May Day!

 

Watch the video. It’s a miracle that our friends’, the Kapps, house is still there. The other homes are destroyed. Our other friends in Plett, the Uptons, were not so lucky. Their house was razed to the ground.

For my overseas friends, the southern and eastern cape coastline at the southern base of Africa is where we live. From Cape Town in the west to Port Elizabeth in the east is about 700 km. George is slightly more than halfway between Cape Town and PE.

The N2 route from George to PE is known as the Garden Route, not for nothing.It also carries the name of the Garden of Eden and the Eden Municipality.

Some of the most beautiful scenery in South Africa is found along the Garden Route – sea, mountains, forests, lakes, lagoons, elephants, rivers, beaches … whatever you can dream of is found there.

We have been experiencing one of the worst droughts in living memory. This week the forecasters predicted a cold front with winds and rain – big storms!

We all geared up for that. But on Wednesday, the fires started.

The area between Knysna and Plett has been razed, as well as other spots along the coast.

It is a disaster.

Today is also Theresa May’s personal disaster in the British elections

But, as always, the good in man is extracted by the worst in nature.

I shall write more when I feel better …

 

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Plett Rage (2)

Wed 4 December 2013: 7 years 3 months on …

Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Deuce

I forgot to mention in my last blog that we had the benefit of not having cell phones in those days (1979).

So no-one could get hold of you unless you wanted to get hold of them … via the silver public telephone in the red and cream rondavel-styled phone box in the caravan park. (In the “public” booths on the pavements outside the park, you would also have to check whether the booth was signed for “WHITES ONLY” or “Non-Whites ONLY”.)

As Stellenbosch students, we had also perfected the “lang-tiekie” – a 20c piece that had a long string attached to it. You dropped the coin into the slot, made your call, and then removed the coin afterwards! Hence, a free call home just to inform the folks that you were still safe (and maybe just to ask them to deposit ten more rand into your bank account!)

As students, we managed a number of cons (written off as “onskuldige studente-pret”) (innocent student fun).

At the Beacon Isle Hotel, we would go and lie at the pool (for residents only!) and pretend we were booked in there. We would cuddle up to some other familes and pretend we were part of the group. Sometimes it worked and sometimes not.

I recall a middle-aged ( probably called her ‘elderly’ then) lady from Sandton. She wore a golden swimsuit and was dark bronze tanned with golden earrings dangling from her ears and a golden necklace around the neck. She never swam in the pool but just lay in the sun day after day – working on that bronze tan.

We pretended to her that we were guests and she chatted to us day after day. Then one day, the waiter asked us for our room number and when we gave a number that didn’t exist, we were hurriedly chased out from the hotel. Thereafter, she would have nothing to do with us!

Ha ha! Howard Sheard has just reminded me that his kid’s Rage this year has cost him more than his own entire academic and hostel stay as a student at Stellenbosch University!

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Plett Rage

Tuesday 3 December 2013: 7 years 3 months on …

Physical: Advantage CBD / Mental: Deuce

School is out … for the summer holidays, and for Phillip for good! Exams are finished and now we wait for the results early in January 2014.

In the meantime, he and thousands other scholars and students and hangers-on have headed to Plettenberg Bay for the annual Plett Rage (something similar to the Fort Lauderdale Florida student experience in the USA!)

It has angered me on occassion. The build-up has been over the last few months, and I have often said that I wish that our children put as much funding, preperation and enthusiasm into their school work as they did into the Plett Rage. Thousands of rands for accommodation and food and travel and entertainment, and who knows, possibly even more into alcohol! Parents (and especially mothers) are so involved too, hiring houses, cooking food, providing transport, preparing, cleaning, chaufferring and who knows what all …

But, then, I was reminded that 34 years ago I was also at our very own Plett Rave (or Rage as it is now called.)

As students, after  1979 exams at Stellenbosch, we also headed for Plettenberg Bay.

On the home page of the official web site of the Plett Rage (www.plettrage.co.za), you will read the following:

Plett Rage is the longest running and arguably largest student festival in the Southern Hemisphere! Plett Rage unofficially started off as a few hundred students migrating to Plett for a few days in the early 80’s for good times and to celebrate the summer. Fast forward to today and Rage is now 10 days of partying at six awesome festival venues, 300 staff to help you and of course 15,000 of your fellow students rocking it out to the biggest and best of SA’s live and electronic music scene.

As the youngsters today say, LOL. Forget the “early eighties”, we started the Rave in the late seventies! We have ourselves to blame.

But our trip was very different. Our parents were certainly not involved.

With a few rands in our pockets, we headed to Plett in what we called the Pugget (our Peugeot). We, being three lads and a lass. Our few articles of clothing and a tent were in the boot.

On arrival at Piesangs River Caravan Park, we were sent away. The place was a FAMILY tent and caravan park, and the owners could not determine a “family” in our group of four!

So, we headed to the Plett Caravan Park on the shores of the lagoon, and that’s where we pitched our tent. (The lass became problematic and we collected money and flew her back to Cape Town from the then-functional Plett airport!)

For the rest, I remember too little (maybe better so.) I think there was the Formosa Inn, the Grapevine Pub under the Beacon Isle Hotel and the Cave at the fake Spanish style Arch(er)wood Hotel.

I can’t remember there being anything else in Plett! (it was still a small dorp then!)

We had to leave Plett late on the night of the 30 November, because the caravan park rates went up for the season on the 1st December, and as students, we could not afford that! Th e Pugget gave us problems and overheated in Knysna, so we just filled the radiator up with salt water from the Knysna lagoon, right there next to the National Road. We even took a container of salt water with us, just in case!

We pitched our tent on the river bank at Bufffels Bay and the next day stopped over in George. I think we spent a few days there playing pool with the Du Toits at 21 Caledon Street, and savouring the good food and comfortable beds. (Dr Hendrik du Toit passed away earlier this year.)

The rest of our Plett Rage is a blur – I think its my disease or old age that one blames for loss of memory.

And, so the sins of the fathers are visited on the children ….

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Take My Blues Away

 Tuesday 9 August 2011: 4 years 11 months on … Advantage ED

Women’s Day!

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!