We left the holiday town of Lamberts Bay in the Western Cape of South Africa, and hugged the coast further southwards towards Capetown until we got the the fishing town of Paternoster. In many ways this place reminded us of our Kentish town of Whitstable, there are lots of new houses alongside more traditional dwellings, its still very much a fishing town for the locals, and there are quite a few trendy bars, coffee shops, and tacky shops (so a Southern Hemisphere Whitstable). We drove Colonel K through the fairly narrow streets and travelled a further 7km down a gravel track to a fantastic campsite in the Columbine Nature Reserve. This took us up past the lighthouse and then down into the fantastically named Tieties Baai (or bay to us English speakers). This campsite is in the most stunning setting, with a combination of sandy beaches, and huge smooth granite boulders making up this dramatic coastline, where the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean constantly pound this area that juts out into the sea.
Ever since we got to the southern half of Namibia, we have been told that for 3-4 weeks over christmas and new year the campsites in both these countries will be packed and most probably fully booked. Since then we have started to see just that! When we were at the huge, 300 pitch campsite in Lamberts Bay, we were told that despite the fact that they were less than a quarter full when we were there, the next week they were fully pre booked, all 300 pitches! So it was no surprise that when we turned up at Tieties Baai, we were told they were fully booked over xmas and new year but could give us a place for two nights, but we would have to give it up when the other people arrived. When we got to our designated pitch we were gobsmacked with what we saw. Some families had booked and taken 3 or 4 pitches together and even had portaloo’s delivered so they didn’t have to use the common ablution blocks. These were almost small villages set up to receive the rest of their families once schools and work had finished for the festive period. We saw generators (theres no mains hook up power here) powering upright fridge freezers, even proper domestic electric cookers, there were caravans with an awning linked to another awning, linked to another awning, linked to another ………. And of course all of this fully enclosed with a wind break.
Now I know you must be thinking that we hated this place, but it was only about quarter full and strangely we loved it here, (apart from the disgusting toilets and showers that were never cleaned) the walks along the coast here are fantastic and you could stop, sit and watch the sea for ages.
We also met some fantastic friendly people here, including one couple (they actually went to work in their estate agency business in nearby Britannia Bay during the day) who’s young daughter was desperate to see inside the back of Colonel K (we get this quite a lot), once she had been and looked, she was telling me about her first fishing trip, and her proud Dad was boasting that she caught no less than 3 on her first outing. Not that remarkable I hear you say, and then I realised this wasn’t using a normal rod and line, oh no! This was spear gun fishing, using no more than a mask, snorkel, fins, and a huge and deadly spear gun. Our guess was that she was about twelve or thirteen years old, and she was so proud of her fishing with her dad. Mollycoddling parents need not apply in South Africa.
Our two nights at Tieties Baai went very quickly and we soon had to head off to pastures new, but on the way out of the campsite we noticed another smaller bay which was not marked out into pitches, so we asked at the gate what that was for, the answer was for non pre booked guests that could just turn up and camp! Why had they not told us about that before I don’t know. Anyway we were packed up and heading to the nearby town of Vredenburg, for some retail therapy in the new modern Shopping Mall. This was the first proper Mall since Accra, Ghana, and it was very nice to spend a bit of time perusing the shops, especially the 2 or 3 camping and outdoor stores here. Jac topped up her wardrobe with new shorts, tops and shoes, and I got an errr, errr ,a Baboon repelling device…..
This simple catapult will save me dragging my arm out of its socket next time we are plagued with the dreaded baboon’s, and I’m sure it won’t be long before its called into action, it has a truly fearsome 175+ yard range, and believe it or not was the least powerful of those in the store.
Whilst there, we stopped in a coffee shop and had drinks and a huge slice of cake, done a bit of food shopping, etc and before we knew it it was into the afternoon, so we decided to take our chances and head back to Tieties Baai for the night (hoping we could squeeze into the non-bookable area before the main site). On the way back along the tarmac road to Paternoster, I had to swerve to avoid this little fella that was very very slowly crossing the road.
Once he (or she) had been safely deposited into the dry grassy verge, and faced away from the road, we went onto the entrance gate for the Nature Reserve and campsite. The woman at the desk was surprised to see us back and explained that we couldn’t have our old site again, we explained that we just wanted to go to the non bookable area, which she couldn’t seem to comprehend. Anyway she said we could park anywhere we wanted as long as it wasn’t in a set out pitch. There were a couple of camps already set up here (one looking like a self contained village), but we managed to squeeze in-between a few rocks and were as close to the sea as we could risk it. It was a perfect place, our view was straight out to the sea, and no-one was overlooking us. We ended up staying for a further 4 nights, there was even an ablution block that was much cleaner and tidier than on the main campsite.
One day we decided (in the heat of the day) to walk into Paternoster, this is a round trip of about 15km, we had a lovely lunch out the front of one of the hotels, watching the illegal selling of Crayfish to anyone that stops to the weird hand movement of the dodgy looking sellers along the main street. We were told by a local that only in Paternoster do the authorities turn a blind eye to this trade, and its almost become a tourist attraction in its own right. What it does for the local Crayfish population I don’t know. Whilst in Paternoster Jac topped up her wardrobe again, and I got errr, errr, nothing! It was a tough walk back with full bellies, an almost empty water bottle and the early afternoon scorching sun. As usual the sunsets were stunning off this west coast.
The sea here is quite cold, and pretty rough, and its not a pleasurable experience to enter the water, but one pastime that seems popular here is donning a wetsuit, mask and snorkel and stuffing your hand into gaps in the rocks and pulling out Crayfish (this is legal, but you can’t sell them). We watched these guys first in the rock pools that had filled at high tide, and then in the massive surf, they were taking a huge battering, getting tangled in the flowing kelp and then smacked about by the breaking waves on the rocks. All for a couple of small Crayfish.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Tieties Bay, and at only 140 Rand a night for the two of us and Colonel K (less than £7.00) it was a real bargain, though I think that if we arrived a week later our experience would have been very different. The birdlife here was again very varied, and along with the usual falcons, kestrels and other birds of prey, there were the constant lines of thousands of Cape Cormorants that were flying in both directions up and down the coast (though mostly towards the north).
Due to the crazy holiday period we have decided (for the first time on this 9 month trip so far), to prebook a couple of campsites that will take us through to the new year. The first of these is in a Vineyard, yup a week in a Vineyard! But this is a Vineyard with a campsite, a large mountain lake (called a dam here) with large dams at either end, a smaller fishing pond (also called a dam here), oh and its fully booked!
For the first few days we were camped next to a great South African couple, Dries, and his wife Almarie who asked us if we would like to join them on their last night here, on a trip to a fish restaurant on the coast. Of course we accepted their kind offer and piled into their brand new Mazda BT50 Backie (pick up), en-route we stopped so that Dries could show me the Rooibos shrub that they make tea from. We couldn’t believe that this tasty tea comes from such a tiny insignificant plant.
It was about an hours drive on the tarmac, and then we turned down the bumpy gravel track until we arrived at Muisbosskerm. The whole restaurant is enclosed with old dried and thorny bushes stuffed together so tight in the traditional way of enclosing your family and stock of animals this is the traditional “Boma”. Muisbosskerm means literally Mouse Bush Enclosure, there are no walls here, just Mouse Bush.
As you can see the restaurant is RIGHT on the beach, and it is a stunning location.
The fish is prepared there, and we watched as Angel Fish, Snook, and Yellow Tail were filleted and made ready for the evening buffet to come.
And wow what a buffet, there were so many types of fish (most we had never tasted before) along with many other traditional South African foods, including sweet potato’s cooked with honey, and some strange air dried and salted fish. We had a great night with some fantastic company, and the cost of all this food? about £12.00 each.
Our Vineyard camp is on the outskirts of the Cederberg Mountains (just north of Capetown), and the owner has given us permission to use the vineyards to cycle round on our mountain bikes, this was a shock to both of us the first time we went off in the early morning (its still very hot even then), as the sand tracks that surround the rows of vines really take some getting used to, either you lose traction as the rear wheel just spins or the front wheel just wants to wash out on you. We can see now why they have special mountain bikes here with huge ballon type tyres to ride on top of the sand.
We also took an early morning walk on the hiking trail around the hill overlooking the lake, this takes about one and half hours and climbs at the rear of the hill to the top, where there are some lovely views in all directions.
You could clearly see the incredible irrigation system that the farmers have installed into the hill sides for the growing of their grapes, the cost of this must be massive and it goes to show how valuable the grapes are here.
Before setting off on the walk (a very under used path) we were warned by the manager of the campsite to keep our eyes open for snakes, as there are an abundance of Puff Adder’s and Cobra’s in the rocks at this time of year (its summer here at the moment), needless to say we were very heavy with our footfall, and constantly checking out the pathway ahead of ourselves. No snakes were seen though. Dries and Almarie had previously said that they have a snake to deal with on their small holding near Pretoria about once a week, some harmless but also Puff Adder’s and Cobra’s, though their Fox Terriers and even their German Short Haired Pointer have been known to catch these slippery and dangerous fellas.
We are nearly at the end of our extended trip to the vineyard, and although we have caught up on a few jobs on Colonel K, most of the time has been spent chilling in the shade and of course reading lots of books.
Next we move further into the Cederberg Mountains, where we will spend Christmas and New Year on an Organic Orange Farm. After new year we plan to travel down to Capetown and then along the “Garden Route” towards Port Elizabeth for a couple of weeks, at this point our plans have changed! We have heard that a couple of our friends are travelling to Southern Africa, and we have agreed to meet them in Windhoek, Namibia, at the end of January and then travel with them for 11 days. We are very excited to see them, and we hope they will enjoy Namibia as much as we do.
We would like to wish everyone that has been following Lorrywaydown a very Happy Christmas and a fantastic New Year x
V & J x