A hot winter’s night in Gansbaai

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Continuing the theme of trying to ignore the current weather as the Cape of Storms lives up to its name, here are some pics of Gansbaai, taken 2 weeks ago when winter turned into glorious summer for a week.

Firstly, let the record show that Gansbaai is a very unlovely town. It has amazing sunsets but the town is nothing special, never mind that it’s slap-bang in the middle of the Overberg which is a magnificent region. Gansbaai has managed to outkak itself.

It’s famous for two things: poaching (okay, it’s notorious for poaching) and shark-cage diving. Poaching is another topic altogether but the shark thing surprised me. I’ve not been comfortable with the idea of chumming to attract sharks for the sole purpose of human thrills and big profits (and I mean big, this is huge business and tourists are flocking to do this) but after my recent site visit, talking to people, getting a feel for the place, I suspect that one of these days I will get into that cage and give it a go. Hey, why not?

Oh and, although my Overberg tour features the lovely 5 star Grootbos Nature Reserve just a few kms away, I did find a really nice guesthouse in Gansbaai where I will happily take clients and I recommend it highly; it’s a gem in this drab town. Saxon Lodge has lovely hosts Dave and Caron, comfy rooms, and great views.

Tours du Cap

The little black bit at the bottom of the sun is …. Cape Point!

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Saxon Lodge – nice comfy friendly guest house. Note the blue sky. Nice to remember.

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I feel bad because I’ve forgotten the cat’s name but he was very sweet and totally blind, yet he managed to get around easily and always seemed to sense my presence. We hung out quite a lot.

Not quite spring

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I thought I’d post a few random photos of bright coloured flowers because the next few days are going to be god-awful weather. The forecast is announcing gale force winds, low temperatures and lots of rain.

Never mind that spring is around the corner.

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Rooster

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I deliberately didn’t include this rooster in yesterday’s kitsch post because he’s not kitsch.  Far from it.

Not only is he my native country’s national animal or however they refer to it, but he’s beautiful.

He is a magnificent example of rooster-power and how majestic a rooster can be. He holds his head up, he stands proud and he watches over the entrance to this house.  Just look at that tail – isn’t it gorgeous?

I fell in love with my Stanford rooster and would marry him in a cluck.

Country kitsch

One man’s kitsch is another man’s treasure. This is true for Vladimir Tretchikoff (aka Kitschikoff in many circles) whose art epitomised kitsch and was considered as being in very bad taste. It didn’t deter thousands of South Africans from hanging prints of his luridly coloured pieces all over their homes. The last laugh is on him, or would be if he was still alive, because one of his most reviled works – the Chinese Girl, also one of the most reprinted paintings of the 20th century – recently sold at Bonhams for close to a million pounds. It was bought by the owner of the Delaire-Graff wine estate in Stellenbosch and will be ‘launched’ in September, when it’ll join the rest of Lawrence Graff’s fabulous art collection.

So much for kitsch. I still think it’s a revolting painting but I will make a point of viewing it when I am at Delaire-Graff since I often take clients there for lunch or tastings. I doubt I’ll be getting the nod for the gala launch event, though. By the way, the rumours that Vladimir was having it off with his models are not true – here’s the Chinese girl’s story with a photo of the painting in question. If you’re at all interested in this man and his story Google his name – there’s loads of info out there, the story of where the Chinese Girl lay for decades, unloved, unwanted, is fascinating and the man himself is a classic case of someone completely unknown in the country of his birth but madly loved elsewhere. Well, here anyway.

Back to kitsch.

The countryside is full of kitsch and, thanks to my friend Caroline (who loves kitsch), I now make a point of taking photos of kitsch whenever I can. Here’s a selection from my recent Overberg roadtrip.

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This beauty is on the pavement outside a house in Hermanus. I did a double take and reversed to get a better look and take the photo. In the city it wouldn’t last 5 minutes. I’d hate to think what it cost. In terms of style, it has absolutely no visible connection to the house – I think that’s what makes it such utter kitsch.

I spent a night in Stanford a lovely little village with loads of character and pretty houses. I booked into a guesthouse I’d found online and nothing prepared me for this place. The owner is a very sweet lady who has an immaculate garden full of succulents collected over many years. It really is the most amazing collection and this is what makes the interior of the house all the more surprising – it is choc-a-bloc full of geegaws and vases  filled with artificial flowers all over the place. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a massive bunch of gorgeous fresh proteas on a pole at the street entrance but artificial flowers all over the house. Go figure.

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This was the piece de resistance in the dining room. Not a speck of dust anywhere.

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No comment

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Despite the strange interior, outside was lovely with many containers full of unusual and pretty succulents. Oh, and the rabbit … huge, with spiky fur standing on end as if he’d been blow-dried. I tried to stroke it, many times, but it kept hopping out of reach until I had exhausted myself and I really needed to get back on the road.

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See what I mean? A really pretty place.

Two days later I was in Gansbaai and, under strict instructions from Caroline, popped in to Rosemary’s place. Oh my god. Hidden away behind a dark and over-cluttered interior is an equally cluttered garden dining area. It’s so over the top, photos won’t do it justice. There’s a central pond and around it a variety of different types of tables and chairs, or things to sit on, and many many containers with plants. Many of the chairs and tables are totally unsuitable for eating because they’re either recliners or the chairs are miles away from the table and immovable.

You have to walk very gingerly to reach your table because of all the stuff you need to step around. However, the service was excellent and my Caesar salad would’ve been perfect if not for the liberal quantity of fresh coriander – I loathe the stuff. As peculiar as it was, I will probably go back to Rosemary’s, kitsch and all, because it’s cosy and friendly and I can always tell them to hold the coriander.

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The toilet walls are papered with old newspapers, really really old newspapers, and sheet music.

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A garden brimming with lovely plants but they couldn’t resist a few silk lilies.

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A statue is a prerequisite in a kitsch garden, and a chair made only for drinking or finger food because it’s half a mile away from the table.

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Upcycling, recycling.

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I almost stood on it.

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I don’t get why the tree trunks are covered with green cloth.

Hermanus

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Hermanus by night

Continuing on my recent solo Overberg roadtrip, I spent the last night in Hermanus as a guest of the Quarters Hotel.  Hermanus has become extremely touristy and commercialised and the streets near the ocean are very congested at times but the modernising has been done nicely, you can’t hep but like it. It’s best to park your car and just walk – I’m glad I did that and had some time to wander around alone.

Despite being mid-winter it was as hot as a summer’s day, even at sunset when I arrived. I checked into my hotel at lightning speed and went to catch the last of the sunset, take a few mediocre photos and stroll through the town. A light meal and a glass of wine at a little tapas place, some people watching and eavesdropping on their conversations (nothing interesting on this occasion) and then I went to explore my hotel room. Not bad.  The bathroom is open-plan to the bedroom (but you can pull down a discreet blind and close it off) and I lay in the bath watching tv for a while before I got bored with that. It’s not a cheap hotel and was very comfortable but I found it a bit awkward that the only way to plug in a charger is to unplug the bedside light; and there was no mini-bar – yes, I know, they cost the earth but sometimes you want a nightcap.

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Every town on the whale route has one of these. That’s my hotel in the background, sandwiched between 2 ancient fisherman’s cottages.

Next morning up nice and early, breakfast (I have a guilty pleasure: I love hotel breakfasts!), and time to explore Hermanus. First I explored the little square where the last remaining old fishermen cottages are – it’s such a pity so few have been retained, they’re such a classic sight in this part of the world but sadly Hermanus hasn’t many left. I walked along the cliff top for a distance, further out of town as opposed to the town bits I do with clients – it’s nicer out of town. This cliffwalk is not only lovely but there are no steep bits so I love it! I saw some whales of course, and then drove up to Fernkloof Nature Reserve. That was a treat – I walked through the garden and a little way up the mountainside which was full of stunning proteas. I picked up a tick which I only discovered later – ticks freak me out but there is that thrill of feeling like you’ve done a bit of bundu-bashing to get it. I bought some plants at the nursery, including a special dark orange black-eyed Susan that I can never find in town, and there’s one I haven’t planted yet because I’ve completely forgotten what it is so don’t know where to put it. It’s been sitting on the table outside and has grown so much I suspect it might be a creeper but am not sure what type.

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Fernkloof

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Fernkloof

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Fernkloof

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Fernkloof was really looking very pretty

I went to the Hemel en Aarde Village which has some really lovely little shops  and did a wine tasting at the Hermanuspietersfontein shop – that’s a mouthful of a name but guess what? That was the original name of Hermanus, named after the visionary who saw the potential of this area, but now obviously shortened for convenience. I bought some Kleinboet, a most delectable Bordeaux blend.

The boys came up from town and after lunch we went for dessert to a coffee shop owned by a friend just out of town – that was cool. We were in high spirits, the desserts were divine, the friend was so happy to see us that we were made to down-down a couple of Grappas and then it was time to head on home.

One of the boys raced back to town via the highway and the other one came with me as we returned via the scenic coastal road with a stop at Stoney Point in Betty’s Bay to see the penguins. It was closing just as we arrived but we managed to spot a few ducking in the bushes.

This was the last day of my roadtrip but I’m not blogging in the order of the trip so there’s more to come.

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I wondered how many people throw those ribbons away. I removed it carefully and put it on a shelf, they’d better have used it again.

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Clarence Drive – such a photogenic place

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The old Hermanus harbour at sunset

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Check out those socks.

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Very old wall in Hermanus

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Easily the prettiest hotel in Hermanus from the outside – will check it out inside one of these days.

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Can’t be too many towns in the world where the old harbour is a national monument.

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Middle of winter in Hermanus – the tourists were happy.

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The dassies (hyrax) at Stoney Point are not at all shy.

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Stoney Point African penguin

Roadtrip – Sandra of Pearly Beach

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I’d been told that in Pearly Beach I should pop in to a bar called the Rooibier and say hi to Sandra.  I’d heard enough about Sandra to warrant a stop to see for myself. I wasn’t sorry I did. I need to find a way to include this place in my tours.

Sandra arrived in Pearly Beach 9 years ago from the dusty inland town of Roodepoort and decided to open a pub and restaurant. But she had no money so she performed for the locals and told them if they enjoyed her shows they should donate some money. Within a short while she had raised over R100,000 and the pub was opened. Sandra’s shows consisted mainly of stripping. I didn’t ask her age but she must’ve been at least in her forties 9 years ago. She still strips now and again, “If the time and the audience are right”, she told me.

Regulars keep coming back from all over – as far as overseas, but Capetonians make up a very small percentage. Sandra doesn’t mind because they’re full of shit.

Sandra takes no nonsense from anyone – if she’s busy her customers must help themselves; if they give trouble, she downs a tequila – codenamed ‘Justin’ – and deals with them. She doesn’t drink on the job, tequila helps her deal with trouble and she’s too busy for the alcohol to have an effect. There are only 420 permanent residents in Pearly Beach and many of them are roped in to work as barmen when it gets busy but they don’t get paid. “It keeps them busy and once in a while I treat them to a plate of prawns.”

Sandra’s house specialty is a plate of prawns for R150.00.  Why prawns? Because she likes them and wants to keep things simple and cheap. I wasn’t especially hungry so asked if she could do me a half-portion. I was told in no uncertain terms that she never ever breaks a kilo box open for less than a full portion. So your plate of prawns is a whole kilo? Yes. Okay, so I ordered the prawns because by this time I didn’t know how to get out of it and the other customers were watching with interest. We were all friends by now.

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My prawns. I asked Sandra what she puts in the delicious spicy sauce, she replied “The prawns!”

I ate all my prawns – I had to because Sandra said I couldn’t leave until I finished everything. She let me off for the few last chips I just couldn’t face. The prawns were superb. Sandra goes through humongous quantities of prawns in peak season… she rattled off figures along the lines of 380 kgs in 2 weeks and 2 days. Sometimes customers have to wait for the delivery truck that comes all the way from Cape Town, 2 hours away. Customers are also sometimes made to patiently allow Sandra to move them around as she re-arranges all the tables to accommodate more people. Don’t get too comfortable if you take up a lot of space at peak times.

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The decor is Egyptian which I found strange in a coastal village so I asked. “I didn’t feel like the normal sea theme and the best holiday of my life was in Egypt, so why not?”

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Even the bar stools are covered in durable Egyptian themed fabric.

Sandra delivered all this information at breakneck speed, lighting one cigarette after another.  “This is not a pub, it’s not a restaurant, it’s my home. I live here. I just go to the house to sleep and bath.”

While I was there a customer walked in and announced he’d first gone to the pub next door but he left because he thought it was a funeral parlour. Another group walked in and within seconds we were all fast friends, sharing our reasons for being there and giving each other advice about where to go next.  One bloke told me the gravel road to Elim was not fabulous but after looking at my car he told me to not be a wussie about it.

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Locals playing pool.

It was 1,30 in the afternoon and time for a tequila even though no-one was misbehaving. I’m partial to tequila but I had a long drive ahead so made my exit but first I used the cash machine in the grocery shop next door. It’s owned by Sandra’s husband who warned me to not draw too much cash because he has to refill it himself and I must leave some money for the next people. Ja, okay.

One day I’ll go back with someone else doing the driving. I’ll serve a few drinks and take Sandra on in a tequila contest.

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You can’t miss it as you enter Pearly Beach.

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Country kitsch meets Egypt.

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Sandra’s branded coasters – these are the 2 she gave me. I’m using one on my desk, it works well because it’s non-slip.

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Elim

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I promised lots of feedback on my roadtrip to the Overberg and I will, I promise – there’s loads more photos and stuff to write about. It’s just that I’ve been busy, sorry.

In the meantime, here’s a link to the blog entry on my other blog, about a unique little town in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t plan to go there but I made the detour and it was well worth it. The road was deserted, the fynbos* was divine, and I was car-bopping to lekker music … you know what car-bopping is, don’t you? It’s when you jiggle around to the music in your seat as you drive. You’ve done it, you know you have.

Elim – read the blog and find out who owns it, what the owners restrict, what the townspeople are famous for, and what two things it has that no other South African town has.

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What I didn’t mention in the other blog is that Elim boasts of having one of the best schools in the Cape.

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*fynbos – this is one example of the unique vegetation that we in the Western Cape are immensely proud of and love very much. It is the smallest in size but richest of all floral kingdoms on earth with over 9000 species, and counting.

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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