Sunday, September 26, 2010

Land without fat (part 6)

Round trips: Travelling the Cape West Coast - Land ‘Without Fat’

In spring many flower enthusiasts stay in Paternoster to visit the impressive Columbine Nature Reserve 3km away, which incorporates Tietiesbaai, and is a favourite of campers and caravaners, particularly during the summer holidays. It offers hiking, angling, bird-watching, diving, kayaking and a beach campsite.

For those with an understandable fetish for lighthouses, Cape Columbine - the last manned lighthouse built on the South African coast – is well worth visiting. The four million candlepower electric lamp was switched on there in October, 1936. The coastline is rich in maritime history, albeit mostly tragic.

Lawrence G. Green in his So Few Are Free (1946) wrote that amid the sand and reefs of Cape Columbine lie the bones of Dutch East India ships and the steel plates of modern passenger liners. Columbine takes its name from the barque Columbine, wrecked there in 1829. Not far away is Soldier’s Reef (close to Paternoster), a name which speaks for itself when you know that in 1876 the troopship St. Lawrence was lost there.

Soldier’s Reef claimed another victim on 23 October 1910 when the Lisboa also ran aground there. This was to be the first time on the South African coast that radio telegraphy was used to call for help by a ship in distress.

Green wrote that there were bulls on board the Lisboa, destined for the ring at Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), and a cargo of red wine in barrels down below. For three weeks the ship remained firmly on the rocks, looking as though she was at anchor. Salvage vessels saved the bulls, and the crew.

Apparently many of the wheat farmers in the St. Helena Bay district gained rich souvenirs of the Lisboa.

“They have fine sets of silver plate, trays and sugar bowls, all stamped with the ship’s name. When the Lisboa broke up in a gale at last the sea was stained for miles with her wine,” wrote Green.

On a magnificent afternoon like this one, with the wind just starting to whip off the ocean, many are understandably lured to the tables and chairs baking in the sun outside the famous and character-full Paternoster hotel (you’ve got to take a look into the bar!). It’s more than 100 years old, and has been a hotel since 1940.

From here you can just stare through the trees for a glimpse of the Atlantic, or watch the antics of the local folk, while waiting for a tankard of ice cold draft and a juicy, sizzling slab of fresh-caught Dorado. This is as good a time as any to contemplate the return journey to Cape Town via Saldanha.

(To continue...)

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