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When a Cows Falls in the Transkei

One of the any things I love about travel is learning about different cultures.

I recently spent some time in the Transkei / Wild Coast region and enjoyed a half day hike from Coffee Bay to Hole in the Wall. Our guide, Joseph, was a young, friendly and well spoken man who was born right there in Coffee Bay and now works as a tour guide at the FTTSA accredited Coffee Shack backpackers. The hike can easily be done without a guide as it's basically impossible to get lost but I found our guide made the whole experience more interesting as he knew plenty about the region and the local culture and was able to answer our many questions along the way.


Beautiful Views - all rights reserved.


The hike started at Coffee Shack and we walked up the first hill with a brief stop to look out across the village where Joseph pointed out the homes of various community members, including one hut and house where an overseas volunteer worker who had met and married a local woman now lives with his family.

Once we got going with the hike I was just blown away by the beautiful scenery. The Wild Coast is very hilly and over each new rise another stunning view greeted us. Beautiful beaches, amazing tropical vegetation, cows grazing on clifftops. This scene caused one hiker to ask if the cows ever fell down the cliffs.

Joseph replied that yes indeed this did happen occaisonally, more often in rainy seasons when the banks are muddy and slippery. The cows, he explained, like to eat the fresh grass that grows between the rocks as it has not been trampled by other cattle, and sometimes a cow will go too far out and lose her footing and fall to the rocks far below.


Cows on the Hills - all rights reserved



In most cases the cow won't die instantly but will instead be badly injured. When this happens the villages (with the exception of the cow owner) rejoice as cows are too valuable to slaughter for a weekend braai and beef is a much loved but rare treat. So some of the village boys will climb down and kill the cow which would in any case be beyond help. They then cut the cow into chunks that can be carried back up to the village and cooked and eaten by the owner and his friends. However some of the innards are kept and cooked right down there on the rocks and enjoyed as 'payment' for the boys who have performed the task.

Another interesting fact I learned is that cows can be worth anything from R3000 - R6000 each - a lot of money;  so while lobola (payment for a bride to the bride's family) is traditonally paid in cows, the shortage of cows in some parts of South Africa means that the family of the groom pays partly in cows and partly in cash.


All images by Joy-Anne Goodenough. All rights reserved