. The surrounding grassland - Rhole, Lusikisiki area - is in excellent condition, sustaining large herds of cattle. The underlying bedrock ensures that agricultural cultivation is near-impossible, resulting in a very low human population. The erosion is not cattle (or human) induced; it is entirely natural, and a result of the heavy summer rains that drenches this area. The entire sequence of pictures were taken within a 2km length at most. The sand quality - very pure and white - surprised me. The bedrock gets exposed quite quickly; and shortly thereafter reeds and other soil-binding and filtering plant material start anchoring the soil.

  9. The Mzintlava (or Manteku, to locals) estuary is a magnificent site at any time. It is not a pristine site. A village is adjacent, and Drifters run the accommodation pictured below. But behind it the river flows though a significant stretch of forest, devoid of human presence, with all footpaths having yielded back to the forest, and with no roads - and thus no logging or other destructive impacts.

  10. Winter washes away; southern hemisphere. 

    The tide rolls in, Mzintlava estuary, Manteku.