A trip through the West Coast
As a man that has shaken the dreaded “inkommer” status by living in the West Coast for more than 10 years, and having a built-in wanderlust in me, I have explored far and wide. The West Coast proper starts for all intents and purposes somewhere between Silwerstroomstrand and Yzerfontein, despite a forlorn sign board proclaiming some invisible boundary somewhere on the R27.
My journey starts at Silwerstroomstrand, which has a unique history if the talk from around the early morning coffee gathering of the 4×4 crowd could be believed. I am an avid 4×4 participant and have done countless trips in exotic locations, none more so than this private jewel nestled snuggly against the Atlantic Ocean. It was previously a working farm owned by two white siblings in the late seventies. When the previous regime decided that, due to the policy of separate development Atlantis will be henceforth a “coloured” area, they were unceremoniously bundled off their farm to make way for for the Atlantis residents.
Fast forward to the new democracy and with land claims springing up from every part of the country, these two intrepid gentlemen, now in their middle years, decided to jump on the wagon to get their land back They lodged a land claim and if the talk can be believed, they were eventually successful in regaining their land, turning it into a private farm once again. They have selective camping and a marvellous 4×4 route on invitation to Off-road clubs only, where great emphasis is placed on conservation of the dunes where the route is laid out. I spent an exhilarating day traversing the dunes where eagle eyed caretakers watch your every move while testing your prowess against nature, with the cool ocean breeze cooling off the procedure to manageable levels.
Ganzekraal was next on my list of destinations and as can be expected from an off the beaten track destination, this municipal camping ground with quaint wooden chalets are pristine in their upkeep and breathtakingly beautiful. It is perched high on a dune looking down on the rumbling Atlantic Ocean trying it’s best to dissolve the rocks below with monotonous crashing sounds that is both ominous and soothing on the ears. Sitting on the wooden deck balcony one balmy summer’s evening with great companions, perfectly braaied meat and some cold brews, I realized how immensely rewarding the simple life can be when you have the right destination to practise it in. I have solemnly vowed to return again with more frequent visits to this little gem on our doorstep.
Darling is an idiosyncrasy in itself purely by the name given to this inland destination steeped in the pursuit of farming and wine-making. Please afford me the time to dwell a bit on this town before continuing my travels down the R27.
This alluring little town, situated off the beaten track for cars speeding past on the R27 – ignoring the signboard proclaiming its proximity a good ten kilometres from the main West Coast road – is a revelation in the culture and home-made business sectors. Well known for the famous Evita se Perron, established years ago by the satirist and visionary, Pieter-Dirk Uys by moving from the bustling City to small, nondescript little towns on the outskirts of the main society, when it was not fashionable and desirable. He established a niche in the culture gap and started drawing vast crowds of well-heeled patrons from the City bowl to Darling.
The locals responded marvelously to this unexpected windfall and plied the visitors with home-made delicacies, micro brewed beers and damn good wines on offer from the local food and drink basket. They established Darling as a brand name now on everyone’s lips and secured the future of this town for generations to come. Darling is a town with a distinct feeling of farm life where tractors in the main road are as common place as luxury German saloons in Cape Town. Small shops litter the pristine kept sidewalks and B&B’s litter the town to provide in the demand for weekend breakaways from the rat race.
I had the pleasure in spending a day in Darling with a friend some time ago and apart from the throbbing headache that accompanied me the following day, this was one for the books. Booking into a lush, tree filled back garden guest house, we explored the wares on offer, starting just after some sort of flying contraption was heard overhead.
The micro-brew beer company Darling Brew was our first stop and with a selection of beers on offer in exotic flavours not normally associated with traditional beers. We were given a platter of cheeses, biscuits and cold meats to enhance of palate, or more likely to keep us from inspecting the pavement at close quarters, and we were positively reluctant to leave our beer cave to explore further. Sanity prevailed and we bid our smiling beer brothers and sisters a fond farewell……..
………to right next door where the local wine shop opened their doors and invited us in. We were introduced by a very competent and gregarious lady to the different cultivars and tastes, while trying desperately to accommodate her enthusiasm through the clinging taste of beer and cheese. Eventually we cleaned our palate sufficiently to start appreciating the crisp notes of fruits and woody nuts in the wine and instead of acting like appreciating patrons at a suave event, we gobbled instead of spitting. Suffice to say, we learned that Darling is the home of several award winning wine farms and its products are enjoyed far and wide outside the confines of the town borders, even in the hallowed halls of some very exquisite dwellings in Europe and beyond.
We had to eventually thank the kind lady plying us with lashings of white and red wines in cute taste glasses that we summarily threw down our throats like shooters, bidding her a fond farewell with promises to return, starting with her wares and skipping the beer altogether. We cautiously ambled over the road to try and extract ourselves from the looming destruction staring us in the face, just to be enticed by the most delicious aroma drifting from yeah, you guessed it, a pub called Bistro 7. We regrouped for a second and convinced ourselves that we do need to eat and whether it’s a pub or a steakhouse, the end result will be the same. Entering into a well-stocked Sports Pub, we immediately realized the error of our decision when a jovial man enticed us into an ice cold glass of the alcoholic persuasion.
Skipping forward through the pleasant haze of boisterous laughter, fiendish back slaps and full glasses, we eventually strengthened our innards enough to stabilize the runaway train in our heads by sitting down for a meal fit for a king. We even had the marvelous pleasure to be seated in the company of Darling and indeed SA royalty, Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout in the drab disguise of Pieter-Dirk Uys at the adjoining table, having a quiet meal with a friend. We thanked our guardian angel the following day in the stark sunlight that sanity prevailed and that we did not behave like star struck fools or worse, tried to enter into conversation with the man. A curt greeting was all we thankfully mustered and he returned our greetings with stylish aplomb, wishing us a pleasant meal that made us grin like some alien cat on a full cream drip.
And instead of sneaking out of the establishment on our tummy’s and leopard crawling our way to the safety of our awaiting guest house Trinity Lodge, we foolishly returned to the sound of clinking glasses and hearty laughter in the pub area. We were greeted like long gone locals and immediately introduced to the “after dinner nightcap”, a term that loosely translated into drinking everything except green paint due to the fact that I don’t like the colour! We met several locals and being from Langebaan, were immediately branded as honorary locals due to our West Coast connection and what a glorious night ensued with people full of laughter and living. When the gong sounded for the last round, we have made friends akin to family in the short space of a few hours and this is testimony to the open and friendly nature of the local tribe!
I am ending my tour through the West Coast here till a next time and be assured that any one of these places is a dead certainty when feeling the pinch of the madness of the City life and the relentless traffic. Plan a weekend away without having to drive hundreds of kilometres to some far off destination and sample the goods on offer just up the drag from Cape Town……..you might be pleasantly surprised.
I am living my dream in a seaside village on the West Coast. Having toured the world, working weird and wonderful jobs, lived in faraway and exotic places and running several own businesses, I finally settled on Langebaan as a permanent base to launch the next adventure of my life. Watch this space…….