To Arniston With A Surfboard
The Southern Cape must boast the best weather. For some reason autumn has come early this year, I can’t remember ever experiencing three weeks of inclement weather in February/March. We packed up our Honey Badger in the hope of sunshine and perfect waves.
Arniston is a gem. As a young girl we used to go there frequently. I clearly remember a photograph of myself walking up the stairs from the beach bikini clad with the best tan I’ve ever had. A lot of hard work went into my tans in those days. You'll know Arniston from paintings and pictures lining walls in many South African homes.
Arniston has changed, but, in essence hasn’t... It still has that small fishing village feel about it and the harbour with the colourful fishing vessels are still just as they were all those years ago. The Hotel has changed. It’s all dolled up. A 1960’s beachfront hotel with aluminum windows. Still rather uninspiring in my opinion, but very popular with tourists and visitors. That was clear by the full parking area, the veranda chock ‘n block on Sunday morning with guests enjoying an early luncheon before heading home or onwards.
We, the usual suspects with additional friends and children went to the Arniston campsite. No reservations required. Large, spacious sites with electricity and water laid on. Each block is neatly sectioned with high indigenous hedging for extra privacy which also acts as a wind break.
The ablutions are near enough, but we found the key system a little confusing. Campers pay a deposit for a key and then have the unfettered use of an ablution. Sue, Die Kampkommedant, was most put out when she arrived to do her evening ablutions to find a middle aged couple had literally parked on the doorstep and had set up camp in the ablutions going as far as draping their facecloths over the edge of the hand basin and popping their toothbrushes into glasses on the edge with other paraphenalia lining the windowsills. They didn't linger and we heard them putter off early on Saturday morning.
Early on Saturday morning, before the mists had lifted, I heard the boys scratching around collecting their fishing rods and tackle boxes. While brewing coffee the bait was inspected. They were geared to get the big one. We’d see them later when we took to the road on our morning walk of discovery.
Anglers were dotted all along the cliff tops and beaches each one with his preferred array of rods, reels and bait we even spotted a large silver fish being hauled in from the waves. Neighbouring lines were being closely watched as hopes were boosted. Fish were feeding.
If you know Arniston you’d know the old family homes dotted along the edge of the mainland. These have all been renovated some improved but, to me, some have lost their olde worlde charm although there are still many beautiful homesteads with interesting gates, names and roofs. Fortunately the Cape vernacular hasn’t changed in Kassiesbaai, the most colourful part of town with the quaint traditional fishing cottages. Here children and feral dogs still roam about in the narrow lanes.
The strumming of a guitar drew me closer to inspect at one small cottage as I was transported by the soulful tune but soon smiled when I saw the guitarist sitting inside on his wrought iron cot gently picking the cords on his electric guitar. He smiled when he noticed me but I didn’t want to disturb him and soon hurried off.
Children love playing on the beach and on a warm but cloudy day there couldn’t be anything better as children of all ages and sizes surfed or took on a body board, built sand castles, turned into mermaids, played beach cricket or went exploring in the rock pools. The days are still long and the warm air from the sea kept beach goers happy for hours. Sue and I even indulged in an ice cream from a truck.
Once again our meals were Gourmet with Percy whetting our taste buds with the saute of onions and garlic as he prepared Percy’s Perfect Pasta Pot. His Lasagne. A hit. Tummies rumbled after all the exercise on Saturday, although the fishing produced nothing we were treated to superb Pizzas from Spuy’s kitchen, Butch and I were fascinated and have learned a few new tricks for next time. I will invest in a clay tile, for crispy pizza bases. On Saturday evening after a day on the beach we all needed a typical Braai Broodjie and chop (tjoppie), which Butch braaied perfectly.
Sunday was a lazy day with coffee and Hot cross buns, the boys went fishing again, this time with different bait, the old timers leisurely started packing up. Billy had arrived, he knows fishing and his worms always hook a big one.
At noon the boys arrived and we all went for lunch at Willeens for a traditional fish ‘n chips. On the menu Cape Salmon. Need I say more? We were sold. The enigmatic waitress was a character and didn’t mince her words as she ordered us about in her local patois. Willeen knows how to prepare fish, after all she’s a local lady and preparing seafood must be second nature.
The calamari, pickled fish and Billy’s tomato bredie looked and tasted divine. Our meal was a glorious affair with much laughter and a long quiet spell as we all tucked in. Percy indulged in his favourite Malva Pudding and custard and rolled his eyes in delight. Although a little dry, I did enjoy my chocolate cake too.
The very serious game of marbles took us all out to the backyard where the best of five was played. I don’t remember who the ultimate winner was, I think it must’ve been Zondag. Nice to see children still play the old fashion games even the old boys knew all the tricks.
Every weekend away has a highlight and the official handing over of the Barend surf board, handcrafted by Jaco in his basement in Canada during the last long, cold winter for his friend Spuy did it for me. How wonderful to see two school friends rekindle their friendship and the joy of giving and receiving something so very personal was heartwarming. The board is a master piece, slick, smooth, almost paper thin and light as a feather. The personalized depiction of “Speedy’s Green Bakkie” is a visual reminder of their wonder years. Well done Jaco you created a beautiful bit of functional art and took bespoke up a notch.
By the looks of things the new Barend took to the waves like a duck to water and many superb waves were caught and riding them seemed easy.
With tummies full, rich memories and a card full of photographs we all headed home. Our short holiday was drawing to a close and this Arniston weekend was the highlight. Thank you to Butch, Jaco, Billy, Erin, Sue, Percy, Spuy, Nadia, Katryn (who stole all our hearts), Zondag, Johannes, Chellra en Pieter for making our weekend unforgetable.
Bespoke Barend Surfboard:
083 729 0651 for reservations
Arniston Camp ground:
No reservations required