Straddling the Mthatha River and the N2 highway 235km from East London, the fractious, shambolic town of MTHATHA (formerly Umtata) is the erstwhile capital of the Transkei and the Wild Coast region’s largest town. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty ugly place, its crowded and litter-strewn streets lined with nondescript 1970s office buildings, with the odd older architectural gem, albeit dilapidated. However, the town is useful for stocking up and drawing money, all of which can be done at the Spar Centre or Shell Ultra City on the edge of town. The only reason to venture into the town centre is to visit the Nelson Mandela Museum, housed in the old parliament, or bungha, built in 1927; however, it’s closed for refurbishment until 2013. The most interesting display in the museum traces the great man’s life with photos and other visual material. The museum co-ordinates guided trips to Qunu and Mveso, Mandela’s birthplace, from its sister museum, the Youth and Heritage Centre in Qunu.

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