Tuesday 9 August 2011: 4 years 11 months on … Advantage ED
Last year, round about this time, I wrote Piece of Paradise and Ed and Elvis.
In both blogs I wrote about trips to the Southern Cape, including the Garden Route, and about visits with friend Jan Hoogendyk who had entered the SA Idols contest.
Well, history tells us that Jan went on to win SA Idols 2010 as Elvis Blue, and Sean and I were pleased to break into his heavy schedule and to meet up with him for a quick cuppachino at Dulce’s a while ago. I’m still hoping to get him to Port Elizabeth for a show.
And this past long weekend, we went on to visit the Southern Cape once again. Exactly a year after visiting Plettenberg Bay in 2010, we were back in 2011.
Friday night was a busy (and long one for me!) By invitation of Mr Squash, Alan Stapleton, we attended the re-opening of Crusaders Squash Club with its new glass-backed courts! But Saturday morning at 11, we left on time for Plett, just two hours westwards along the N2 from Port Elizabeth. Sean is now a year into his driver’s licence and once again, is behind the wheel. (Phillip has just got his licence – in Uitenhage – to drive a scooter, but he remained in PE to do advanced maths and an IT project for school.)
At one pm sharp we took the drive around the corner at The Crags, just before Keurbooms Strand and the River. The view before you of the Plettenberg Bay and the Robberg Peninsula takes some beating.
We were spending the weekend with John and Wendy Clarke. (John had told me, almost five years ago when I became ill, that many would go before me! Now he is convalescing from Guillain-Barre disease, which, just a few weeks ago, had paralysed him within a few hours!)
After lunch, we went for a long walk along the beach, from Keurbooms River, along the lagoon spit and all the way to the river mouth at (what used to be until it was flooded away) Lookout Beach. John tried his hand at fishing, something that just a few weeks ago he was unable to do! The views of the blue ocean and the blue mountains – some still capped with white snow from the recent falls – that surround this impressive Bay are spectacular. We even had the pleasure of viewing a display by a lonesome whale just beyond the surf.
Plettenberg Bay is to South Africa something like Monaco is to the French Riviera. The views of the Robberg Peninsula and the Tsitsikamma Mountains are spectacular. The homes on Millionaire’s Row are stunning and possibly extravagant.
Juxtaposed to this display of the country’s wealth, just on the other side of the N2, is the squalor of the tin shacks, the RDP houses and rows of outside toilets (ironically, at one stage, this township was named Flushing Meadows!).
It is a common-place sight in our country: the haves and the have-nots right next to each other. One sees it in Johannesburg’s Sandton and Alexandria; in Cape Town’s Constantia and Hout Bay and Khayalitsha; and, in fact, in every South African city, town, village and township.
It is a display that could quite easily begin a discussion on the Fairness of Life (who said that Life’s fair?) and fuel a debate on socialism. Many years ago, I recall our then domestic assistant, Lorna, looking at this display of empty holiday homes and not understanding why so many of these large homes were only occupied for just a few weeks in each year!
As I write this, the youth of London and indeed Britain, have gone on the rampage. SKY News is showing pictures of wanton destruction, looting, arson and plain downright criminality and theft. If this can happen in a so-called First World Country, it reminds me how much of a tinder box we sit on here in South Africa!
When I was in doing my military service at the Infantry School in Oudtshoorn in 1982/83, we often came to Keurbooms for weekends. I had to AWOL, as I was just a troopie in my first year whilst my brother-in-law Anton and his mates were officers in their second year!
Indeed, my first visits to this magnificent part of the world were whilst I was studying at Stellenbosch University. We came to Plett at the end of every year once we had finished our final examinations. It was the beginning of what is now the much more formalised “Plett Rage” that takes place annually in December and now draws not only thousands of University students but also thousands of finishing off high school matric pupils from all over the country.
I remember one trip, arriving in the Peugeot (nicknamed the Pugget!) and being kicked out of the then Piesangs River Caravan Park, because the five of us – one woman and four men – did not represent a family unit of any kind, and that park supposedly only catered for families! We ended up camping at the Plett Park instead.
Within a few days we collected enough to fly the lady back to Cape Town and we continued enjoying what was then the pub at the Beacon Island Hotel, the Grape Vine (?) underneath the Hotel, the Formosa Inn and the Arches.
On our evening trip back to Cape Town, the Pugget overheated near Knysna, and we filled the radiator with salt water out of the Knysna Lagoon! We later pitched our tent on the front lawn of the Du Toits in George – and they found a squatter camp in their garden the next morning!
Those were the carefree student days of bright sunshine, braaivleis, beer and bankcruptcy!
In later years, our family often visited this area too and we have explored most of the Plett, Keurbooms, Knysna, George area – the Garden Route of South Africa. We also bought a plot of land at Sanderlings on the Keurbooms River, and had plans drawn up for a holiday house there, before we decided to buy in St Francis Bay instead.
Saturday evening we braaied with the Bryants, Sunday we slept in and then walked the beach, as we did on Monday. We talked, we walked, we ate, we slept and John fished – something I still do not do voluntarily!
It was a weekend of re-charging the batteries, depressing the blues, enjoying friendships and living Life!