Sunday, October 03, 2010

Land without Fat (Part 8)

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

All that separates Saldanha from the long, straight coast road to Cape Town is the often choppy, aquamarine shores of the Langebaan lagoon.

Arriving there just before sunset the streets of the town were eerily empty, probably because of the icy wind. Langebaan can no longer be described as a village - there’s a proliferation of new homes, gated estates and convenience stores. And an out-of-the-box new shopping centre.

Karena du Plessis describes Langebaan as an excellent year-round holiday destination with plenty to do.

“In the summer months when the wind is up, there is a diversity of lagoon water sports to enjoy – sailing, kite- and wind-surfing are among the most popular. Bird watching on the Langebaan Lagoon in the West Coast National Park is always rewarding and in spring a visit to Postberg to see the flowers is an absolute treat.”

She maintains that during cooler months cycling through the park is one of the best ways to enjoy this unspoilt area, and that one should be on the lookout for whales towards the end of winter and early spring.

With the sun setting into the lagoon, just behind Saldhana, the deserted but magnificent R27 pointed to Cape Town. Nearby Churchhaven in the West Coast National Park, also Yzerfontein, remained unexplored in the dusk. They’re all apparently well worth spending time at.

This journey exploring the West Coast had been greatly enhanced by the versatile and urban SUV five-seater Mitsubishi Outlander that was now champing like a horse at the bit to get home.

While overall fuel consumption in the region of 8,6 litres/100 km apparently likely (which would give the Outlander a generous range on a 60 litre tank), slightly hilly terrain and strong headwinds meant consumption hovered instead around 13.6 ltrs/100km. 11.2 ltrs/100km was achieved when cruising comfortably at 120km/hr, like on the stretch between Moorreesburg and Vredenburg. On the 60 litre tank this is no longer a generous range... and for anyone used to a larger tank, having to refuel much more often could take some getting used to.

Some of the highlights of the vehicle were its all-aluminium engine/CVT gearbox package and its switchable two and four wheel drive. Its eye-catching design was commented on by strangers on the road and its enhanced passive safety was particularly useful when reversing treacherously close to an unnoticed pole. And don’t ever forget its sheer driving pleasure....

Watching a West Coast dusk fadeout - through the entire spectrum of pastel to deep purple, finally a velvet black  - in the rear-view mirror, one is intrinsically aware that although this is a ‘land without fat’, it is nevertheless a textured, energetic place of humble beauty, friendly people and immense surprise.



+Where to Stay

There is plentiful accommodation of the most un-commercial, un-clinical kind, whether homely B&Bs and guesthouses, or camping sites in some of the finest natural spots. Spontaneity is recommended - so stay at the end of the road you’re on. And helpful, friendly tourism bureaus abound.

+What to Read

West Coast – from the Cederburg to Sea (Struik) by Karena du Plessis and Vanessa Cowling was published last year and offers a fresh and extraordinary perspective on the West Coast (and its unique cuisine) in a user-friendly, but hardy, coffee table format.

Lovely Beyond Any Singing – Landscapes in South African Writing (Double Storey), an anthology compiled by Helen Moffett.

Two Oceans. A guide to the marine life of southern Africa (David Philip). by G.M.Branch (et al).

Just Blue, the tunicate taxonomy and marine invertebrate research website:

So Few Are Free (Howard Timmins) by Lawrence G. Green.


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