Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Postings from Pretoria #29

07 March 2010

Hello there... Rodger French here.

Photo Update Alert:

“West Coast”

We all experience transitions, welcome/dread/endure them, and ultimately move on, like it or not. No deep existential revelations here, of course, just the musings of someone gearing up to leave somewhere he’ll likely never see again; just a bittersweet fact of life to reflect upon when considering special places.

South Africa is that kind of place and we’ve been pretty creative about seeing as much of it as we can. Our latest trip took us to the West Coast, in the Western Cape province. We flew into Cape Town for a couple of days on official DOS bidness. Then we rented a car and headed for the fishing village of Paternoster (a name bestowed by grateful shipwrecked Portuguese sailors washed up alive on the shore), located 147 km up the road, where we stayed at the Baywatch B&B (Tony and Shirley Ansley, Proprietors), a lovely place a mere two minute walk from the South Atlantic Ocean.

The landscape is stark, although there are wheat fields, cattle, and sheep; and, so I’m told, wildflowers in abundance during the spring. Mostly missing, however, are trees. When the temperature reaches 38° C (100° F) and the sun is remorseless, hiding out from late morning to early evening is a must, especially for those of us of the pale complexion persuasion.

But the area is beautiful, what with the white sun-baked buildings and long beaches conducive to strolling; although swimming is somewhat problematic, given a summer water temperature of 11º C (52º F). In addition to vacation homes and rental places (including self-catering), the nearby seashore parks provide accommodations for caravans.

Afrikaners love to caravan; not surprising, I reckon, given the migratory history of their tribe. But rather than traveling in huge RVs, they tend toward bakkies (pickup trucks) with camper tops and/or trailers, or Land Rover Defenders. A typical encampment might include a central vehicle accompanied by tents and, most importantly, a braai (BBQ). Very efficient, homey, and quite suited for camping on rocky seashores.

In addition to getting in some quality ocean time, A.J. and I took an excursion on the Berg River Estuary, a primo spot for birding. Our guide was one John Wayne (“the real John Wayne,” he would have you know), a Brit who was raised in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and currently operates a fleet of funky tour boats in Velddrift, not far from the Cerebos Saltworks. The cruise was most enjoyable, although it was so hot that many of the birds were not to be seen, having sought refuge in the rushes. Still, we observed a fair number of flamingos and pelicans, as well as assorted smaller fowl.

We also saw, across the estuary, the longest freight train ever in my extensive trainspotting career: 12 locomotives spread out among approximately 340 wagons, each carrying 80 tons of iron ore for processing. Wicked cool.

But the most spellbinding sight came on the last night of our stay in Paternoster: the simultaneous setting of the sun and rising of the full moon. I have seen this once before, standing at the edge of a frozen lake in western Kentucky with my Cowboy Envy saddlepals. It’s a remarkable thing to experience and if you’ve not had the pleasure, I sincerely hope you someday will. Beauty beyond measure.

It’s not certain, but if this was our last trip to Cape Town and its environs, well, so it goes. In any case, it’s good to be home in Pretoria and off the road for a week. Then, we’re headed to Namibia. Just making the most of it all.



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