Sunday, September 12, 2010

West Coast Family Fun

The weather in Cape Town has been awesome the last couple of days. Friday night was spend with friends doing what South Africans do best....braaing. Saturday was a stunning day and was spend with my family on the beach. Today was another splendid day and was not going to be wasted either. My wife suggested that I do another bike ride, but I wanted to spend the day with them as well. So this time I tried the West Coast for a change...

The Great Trek towards Potsberg
The first time I went to the West Coast National Park I was a quite disappointed. We went there to see flowers and animals, but all we saw was fynbos (fine bush) and tortoises. Oh, and a couple of antelope somewhere in the distance obviously knowing that it is better to avoid the tourists as much as possible. I promised myself that I would never go there again, but this was a family day and I was thinking that taking my son to see some fynbos, tortoises and antelope somewhere in the distance might still excite him. Besides, the weather was good and my main objective was to reach Langebaan Lagoon (more on the reason for this later) which is situated just adjacent to the park. We were fortunate that my son didn't look like an "adult" yet and we managed to get him into the park for free. This is flower season, so the entrance fee is a bit more than during the rest of the year. Every bit we save can later be spend on something better I guess.

The first thing we encountered after entering the the park (apart from the fynbos) was tortoises crossing the road. I didn't see the need to stop and show my son the first couple of tortoises knowing that we would still see plenty on our way. Besides, he has two pet tortoises at home. The driver in the car in front of me has obviously never been to this park before. He thought he was doing the tortoises a big favour by picking them up and putting them on the side of the road, not even taking into consideration which direction the tortoise was heading in the first place. In the Addo Elephant Park you only see two things...elephants and dung beetles. There you don't stop to help the dung beetle across the road, you might just have an elephant tapping on your shoulder. Unfortunately in the West Coast National Park you are allowed outside your vehicle, and this man was using this privilege to "save" tortoises. We eventually passed the smug faced tourist who was very pleased with himself for saving 0.0003% of The West Coast National Park's tortoise population (I wonder who is doing it when he is not around?), but we wanted to get to the main attaction Potsberg where there is a very beautiful lookout point towards Langebaan and the Lanbgebaan lagoon. Oh, and there are flowers and birds at Potsberg as well.

Some peculiar rock formations
The flowers were beautiful, but you don't get the same flower sceneries that you get in the Namaqualand. If you are into taking pictures of flowers and birds, then I guess you might find plenty to do, but we were here to see animals and to spend the time together as a family. On our way we did see some antelope, but like last time they were keeping themselves quite distant from the road. If you want to see real wild life in its most pure form then you go to the Kruger National Park. There you will find leopards crossing the road and lions doing there daily catch right next to your vehicle. And believe me, they are NOT tamed. You might even get your vehicle turned over by an elephant if you ignore his size and flapping ears. But this is the West Coast National Park and the most dangerous living thing you are likely to encounter here is someone driving like the smug tourist who kept stopping without notice to help another tortoise across the road.

Eland avoiding the tourists
Bontebok grazing away
Along the way we saw Eland, plenty of ostriches, Bontebok, Wildebeest and Zebras. There were even Springboks, but after South Africa's defeat in the Tri-Nations they were a bit reluctant to lift their heads and jump across the fields illustrating where their name originated from. And there were tortoises of course. Eventually we reached the best spot in the park...the lookout point. For me this is the highlight of the park, for two reasons. One, this is where we take out the picnic basket and fill our stomachs, and second, from here one could see if the wind is good for kite surfing at Langebaan. Both were in my favour. After stuffing the last bread roll into my mouth, we decided to move on. The road would take us back towards a turnoff just before the gate and all around the Langebaan Lagoon towards the spot where I started my kite surfing career some years ago. On our way we had one more memorable moment. Seconds after explaining to my son why bees sting and why human beings should stay clear of them, we drove into a swarm of bees which acted like they might've overheard our conversation and was going to illustrate the point we were trying to make. Some managed to fly into the kombi, but most of them were trying to put their stings into my windscreen in an attempt to show there disapproval against this huge "blue beast" that just flattened them without any warning. Needless to say pandemonium broke loose inside the kombi. My wife was doing quite well swatting most of the intruders and the couple that survived headed to the back of the kombi where they felt a bit safeguarded against my wife's swinging arms. I was trying to clean the winscreen which was covered with a honey orange coloured sticky-like juice. It took a while to get my son to regain his composure, and only after I told him that we are going to beach where you won't find any bees (we do have to lie to our kids at some points). On our way towards the gate and coming from the front we passed the kind tourist again, still escorting tortoises across the road....

A rather embarrased Springbok
View towards Langebaan

I won't be surprized if some of the footage from the well-known movie The Blue Lagoon, might have been taken at The Langebaan lagoon. I guess the vegetation would not have made the cut for that tropical movie setting, but the lagoon is beautiful and it has a very distinct blue colour. We stopped and carried all my kiting equipment to the water's edge, as well as some cool drinks and my camera. I was hoping that my wife could take some pictures of me doing my stuff. This was actually her first time with my camera so I wasn't expecting pictures that would make it into the GUST magazine. Unfortunately for me at this time the wind was dying down. I still kitted up and tried my luck, but I looked more like a beginner than somebody getting ready for a kite surfing photo shoot. There were one or two kite boarders in the water still, but even with bigger kites I could see that they were struggling to get up and stay afloat. Most of the other kites were floating upside down in the water already. I wanted a picture for my blog and was determined to get it up. At this point a youngster walked up towards me and asked me if he could give me a tip. I was rather annoyed with this young fella's forwardness and for thinking that he could help me with some kite surfing lessons on the side. After I told him that there's no wind and I know what I was doing, he passed another comment about being a instructor and walked off clearly noticing that this old dude is not taking any tips from him. I tried once more but then decided to pack up. I was clearly going nowhere. At this point my obnoxious young "instructor" decided that he would take his kite into the water and show me how it is done, despite facing the same problem I had seconds ago with a lack of wind. I was standing on the side watching him, just like he was hoping I would do. After a few futile attempts to lift his skinny arse out of the water he looked even worse than me when his kite fell into the water like it's losing an erection. I know I am too mature to act revengful in any way, and my wife was shaking her head trying to convince me that too, but at that point I couldn't stop myself and shouted at him from the side...."Can I give you a tip!?" The look on his face was priceless....

Trying to stay afloat
Having more fun than his dad

Main Beach, Langebaan

Wrapping up a wonderful day
We packed up and headed towards Langebaan. It was late and time to head home.  I was a bit disappointed at my very recent miserable kite surfing session and knew that writing on my blog that I had to pack up and go was not going to inspire me to write at all. When we crossed the hill before one gets to the little town of Langebaan some colourful movement at Main Beach caught my eye. The wind was much stronger at the beach and there were a couple of kites in the water. After giving my wife that puppy look she gave me permission to put on  that cold wet wetsuit again. It was already getting late, but she knew that the only way I would be able to face this coming week is if I get my kite boarding session that I was so desperately looking for today. I rigged up and plunged into the water, enjoying the warmer water coming from the lagoon and saying thank you for this last opportunity that was presented to me to wrap up our enjoyful day on a positive note. My wife tried to take some snaps, but with the wrong lens, a son that keeps running away and some real beginners dropping their kites in front of me, I was happy with what she managed to get. At least she was taking pictures of the right person and and not like a friend of mine a while ago who was still taking pictures of the wrong unknown kite surfer while I was on the beach already packed up and ready to leave.

Exhausted! Every penny's worth
After shouting "My last one!" for the fourth or fifth time, I decided to get out, get dressed and have a last coffee before we hit the road back to Cape Town. What an awesome day it was, spending time with my family in the most awesome surroundings and weather conditions, doing the things that I like with the people I love. I might not be a big fan of the West Coast National Park or like the idea of youngsters giving me tips, but today was one of those days that gives me a smile on my face when I climb into bed and reminisce about the fun we had. I don't think the West Coast National Park will see us again, NOT if my bee scared son has any say in it, but who knows, I might just go back and start saving the West Coast National Park tortoises as a sign of appreciation for the family time the park had offered me today.


  1. At least she was taking pictures of the right person and and not like a friend of mine a while ago who was still taking pictures of the wrong unknown kite surfer while I was on the beach already packed up and ready to leave.

    Who would that be, must have been your Mum.

  2. Could you pass on a message to Six Ingregients,for some reason I cannot get a comment to load on the blog, but say thank you, ill try the recipie soon, and cant wait for the African Soup recipies to come out.....