Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Feeling "Unrest" at Onrus

I am at that point of my life that if I do not get some sort of adrenalin rush over the weekend, then I feel that another two days of my life have been wasted. This weekend I didn't really know what to do for my weekly rush, but I decided that it would be a family weekend for me if nothing else. On Friday evening our family was having our regular Friday night braai, but by Saturday morning my family dispersed into all directions. My son went to go play at friends and my wife went to compete in a mountain bike race near Stellenbosch. But like any good shephard I regrouped my flock and soon afterwards we were heading towards Hermanus for a camping/paragliding weekend. Hermanus is probably more famous for whale watching than paragliding or camping, but near Onrus just outside of Hermanus there is a very nice camping site. For paragliders Hermanus is a very popular spot that has a long ridge which is shaped like a breaking wave and provides for very consistent flying conditions. It also has the most spectacular view any pilot could ask for. In summer one could even see whales from the air and with the right conditions you can actually fly all the way towards the sea and across the water to see these huge floating gentle giants straight from above. So, I was not only trying to keep the family together, I was hoping of getting at least one good flight in during our stay.

While my wife was doing her stuff at the mountain bike race and my son was playing up a storm with his friends, I was preparing our kombi for the camping trip. Fortunately I have a camping list and with the one or two utensils that I need to tick off that is not already in the kombi, this is fortunately a quick and simple task. I have to admit that our frequency of camping trips has been reduced considerably over the last couple of years, but with all the other weekend interests we have, one can expect that to happen. Even my paragliding was taking a back seat for a while now and it was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Or three if I could keep my family together as well. So at around 12 we were all packed and ready to go.

Overlooking False Bay
We took the scenic route to Hermanus via the Strand and Gordon's Bay, but strangely enough I only stopped twice to take pictures. It was yet again a beautiful day and I was already concerned that there would not be enough wind for paragliding. One cannot complain when the wind is not blowing in this area, despite the fact that your whole weekend might not turn out the way you want it to. A windless day in Cape Town is a godsend. It is quite a beautiful road that runs along the coast from Gordons Bay to Kleinmond, and opposite False Bay one could see the Peninsula stretching further south with Cape Point far in the distance. When I look over False Bay I unfortunately only think of one thing...sharks! Anyway, I was not there to surf but did see a couple of guys riding crystal clear waves at Kogel Bay. I didn't even know that Kogel Bay had a camping site (or waves) and was very tempted to shorten my trip seeing that my prospects of flying was getting dimmer by the minute. There was not even a breeze to keep a chick's feather up in the air, let a lone a full grown man dangling from a piece of cloth. If I had my surfboard with me, well, I might've decided to end my journey there and then and take on the sharks of False Bay.
Kogel Bay
When we arrived at Onrus it was around 2.30 pm. I drove past Onrus towards Hermanus to have a look at the take off site still very optimistic that I might get a flight in later that afternoon. I drove to the landing area in Hermanus to set my GPS for my wife who would be the obvious choice to come and collect me after I've landed. Paragliding is a team sport...a pilot doing the flying and a driver doing the pickup. Probably the only time I will ever get picked up by a woman not expecting some sort of payment afterwards for "services rendered" . The road layout in Hermanus is a bit tricky, so getting the GPS coordinates for her was not a bad idea to start with. There was no-one at the take-off or landing site so we headed to Onrus to see if there were any stands available at the campig site. We have entered the "out-of-season" period in South Africa so I was pretty sure that we would get a nice spot where we could spend the night.

"This time we are sure!" was my wife's words to a very patient security guard after the third time we went back to the gate to negotiate for a "better" spot. When we arrived we were given 7 options to choose from, and they were the last seven stands available. After deciding that the ones we initially chose was not good at all, we enventually got a site with grass that was not on the list and insisted on squatting there. By the size of it the site was probably for caravans and not tents. We pitched our little blue tent in a space big enough for a Jurgens Exclusive Range Caravan complete with accompanied 4x4. Oh, and don't forget the other kitchen appliances to  make any camper's life ten times easier than back home; dishwashers, tumbledriers, microwave ovens.... I see some campers nowadays even have mobile satelite dishes. I mean why would anyone miss an episode of his boring soapie in exchange for the most stunning sunset he might ever see in his life?  Camping is definitey not what it used to be and if your caravan does not have more luxuries than the average household in Sandton, then you might as well watch your boring soapies at home, I guess?

Beach bar
Onrus beach
After pitching our 2-man tent in 5 minutes flat, we went down to Onrus beach. There's not much at Onrus beach to be honest. I think the last time I've been on this beach was about 6 years ago. They have a little restaurant and something that looked like a beach bar which wasn't there at that time. That is if I remember correctly. We skipped the beach bar and headed straight for the sand. I wasn't really prepared for a beach outing, but if my son is happy then I am happy. I think my wife was happy too, she didn't say much or complain much. She was just "chilling". For the second time today I wish I had my surfboard with me, it would've kept me busy for a while. Not that the waves were any good, but being in the water is still better than sitting on the beach watching two uninformed fools posing with bigger-than-life smiles for their wedding pictures. Funny how some photographers literally dig themselves into the sand to get the best angle while an unexpected beach-goer scratches his bum in the background. Thank god for Photoshop.  After killing some time on the beach and silently wishing the two good luck "for better or for worse" as they paraded past like two show horses, we headed back to the camp and started our second braai for the weekend. That was probably my first opportunity for my own bigger-then-life smile for the day. It was confirmed by now that paragliding was not going to give me that pleasure today.

Our caravan/tent site was a bit far from the ablusion facilities. Fortunately the road leading to the ablusion blocks was tarred. At least I had my skateboard there and taking a trip down to the ablusion was actually fun. I could see the envy on the faces of the people walking past trying to hide their toilet rolls in their hands while I wooshed passed to get there first. For some reason I was not really impressed with the camp site anymore. I remember camping here quite often years ago, but I think there was just too many people this weekend and the spot where we were wasn't really hidden away and secluded enough. I didn't get that "in-sync-with-nature" feeling that I want when "sleeping under the stars". I couldn't even see the bloody stars and there was not even a single cloud in the sky. Behind us was a huge house and it felt more like I was camping in someone's back yard. Opposite the road I could hear the television and that is not exactly why I went there in the first place. When I took out my guitar I realized that I might get thrown out for disturbing the peace with the only "unplugged" piece of equipment in the camp, so even that pleasure back-fired. Mind you, with my voice singing isn't safe in the privacy of my own house either. Maybe the fact that I missed out on the paragliding just dampened my mood completely. At least I was with my family and they seemed to be having lots of fun.

Prime spot in someone's "back yard"
The "basics" of camping

Now here's the proof that I wasn't my usual self. I never thought this would happen to me on a camping trip. I skipped the opportunity to make breakfast the next morning. I think making breakfast is what's making camping worth the effort. If watching the stars and bonding with nature does not really do it, then making your own breakfast on  a gas stove usually does. I cannot wait to get up the next morning to make breakfast. Unfortunately by the time we were all up and awake, even my wife agreed that we should go have breakfast somewhere else. Maybe she was "chilling" too much and was thinking about the washing up afterwards without a dishwasher.  A luxury most of the other caravan owners seemed to have. We packed up and left the camp at 8am. I think most of our fellow campers were still sleeping, but we were ready to go home. It was yet another windless day and I wasn't going to hang around Hermanus with the hope of the wind picking up. My second smile of the weekend came when the guy at reception charged us less for the stand than what we were expecting to pay. Somehow he must've sensed that my stay wasn't as good as I was hoping for or charging us for a caravan site while we were suffering in a tent wasn't "ethically justifiable". We took the road back home via the N2 and stopped at The Orchard near Grabouw for breakfast. I didn't even do a breakfast review, I just wasn't in the mood. Definitely NOT one of my best weekends. When we got home I changed clothes and went straight for the garden. At least there I got some satisfaction pulling out weeds and sweeping the driveway. It was really nice having my family around me, but the activities for the weekend just didn't take me where I wanted to go. This coming weekend my wife is doing the Argus Cycle Tour again and this year I am going to try and get a good glimpse of her along the road. This time I am going prepared with a GPS, map and cell phone. Not like last year when I totally got lost and never saw her once. I already feel more excited about this coming weekend than what I felt for the previous one. At least I had my family with me which convinced me that it wasn't really "two days of my life wasted". It was quality time that an adrenalin rush cannot substitute.
This was my first flight at Hermanus with my new Gradient glider. I was stoked!

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