- by Thandi Davies.
We feel pretty windswept at the moment, and a bit perplexed as to how there can be so much air to blow!
This week I have found a new favourite author – Dalene Matthee. I have just read her last book, Driftwood, translated from Afrikaans, which was very evocative of the land and sea scapes of the Strandveld. It was exciting for me to read a book about the very place I was staying, especially in South Africa. Sometimes, South African authors seem reluctant to name the places in which their books are set. I feel it gives us a sense of recognition when real towns and villages, beaches and beach houses are named in South Africa.
Driftwood is about a man who as a baby is washed up on the rocks amongst the ‘strandslaai’ (seaweed) in a storm after a shipwreck, and is adopted by 2 local ‘strandvelders’, as the people in the Strandveld are called. The book weaves a story of this man, Moses Swart, around true anecdotes and characters of the area. As you can imagine this made our visit all the more meaningful.
The day we left Agulhas we got up early to try and avoid the wind (to no avail) and go searching for the wild flowers that are coming out in the land that has been bought by Sanparks from the farmers in the area. I have an image stuck in my head of Scott straining against the wind trying to take pictures of flowers which were not still for even a millisecond, the wind was so persistent. Once or twice he came back to the car, swearing at the wind which just would not stop… only to slam on brakes 100m down the road because he had spotted another special flower. I greatly admire his persistence!
While driving along we could see evidence everywhere of the brutal fire that swept through in 2009, which damaged large parts of the area, including the national park. There are many old farmsteads which are now skeletons standing bare in the veld – it really is very sad.
One of these such skeletons is ‘Ratel River’ (Honey Badger River in English), an old farmstead that Dalene Matthee mentions in Driftwood and which was said to be haunted by a woman who was murdered by her husband there. We sneaked through the fence and explored around a bit and were gobsmacked by the beauty of it all, even in its dilapidated state. I just love the structure of the buildings with their walls 30 cm deep and gables above the doors… most of these buildings here are way over a hundred years old. Check out some of the photos of Ratel Rivier in an older blog…
We were only here for 6 days but it feels like we could carry on exploring forever! Once you start uncovering a bit of the history behind a place it seems to come alive! We would seriously recommend speaking to Emmarentia de Kock at the SANparks office when you come to Agulhas National Park, to get a bit of information on all the history here. Both she and her husband Giel were incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.
I must say we have been so impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of all the SANparks staff here. Betsy Graaff made us feel at home the minute we arrived by giving us our key and advising us on the local pizza and pasta specials in L’Agulhas which could NOT be missed!
Stephen Murtz and his team made sure all the houses we stayed in were spick and span… it was like we had a little fleet of angels who whipped around the house and magically made it clean and tidy every day! All the houses/cottages here are evidently very well looked after and Stephen obviously takes great pride in the work he does. It is very touching to see.
Stephen grew up in the Strandveld, and once he realised I could understand Afrikaans a lot better than I can speak it, he told me of the two puffadders he found yesterday on the road, and how he has a special move with a stick to catch them and them pick them up at their head and tail and move them into the bushes. He also told me that puffadders have ‘laser eyes’, which, once fixed on a mouse, makes the mouse freeze and not able to run away!
Lastly, under continual requests from Scott’s dad, if you want to stay at Agulhas National Park, phone this number! 021 552 0008. We would highly recommend staying at the ‘Agulhas Rest Camp’, in cottage number 8, if there are 2 of you, or 1-4 if there are 4 of you. Alternatively if you have a large group, Lagoon House is also beautiful, and RIGHT on the sea.
Thanks again to my sponsors for making it all possible. CapeNature, South African National Parks, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Eastern Cape Parks, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Ford, Total, Evosat, Conqueror Trailers, Vodacom, Digicape, Lacie, Frontrunner, K-Way, EeziAwn, National Luna, Nokia , Goodyear, Global Fleet Sales, Hetzner and Clearstream Consulting.