Simplicity of seaside village dead easy to get hooked on

Kathryn Kimberley

ONE of the villagers told me that, when he returned from a beach walk with his dog in the mornings, their footprints were still the only ones in the sand – that’s how remote the quaint, unspoilt village of Haga Haga is.

The village, which has a population of about 40 permanent residents – mostly retirees – is situated 60km east of East London.

It was established as a village in the early 1920s, when farmers from the hinterland acquired farms there for winter grazing. According to locals, they would move their livestock by ox-wagon down to the coast for up to four months at a time.

To cross the beach, they would hitch two teams of oxen onto each wagon, hooking the additional team onto the other, hence the Xhosa word “Haka Haka”, which means “hook on”.

Through time, because visitors could not pronounce it, Haka Haka became Haga Haga.

My husband, Michael, and I were lucky enough to spend a weekend at the rustic resort, where, after mere hours, you can feel the stress of city life dissipate as the sea air fills your lungs. Although East London is just a stone’s throw away, these residents choose to go without the conveniences of city life to instead take leisurely strolls on the beach, mingle at the local country club or entertain visitors who flock there over the summer holidays – and I finally understand why.

It is a four-hour drive from Port Elizabeth to Haga Haga. The final stretch – a gravel road of about 13km – is in a bad condition, so low cars are not ideal.

We arrived in Haga Haga on Friday evening to the warm welcome of our hosts, Peter and Betty-Lou Brown.

They have lived in Haga Haga since their retirement in 1998.

Betty-Lou said what appealed to her about Haga Haga was that it had not been commercialised and still contained the “unsophisticated charm of village life”.

On Friday night, we enjoyed a decadent buffet dinner at the Haga Haga Hotel, which has been run by vibrant couple Neil and Sandy Chemaly since 1975.

Starting out as a five-bedroomed boarding house, the hotel has since risen through the ranks to become the most popular accommodation spot in Haga Haga.

It now offers 11 en-suite rooms and 15 self-catering chalets. All rooms have breathtaking views of the Indian ocean, which is one of the most sought-after surfing spots in the Eastern Cape.

The spread that was prepared for us and other hotel guests on the Friday night included soups, the most delicious homemade bread and cheeses for a starter, southern-fried chicken, roast leg of mutton with a mustard relish, roast potatoes and veggies as the main, and to top it off, a choice between a sinful hot chocolate pudding or cheesecake for dessert.

While hubby and I agreed that the juicy, tender chicken was the highlight, he insisted that the mutton, sliced thinly on homemade bread would make the perfect late-night snack.

Imagine our surprise when just moments later a tinfoil parcel arrived at our table, and let’s just say, Michael’s wish was the chef’s command.

After dinner we enjoyed a nightcap at the hotel bar where we listened to the local gossip and then it was off to bed at the Brown’s self-catering Dolphin View flat for some much-needed sleep.

Everything is within walking distance and, with a crime rate of zero, you and your belongings are safe.

The flat we stayed in had the simplicity one required for a seaside holiday. It had two rooms containing a double and bunk bed, small bathroom, kitchen and dining area with all the necessities such as a fridge, microwave and kettle.

We were up early on Saturday morning for a 10km hike along the Whale Watch hiking trail through to Pullens Bay. The views are spectacular and although we did not spot any whales, we were fortunate to see dolphins.

The hike can be quite strenuous but once you reach the top of the hill overlooking Pullens Bay it becomes well worth it.

The two of us were ravenous on our return and enjoyed homemade pizzas at OppiePlaas Pub & Restaurant.

We shared a Beach Bum pizza – ham, pineapple, mushrooms and rainbow peppers – for R60, and a Wild Coast Margarita – mozzarella and cheddar cheese, fresh tomato and wild basil – for only R45.

Pizzas are made in a traditional outdoor stone oven, giving them that delicious crispy base.

OppiePlaas opened its doors about two years ago and has become a popular hangout spot for daytime visitors, especially when the sun is out, as we were blessed on the Saturday.

Ducks, sheep and their young roam the area, giving it that farm feel. It was great to relax in the sun with a glass of good wine and get to know some of the locals, all of whom have interesting stories to tell.

And they all agree that Haga Haga is so nice – you have to say the name twice.

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