10 January 2012

West Coast Magic - South Africa

Magical little places, interesting and quirky people, artists, rich bird life, beach pubs. long white beaches and COLD water, make this an area worth exploring.

We decided on a week-end meander to familiar places that we love. The West Coast has stunning seaside villages, some with just the basics, where families come together at holiday times for their annual rest and recuperation from the strains of city life. There will always also be those pensioners, artists, people wanting a more rural life, who have given up their city homes in the city to move out here.

Jacobsbaai is a pretty village of white-washed houses, gravel roads and "Wille Magrietjie" where you will find a treasure trove of gifts. A tiny shop with a big heart - stand still and gaze - there are so many things to look at! Artistic talent at it's best.

This small village offers Fishing, Boating, Hiking, Surfing and there is an abundance of seafood!

The most recent happening was the running aground of the unmanned barge MARGARET which was loaded with a cargo of 13 river barge hulls built in China and destined for Rotterdam. It went aground on 24/06/2009 in heavy seas.The barge was being towed by the tug Salvaliant when the tow was lost.
This event brought many visitors to the town in 2009/2010 but today there is scant reminder of this event with only some metal protruding near the rocks. Sadly, a contractor, John Mitchell, who was involved in preparing the vessel for a series of controlled explosions designed to topple the cargo of river barges and floating docks into the sea, was killed in 2010 during this process and a memorial cross now stands on a rock near the site.

Velddrif/Laaiplek & Dwarskersbos:
Veldrif/Laaiplek and Dwarkersbos all seem to run into each other and who knows where the boundaries are! The Berg River runs into the sea here and there is an abundance of bird life up the river. A number of operators offer boat trips upriver to view these birds in their natural habitats. We were lucky to see many pelicans the day we visited - apparently, the residents have counted up to 200 at a time during certain times of the year.

Bokkom Lane is a must see street in Velddrif. It's a small road with many little fisheries, a restaurant called "Die Vishuis Restaurant", and a crazy shop called Ek & Djy. The owner is a local character of note and you can sit on his veranda, enjoy a beer or something light to eat, while listening to his stories! The shop faces the river so you can relax while you watch the boats going past, and, if you are lucky, watch the gliding pelicans with their graceful movements.

Next door to this is the River Studio where Marina Clune has restored a 100 year old "vishuis" (fish house) The old Cold store door is still in place where Marina stores the tools of her trade. This tiny studio has a happy atmosphere and the walls are adorned by Marina's take on West Coast life. Her paintings are well known and exhibited in a number of places. They moved to Velddrif about 10 years ago and they have not looked back since. A lovely lady who shared her story with us and is obviously very much into the beauty of life along this coast. With so many changing moods and colours along the Berg River and the long stretches of coastline close by, I am sure Marina will never be short of an inspiring moment to capture on canvas. Whilst she does other art, her main focus is on depicting life along the West Coast. (See Main Photo at top of article)
 “My life here embraces space, freedom and the simplicity yet vastness of nature. Old boats swaying against old jetties, never-ending beaches, a moody cloud-sky, characteristic West Coast buildings, the river and the wetlands have all inspired me.“

Enjoy the repartee between her husband (Ek & Djy next door!) Marina and the locals who pop in for a chat or beer. Whilst there are all sorts of goodies, don't forget to take home a bottle of Green Fig Preserve - simply divine as is or with cheese. Yummm - gotta go back just for that!

We headed for Dwarskersbos for a long walk along the beach. The fishermen were out in full force, hoping for their "catch of the day" It's a beautiful, long beach and when you are done, you can pop into the very rustic Soverby Lapa. They have a basic menu, live music week-ends and the outside area has a cooling mist spray to keep the heat at bay. But truly VERY rustic and only CASH! So we did not eat there as we only had enough cash for a beer. One has to wonder if SARS (South African Revenue Services) knows about them!! I am quite sure this is a very popular hang-out with the locals on a Saturday night.

West Coast National Park:
Enjoy Bird watching in Geelbek, Seeburg and Abrahamskraal bird hide. For the active there are mountain bike trails and a cycling route. A hike starts from Geelbek Visitor centre.

For day trippers there are picnic sites in Kraalbaai and Tsaarsbank.

The West Coast National Park can be enjoyed at any time of the year but it is best known for the wild flowers in August and September when the area called Postberg, is open to the public. Masses and masses of flowers create carpets of colourful and fascinating displays and people go there year after year. The displays are at their best if good rains have been received in the area. The flowers always open towards the sun so there is no point visiting on a cloudy day.

Geelbek Restaurant, within the park, offers delightful breakfasts, great lunches and teas. The Trio of Cape Malay Curry, "Dennevleis" Lamb and Bobotie with pumpkin fritters, veg and yellow rice was certainly very much enjoyed by myself! Especially the lamb  - I grew up on Karoo Lamb and don't eat lamb anymore as I got so tired of it - but this was so tasty and really fantastic. Let's hope they keep this trio on the menu! You can sit outdoors under a tent, on the grassed area, on the veranda or if the weather is foul, the seating inside is very cosy.

The walk to the bird hide is rich in textures and colours and there are many birds in the area. It depends on the tide in the lagoon as to how close they will be.

West Coast Coast Magic will capture your heart - slow down and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of this part of South Africa!

See Posts also on Paternoster and Cape Columbine - all part of the West Coast.

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