Sunday, May 16, 2010

Paternoster ("Our Father")

I am not a big fan of the West Coast. If I have a choice I will always hit the road to the opposite side of the West Coast. The West Coast of South Africa is much less developed than the East Coast, and the towns are very small. A few nights ago on Pasella they had an insert on St Helena Bay. Having never been to St Helena bay before I decided to do a short road trip and investigate.

I left Cape Town at around 9 a.m. The weather prediction was very good and I decided to head to Paternoster first. From there my plan was to ride with the gravel road to Stompneusbaai and from there to St Helena Bay. I have been to Paternoster before. When you approach Paternoster you get the same scenery you find when approaching Yzerfontein. A straight road heading down to the coast with basically nothing on the left and the right, and only a few white painted houses far in the distance. Paternoster is about 130 kilometres from where I live and I have only been there once before when a friend of mine was looking for a plot for a friend of his from further up north. The furtherest I'v been on the West Coast Road is Saldanha, but just a few kilometres further you find a turn-off to Vredenburg and then it is another 15 kilometres to Paternoster.

Paternoster is a beautiful little fishing town. The town which originally only served a small fishing community has also fallen victim of rich capitalists who wants to own a "little" seaside home. And when you come from a place like Gauteng, what better place to build your little getaway home far from the hustle and bustle and far from the crime. Unfortunately this little town "belonged" to a poor fishing community who had to sit and watch how the rich minority of South Africa were building huge houses right in front of their little white washed beach cottages. In an effort to preserve the traditional look, houses are all built in the same West Coast style, but when you build a 3-storey house in front a little cottage which were there long before you arrived with your checquebook and 4x4, you cannot help to come over as a bit extravagant and selfish.

From Paternoster I took the first turn-off towards Stompneusbaai. I was a bit worried that the road might be very muddy and slippery after two weeks of rain, but apart from one or two mudpools and some slippery areas, the road was not too bad at all. It is about 20 kilometers to Stompneusbaai. Even there the huge developments left a bad taste in my mouth. Just outside Stompneusbaai I stopped at a little monument that was erected for Vasco Da Gama who arrived in 1497 while he was looking for a sea route to India. I wonder what he would say if he saw St Helena Bay today. I actually wonder more what it looked like when he first set foot on these shores?

From Stompneusbaai I rode to St Helena Bay. The plan was to meet my family there for a picnic. This is how you protect that fine line between having your own fun and neglecting your family on a beautiful Sunday. When I approached St Helena Bay I decided that I would rather go back to Paternoster and have the picnic there. St Helena Bay did not impress me much. I phoned and redirected them to Paternoster where we spend some time on the beach having roasted chicken, coffee and chocolate cup cakes for desert. Just outside Paternoster is a nature reserve where the famous Tietiesbaai is situated. This will definitely be our next camping site, but today we didn't stay long and took the road home. Because the road from Vredenburg to Melkbos is rather straight and very boring, we decided to turn off to Darling and go via Mamre and Atlantis back to Cape Town. We arrived home at around four-thirty, after doing 366km.

It is always great to ride in good weather, but today I have to admit that the destination was not what I expected it to be and put a bit of a damper on my ride. The West Coast still does not impress me much and the road from Cape Town to Vredenburg is just too straight an boring. There are many people who actually love the West Coast, but I still prefer to head east from Cape Town if I get the chance. I love the tranquility of the West Coast towns, but when I see how that is being killed by people with too much money, then I cannot help but feel sorry for the local inhabitants of those little towns. I will definitely come back to do my weekend at Tietiesbaai, but this will be with the whole family and the kombi. My next bike trip will be towards the east again....

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