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Published: September 2nd 2015
On 9th August 1956, 20,000 South African women, of all races, marched on Pretoria's government buildings to protest the requirement for Blacks to carry passes to move around the country. The women came together, stood in silence for 30 minutes, sang a song and then left peacefully after depositing their petition. Today, the date of this dignified protest is marked as a national holiday honouring the achievements of South African women.
I was keen to go to Cape Agulhas for the long weekend as I had not yet seen the southern-most tip of Africa. Lindsey searched and searched and eventually found somewhere on Airbnb in a town called Bredasdorp (but pronounced "Bredaahsdorp"), about 30km from Agulhas.
We had planned to leave early to explore before getting to Bredasdorp but we ended up being detained by large quantities of admin and me making a pie. Eventually we joined the exodus of cars leaving Cape Town for the long weekend. We left Cape Town on Sir Lowry's pass, another of Cape Town's amazingly scenic exits. The pass climbs high and if you have time it is worth stopping in the baboon filled car park at the top to admire the view.
Last time we drove Sir Lowry's we were on our honeymoon and had all the time in the world. This time we just wanted to get to our destination so we skipped that pleasure.
About 30km down the road, just before the junction for Hermanus, there is a farm shop which we couldn't resist stopping at. We were restrained, buying just dried strawberries, dried marula fruit and a piece of fudge. We got back into the heaving traffic but fortunately most turned off for Hermanus and we were left on a quieter road. After that we made good progress except for three or four "stop and go" roadworks which delayed us. In Britain they try to make road repairs as short as possible. You are unlucky if you end up sitting at a stop and go for more than 2 minutes. In South Africa they stretch for miles - usually you turn the engine off and sit for at least 15 minutes.
Eventually we got to Bredasdorp and went to find the keys for the house. We'd been given directions and we followed them. When we stopped a woman called out to us and told us what to
do. We followed her instructions and were soon in the house.
We walked in and were shocked to not be able to find the kitchen. There was a fridge and sink but no cupboards and certainly no oven. This presented a problem as I'd brought my pie to heat for dinner. We looked around some more and discovered a large integrated cupboard in the dark corner behind us. This held crockery and cutlery and pans but we couldn't see anything to cook with. We started rethinking our food for the weekend and were just about to explore local takeaways when we took another look in the cupboard and discovered that the pans had flexes: we had an electric frying pan and wok. This meant we could actually cook a meal. I decided to freeze the pie rather than attempt to fry it. We went to the local supermarket and bought ingredients for a honey and soy stir fry. By the time everyone else arrived we had dinner prepared. I also hand squeezed a load of very small lemons and made lemonade in sugar frosted glasses.
Next morning we all went out to Napier, a village about 10km away
which was full of antique shops. There were some nice curiosities in the shops but little caught my eye. The one purchase we did make was for a leather handcuff holster which was a bargain at R50. We had coffee and a bite to eat in one antique shop before separating for the rest of the day. Lindsey and I walked back to our car but made a detour via one more shop which claimed to have chess sets and militaria. I thought it would be interesting. I didn't consider how scary it could be.
We walked in and were surrounded by lacy table cloths and jars of locally made jam; it seemed quite innocuous. Then the proprietor's husband approached me (specifically me). He invited me to go down to his collection, which he made quite clear was not for sale but was not a museum. He told me men were welcome so long as they didn't talk about politics or sport. He also said ladies could come down but his tone of voice and demeanour made it clear that they weren't really welcome. We were curious so went down. I almost fell down the stairs which were narrow
and difficult to climb. Down stairs, this guy started spouting a lot of politics which he claimed was all very neutral. I couldn't claim to follow all of his thinking but he seemed to have quite an agenda to me. Looking at his collection, it portrays a very blinkered view of recent South African history. The key artefact was a large old South African flag but no evidence that he had conceded the change in administration or the move to a new flag. He claimed to be a true patriot with his patriotism forged through 27 years in the army. To me it seemed he was completely addled by his service. Add to that his small-town eccentricity and he was quite scary. We left as soon as we decently could... several minutes after we felt we needed to. He wouldn't let us leave without me (again specifically me) signing his "senior officer's log". We were very relieved to finally get out of his establishment.
Leaving Napier, we went to the small costal town of Arniston. There was little there except a pretty beach. We clambered over sand dunes and rocks, heading towards a sign-posted cave. The tide was too
high to get to it so we had to just look. I was starting to feel dizzy from a blow to the head earlier in the day so we left early and went home to rest. We drove back via a small fishing village, Kassiesbaai, composed of quaint little cottages.
Next day was our trip to Agulhas. It was a fresh day with a strong wind but the sun was shining. We parked at the lighthouse and went inside. Climbing the tower was quite an adventure as it was four long steep ladders with little headroom. With my build I certainly wasn't destined to be a lighthouse keeper. Coming down was even more difficult - the hand holds certainly did not meet British Standards. The view from the top was worth the effort though. The waves were crashing against the rocks on the beach far below. There were large groups of birds swooping in the thermals over the rocks. Strangely they flew in one long line rather than as a group.
When we were safely on solid ground again we went down to the rocks to the point where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. I suggested to
Lindsey that she could paddle in both oceans and she was delighted at the idea. The family thought she was mad. Meanwhile I went clambering over the rocks and found it very disconcerting when I looked back and saw water behind me; the tide was coming in. I waited for the waves to recede and then scampered back to safety and dryness. When we had finished at the beach we went into town and had a look in the few shops and then had a picnic down the coast. As I still had a headache from the day before, Lindsey and I went home and relaxed whilst the rest of the family explored some more.
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