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.
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.
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.
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.