Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Paternoster and Cape Columbine: day

After our sketchy experience with the Lambert's Bay camping site, we were thinking to stop down the coast at Paternoster, at Cape Columbine, and to book straight into a B&B. But first we would investigate the nature reserve to see what the camping areas looked like.

Tietiesbaai is legendary and I had seen it in azure perfection some springs before (September in South Africa) while driving with my mom to see flowers up and down that coast. It was misty and cool on this summer day and the colours were muted under a fog bank. We drove out through the white-washed town of fishing cottages and self consciously pseudo-fishing cottages and found the reserve at the end of the road, paid our fee and meandered down the sand tracks in the 4 x 4. Tietiesbaai lay near the end, and was as you see, below...pretty, a bite of sea in the sand.

But we had already seen our spot. It was one of the first camping areas - defined by a tap - on its own little bite of kelp- and shell-filled salt water, with the granite rocks domed and lichened about us; private and impossibly clean and peaceful. No B&B for us. We would have a house by the sea.

We drove back to town on a kreef-buying expedition, and stopped first for lunch and a bottle of local bubbly to welcome us back to civilization.

I asked the waitress about the guys selling kreef on the streets. They hang out on corners with plastic bags and wiggle their hands at you meaning, We've got crayfish. She said to make sure the crayfish were wiggling. Well, I knew that. I asked her how much we should reasonably expect to pay, and she said R60 for a big one.

After lunch we drove past the wiggle-handed sellers and headed straight for the beach. I could see some little boats coming in and thought maybe we could just buy straight from them. The first boat was full of kreef, but the boss man said I should wait for the second boat, want hulle't groottes (because they have big ones).
It's funny: on this whole trip, from start to finish, I was immersed in Afrikaans. More so, I think, than at any other time in my life. And most of the people speaking Afrikaans to me were black or brown. All the way up the West Coast and into Namibia.It felt good.

Sure enough, the second boat yielded two huge crayfish. As big as the ones an archaeologist from university days used to drop off at my house after diving them from a secret place near Hout Bay in Cape Town.

We loaded them up, paid R60, which is what they asked for, and headed back to set up camp.

The way out of town towards the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve passes agreeably through a mixed neighbourhood which seems to be equally well-heeled and very modest. Poor and affluent seem to be side by side. Of course the whole little town's architectural cue is taken, famously, from the existing fishers' cottages, and it's a style that pleases me, though it has almost gone too far now. As ugly as Lamberts Bay is, Paternoster is uber cute. The houses top and below are the real thing.

We found our little bay muffled in the salty mist.

But this did not deter spiderman, who seemed to be missing the Alps.

A walk into the rocks above the camp site showed many types of lichen, always a sign, I thought, of clean air.

Right in the rocks a stunning pelargonium. Pelargonium fulgidum - rooimalva.

The beaches in all the linked coves were of large-crushed shell, many feet thick.

Looking back at our little site.

Getting later and we headed back while it was still light (you learn this fast when camping) to start supper preparations. I decided to make potbread again. The tailgate was my prep station. I never thought I'd love a car this much. Faithful Landcruiser.

Dough was mixed and resting, and the crayfish cleaned and gutted. Not fun.

I packed stones around the fireplace to blunt the breeze off the sea.

Fire. One of the best parts of the day, always. Still using super-dry camelthorn wood from Namibia.

My darling dinner companion chillin' after setting up the tent.

Poor kreefies. They were so big that I had to grill them one by one. In the pot? Butter, garlic and lemon juice. But of course.

And when the coals glowed, they were ready for the potbread.

What better? Food? Company? View? Wine? This was very special. And yes, you can drink pinotage with crayfish.

Bread's ready.

The lighthouse came to life.

The beam passed over our heads again and again in a noiseless arc.

The night was drawing in...


  1. this inspires me to try cooking something far nicer while camping than our usual, rather bland and pathetic fare. and i think i'll plan our next camping trip for someplace near the ocean...

  2. That's what I call building up the suspense... ;-)

    Great pictures, I hadn't seen most of them. Love the middle lichen and the orange boat from above!

  3. mmm, I'm salivating! had a quiet chuckle remembering a certain archaeologist and those good old days. Talking of which I had a suprise call from Warren F all the way from Aus this morning - good to catch up! now I am hungry and toast won't do!

  4. Have just returned from Paternoster and miss every charming minute of our time there!
    Thank you for your well written and enticing story!
    Happy travels!


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