Catching Kate In Vermaaklikheid
Bad news spreads like a rash. The world is upside down. Our own Juju is giving away his secret recipe and weight loss plan. The UK is in a shambles after Brexit. In the US there’s a possibility that a megalomaniac with a Hitleresque attitude and a permanent bad hair day, might become the next president. We’re not on Noah’s ark that’s for sure, we’re just rudderless and sinking into despair. Fear, uncertainty and insecurity is the breeding ground for hate, mistrust and anger. If this life was a magic carpet ride we’re going to run out of steam. I think even the prophets are speechless.
Never the less, we decided to get out and do a bit of exploring, we needed cheering up. A distraction. Where better than out there on a dirt road going nowhere slowly. A place near the sea, where sheep graze in the fynbos and folk are gentler, kinder and life has the slow rhythm of a meandering river flowing to the sea.
Lunch was a sandwich under the trees in Swellendam. Then we hit the dirt road to Vermaaklikheid. (Vermaaklikheid means entertainment). A tiny hamlet just a few kilometres from Witsand, nestled among the dunes hugging the Duiwenhoks River. Just 3.5 hours’ drive from Cape Town en-route to Riversdale. This area is known as Hessequa.
The clock stood still here a few decades ago. Small thatched Old Cape Homesteads and labourer’s cottages dot the dirt road to the river. The area is a fynbos shrub land with a temperate climate. More than 100 species of birds can be seen here.
Small-holdings line the dirt road where subsistence farmers garden, harvesting fruit, olives and grapes from their small orchards and vineyards. The few remaining fishermen now deliver most of their catch to the local fish factory. Shepherds tend small herds of goat, sheep, cattle and the odd pink pig.
Getting away from it all is an understatement. A collection of interesting characters call this home. The busy postmistress, tucked away behind bars, has stories to tell. Her husband who makes a “world famous” brew is on the cusp of fame and fortune when the “Americans” sign the contract for his unique honey, harvested from a mere 20 hives. Breakfast was a tasting of his hooch. Not a recommendation, but impossible to refuse. We sign the guestbook, proof we've been there. We left with a pot of raw honey and some delicious preserved green figs to compliment a wheel of Camembert.
I was gifted a lovely handmade black straw hat at a BIETSIE LOCAL, where you can buy "'n bietsie van alles", a bit of everything, a gift/antique shop. Every stick of furniture, chipped cup or enamel plate has a history. The owner, Tracey Telford, a mother with her two children decided to abandon the hustle of city life and relocated to sleepy hollow. Perched in their bright pink tree-house the youngsters seem quite content to live in the loft above their shop amongst an array of bric-a-brac collected from locals who up-grade from shabby to chic. The nettle tea I bought is so bitter I felt nauseous, but some say that’s the sign of a good local remedy. We loved her homemade choc-free chocolate.
The last time I saw Puntjie I was on foot, having hiked along the beach, this time we crawled over the dunes through acres of fynbos to get there. Idyllic I’d say. I’m sure a keen fisherman would harvest plenty from the sea, black mussels, oysters, calamari and a drought of fish.
After our walks we’d return to our cottage and relax. Read, cook, chat and snooze. Like dogs in the winter sun we’d move our chairs along the walls enjoying the days' last warm rays. Besides a few boards of Rummicub and the online Scrabble our Queen of Tarts played we didn’t do anything in the least strenuous. We did have excellent meals of course, puddings, cakes and treats galore. We unwound.
On Sunday we took a quiet paddle upstream with our guide, Kyle, who is a teacher at the local “private” school along with his mother-in-law the principal. They work hard to inspire the handful of local children to enjoy school and by the sounds of things they’re successful. Kyle knows the river well. Next time we visit we’re hoping to have one of his fish dinners! We missed not having somewhere to enjoy a local meal, we’re sure there must be fantastic cooks in this neck of the woods.
Unfortunately we had to leave well before the mist lifted in the valley on the Monday morning. Vermaaklikheid lived up to its name, to entertain us. We certainly were. This would be our final weekend before our friends’ return to summer climes in Europe. We enjoyed spending the final hours with you. Thank you for a summer filled with sunshine. We await your return in August, I believe the Namaqualand will be in full bloom to welcome you back.
River Magic Cottage
Manager: Kyle 074 9561844
'n Bietsie Local