Random Freedom Day thoughts


Today, in South Africa, we celebrate Freedom Day. On this day 20 years ago our first democratic elections were held. Contrary to the fear of many, it went peacefully. People queued for hours and hours, the most iconic photo of that day is an aerial shot of a snaking queue of patient voters in a dusty field. Of course people were patient – they had waited so long for this day to come, a few more hours would not hurt.

What many white people don’t realise, refuse to see in fact because it would force them to admit their role and how they benefitted, is that the gross injustices of the past cannot be undone in such a short space of time as 20 years. When your entire community, family, self-pride, dignity, culture and heritage have been destroyed and oppressed for generation after generation – how can you, overnight, fix yourself? I’m ashamed to admit I have friends who don’t get this.

It started 350 years ago when western settlers arrived here and treated the existing inhabitants like animals.
It continued when there were more slaves living here than slave owners.
It was entrenched when Cecil John Rhodes said the mines could be worked cheaply because there was a ‘forever renewable source of cheap labour’.
It came into law, and slowly the world began to see the truth, when black people were not even allowed to sit on the same benches as white people.

But it took a bit longer to play itself out.

And it’ll be longer still before complete freedom is attained. Economic freedom, for all, especially those who deserve it the most – the ones who do the real hard work.

We’re a little disenchanted with the state of the nation today – perhaps because we expected too much of mere humans, but the freedom to deal with it exists.

Poverty is still too high and the gap between haves and have-nots is widening. If your entertaining budget is higher than the country’s average take-home pay, don’t be surprised at crime levels.

Corruption in government is horrific but what goes on in big corporations is even worse. The media is so obsessed with politicians that they are not showing us anything else, but it’s happening under our very noses.

When I stood in my queue on election day in 1994, I was proud of having become a South African citizen in order to vote for a democracy. It was time to give back to the country that had welcomed me, gave me my education (as limited as it was, god forbid we should be taught enough to see the wrongs around us), the ability to work (all jobs were mine for the asking as a result of my white skin), and to roam around freely in the splendour of our landscapes (no ‘pass’ required, see white skin above).

But it’s taken me these 20 years to fully appreciate the atrocities I ignored, to really understand how black people felt (and feel), to catch up on that education full of gaps, and to truly love this country, warts and all.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” ~ Nelson Mandela.

Waves at sunset



I visited Tulbagh last week. Lovely dinner, beautiful old houses, lots of history, and some oddities in the museum.

Dance of the darkies

I did a double take when I saw this sheet music on the piano in the Tulbagh Museum. I’ve Googled it for some background but there’s nothing; however, there are a lot of similar dances and tunes from way back when this was acceptable. My client played a few notes of it and it was a cheerful little ditty, more so than the others he played.


Another oddity at the museum was this info plaque at the entrance. The text ends abruptly in the middle of a sentence. I remarked on it to the curator/guide who seemed surprised. I guarantee it’ll still be like that if I visit again in a year’s time. Ok, ok, I’m cynical but …


A very unusual and beautiful old desk with curved drawers.


Yes indeed, we felt it in Cape Town and I remember that day.


This post-box is still in use and it’s nice to see the Post Office has left it alone, unlike the ones in bigger towns where they are now incorrectly referred to as ‘delivery boxes’.


Old-style switchboard. I demonstrated its use, hence the cords plugged into 2 holes – one to answer the incoming call and the other to transfer to the relevant extension.


The cat theme of this restaurant was a bit twee but the food was excellent.


The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality.

Tulbagh houses


Sorting out photo albums, found some randoms …


How does he know that?

Dude in Company's Garden

The Company’s Garden in the centre of Cape Town is a place where you can stroll, visit museums, feed the squirrels, have a picnic, meet your lover for lunch, or just chill in any position that appeals to you.


Somewhere on the Garden Route. Lost in time.


This is part of the canopy walk being built at Kirstenbosch Gardens. I can’t wait for it to be ready.


This place also gives tour guides free coffee, does that make tour guides ugly? Not sure what the T&Cs are.


Soft feathery portion of a very prickly cactus in Oudtshoorn.


These yellow frames have been placed at various places with a view of Table Mountain and the idea is you take your photo framing the mountain. This photo is ‘outside the box’.


Rooi Els on Clarence Drive.


I met these two very friendly and crazy Iranian tourists at Boulders Beach. They insisted I pose with them for a variety of photos and then they allowed me to take some of them.


The creator of most of the Cape’s most spectacular mountain passes and coastal roads.


At one of my favourite stops on the Garden Route – Storms River Bridge. Best spot to buy biltong for padkos, have a toilet break, admire the view from the bridge and just generally stretch your legs.


Flaunting it.


Abseiling off the top of Table Mountain.


This is on a large property in Constantia with a very neglected house. It’s for sale but no buyers can be found. I’d buy it just for this spot if I could.


Wine tasting underground at Weltevrede in Bonnievale. They make one of the best bubblies in the region.


The NG church in Swellendam. Beyond strange.


One of the famous feather palaces in Oudtshoorn.


Builder with a sense of humour while renovating an old house.


These are too big for Vida and I don’t want to give her any ideas about the poor postman.


Massive horse created from old tyres at Grande Provence Wine Estate in Franschhoek.


Stream running red due to tannins in the root system of the plants.


Possibly the most photogenic and pristine beach of the Western Cape – Dias Beach in the Cape Point Nature Reserve. The Cape of Good Hope in the background.


The horror of seeing this in my own neighbourhood.

Langebaan Lagoon make-over

seeberg window seeberg door

SA National Parks (SANParks) are very busy in the West Coast National Park. I spent a pleasant day there this week, no rushing, no deadline, and a great lunch with the birds at Geelbek.

The little old hut on top of Seeberg – a large rock overlooking the lagoon and offering the best views – is being turned into an information centre. I wrote about it here and took the pics above just 2 days ago.  Here’s more info – it wasn’t a lookout point, as I originally thought.

I was saddened to hear the houseboats at Kraalbaai are to be removed later this year.  I have great memories of holidays spent on the one my friend Caroline’s parents owned. It was the smallest of them all but we had the biggest parties. It was demolished a few years ago and now they will all go, except for one owned by the SA National Parks which they will rent out. Apparently they will also be building jetties and little houses in the same bay as the present location of the houseboats. I’ll reserve my judgement until I see the results but I hope they maintain the pristine condition of the park.


Soon these houseboats will all be gone.


This kudu was a rare treat to see.



Lunch at Geelbek. There are warning signs that you need to watch your food because the birds are greedy. This crowd entertained us by fighting over the leftovers. There was a clear winner.








Paternoster, where the mafia rules

paternoster beach

Paternoster bills itself as a picturesque sleepy seaside village where you can enjoy a quiet weekend and eat good seafood.

What is really is, is a hellhole of petty crime, corruption, exploitation and poaching.

A few years ago a few of us had a weekend spoilt by a burglary. Trying to get cops to investigate (and follow the clear trail of clues that we showed them) was futile and we were subsequently told by several people that since the local fishermen’s quotas have been reduced they’ve turned to crime and drugs. The mafia that controls the poaching is a menace and even the cops are terrified of them. The cops are not even based in the village but are in the next town.

When I had to go there this week with clients it was my first trip back and I was looking forward to it; I wanted to be proved wrong about the toxicity of this little town because everyone raves about how cute and lovely it is. I thought things had improved – after all, intelligent people are loving it, right?

It is worse than ever.

Despite the crayfish season being closed there were poachers selling them all over the village. My guesthouse hosts told me that petty crime has soared but local holiday accommodation owners and greedy agents refuse to speak of it (we already experienced this a few years ago). They also told me of houses being built on the beach, on the watermark which means they will one day wash away, and fishermen access to the beach is being closed off so they, the fishermen, creep in at night and destroy all the day’s construction. Who approves these projects?

There is still no police station, not even a satellite office, and no patrols. Attempts to get the municipality to address this has met with threats from the mafiosi who control the poaching and most people have backed off as a result of fear for their properties. I heard of kitesurfers being harassed/chased off the beach by gangs in bakkies. To put it bluntly, there is no law and order whatsoever. If socially-conscious people boycotted the village by no longer going there, the locals would be quick to band together to effectively deal with the crime and corruption.

Paternoster is one of the last surviving fishing villages where the fishermen live in their original houses cheek by jowl with holiday makers. But this is not lasting because they are made offers on their homes that they cannot refuse, they then buy a house in the next town where they can get work, or not, and soon find themselves unable to pay rates and taxes. Their new homes are repossessed and they are worse off than ever. A 5 star boutique hotel at over R3000 a night is next to the poorest of the poor who cannot afford a loaf of bread, of course the hotel has tight 24/7 security.

I was glad this time to be staying slightly out of town on a hill, far from the crime, but my seafood supper left a bitter taste and I won’t be back in a hurry.

There were DA election posters all over town promising jobs.  They could start by installing an honest council.

I took no photos of Paternoster this week – these are from the previous visit.

paternoster boats

Pretty, isn’t it? During the burglary weekend we stayed in one of those little houses. Fair game for the thieves.


All these small boats belong to small-time fishermen who are exploited by mafiosi-types. A boat with only one crew member returns with a catch of enough crayfish to warrant 10+ permits. The mafiosi-types wait on the beach for the return, in their suits and BMWs. Well-heeled visitors from town buy the poached crayfish, with or without knowledge. Would they even care?

paternoster house

This run-down house is now a restaurant but a few years ago we found traces of our belongings here yet the cops refused to approach it, even when full of dodgy types hanging around.

Guesthouse with an identity crisis


Guest houses generally have either one specific theme – marine, fynbos, forest, whatever – or they have no theme at all. I’ve stayed in a wide variety throughout the Western Cape but 2 nights ago I found myself in one that is so multi-themed that it is on the verge of a complete melt-down as a result of an identity crisis.

Surrounded by breathtaking mountains and pristine renosterveld fynbos on a large working farm yielding wine, tomatoes, pomegranates and other fresh produce, it is not satisfied with this to form a theme. The massive house (in parts unfinished at this stage) has a style combining Mediterranean villa with monastery minimalism complete with cloisters. Throw in a fictional romantic heroine, a Russian Byzantine shrine, and sell yourself as a packbackers lodge as well as romantic getaway. You can spend your weekend either feeding the pigs or buying the art adorning the walls. Don’t expect to watch tv on any of the large tv sets because there is no tv service, you need to get a dvd from the lounge, or a usb stick from the office – assuming you can find the managers because they tend to hide from guests.

If you’re hungry you can expect a very good breakfast but in the evenings you’ll need to negotiate the very bad 4 km long entrance drive and then another 5 km into the nearest town. And back again, so don’t drink much with your supper. You could, of course, arrange for a meal or braai in advance but you won’t know this because there’s nothing on the website to warn you and you’re not going to be told when you make your booking.

After several days of a less than perfect road trip I was in a foul mood when I discovered all of this and all I wanted was to sit on my balcony with a large drink and watch the sunset but there was no alcohol in the bar so we decided to go into town for a drink before supper. Of course the sun had set by the time we reached town.

A divine meal at an unpretentious restaurant saved the day and a good breakfast the next morning slightly made up for the strangeness of the guest house. The manageress who clearly doesn’t like people stayed in the kitchen, was never seen again. She’d better hang on to her boyfriend who appears to do all the work and knows how to handle guests.

It’s all very strange but not all bad. What is this place good for? Guided (or solo) fynbos walks, very reasonable prices (not sure how they make money actually), stunning views, and for booking the whole place out for your private special celebration or group weekend, with a theme – pick whichever suits you. Oh, and the rooms are massive with large bathrooms.



This is your view – 360 degrees of beauty.


The creeper in the corner was full of very busy noisy birds at sunset and the sludgy dirty pond in the centre is home to frogs I could not see but heard all night.


Spot the byzantine shrine


Vegetables, going full circle

Vegetable garden

Just over 350 years ago a vegetable garden was planted at the tip of Africa to replenish passing ships on their way to or from trading with the east. One thing led to another – mainly the colonials realising that this land could give them much more than fresh produce and water –   and now we have the country known as South Africa. (I’m leaving out quite a few events but suffice to say that the garden was the original reason for Europeans bothering to settle in what they considered to be a savage hostile land).

The Company’s Garden, as it is still called to this day, is much smaller now and is a lovely public space in the middle of the city with flowers and lawns and old trees. It’s known as the museum precinct as most of our best ones surround it.  Also the Houses of Parliament and many other beautiful old buildings.

But, the vegetables are coming back. I’m very excited to see the project has begun and can’t wait to see the final product. The waters running under the city from Table Mountain have been abandoned and the water runs wastefully into the ocean – Reclaim Camissa is a project that hopes to revive them, let’s give them all the help we can.






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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