Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Paarl Mountain Rediscovered

I was checking the weather, getting advice from friends, even packing my gear hoping that positive thinking might change the situation, but the weather was not going to play along on the weekend. The kite surfing season is coming to an end and I was hoping to get a last session in before winter really arrives. All we were granted was a lazy windless weekend which called more for a picnic on the beach or a Sunday ride on the bike. I worked on some garden furniture, cleaned out my tool cupboard, washed my bike, caught unwelcome mice in my garden and when I realized that the weekend was nearly over and I that hadn’t done anything exciting or new over the weekend, I decided to get on my bike and explore Paarl Mountain.

Paarl Mountain is one of the few granite intrusions in South Africa, and is probably more familiar for the Afrikaans Language Monument that is situated near the top. I think the last time I’ve been up there was when my dad still took us on vacation and that was many years ago. That was the time before my sister and I preferred to do our own thing during school holidays and before we convinced ourselves that it wasn’t cool to travel with your parents anymore. Today I would give anything for a trip with my parents…where my dad pays for everything and we could just be together as a family. All we had to do was get in and not moan, and even that was a tall order at that time. We didn’t appreciate what he showed us as much as he would’ve liked us to, but in the end it was good knowing that we could still do things together. Today when I see these places we’ve visited, like The Afrikaans Language Monument, I always get very nostalgic. Today I see all these places with different eyes. Probably the way my dad saw it back then, but we were kids and weren’t much interested in what he wanted to show us, especially not if it was related to history or geography. All we knew was that we were not in school and trying to keep the peace in the back of the car was still better than doing homework or sitting at home.

Ever since we’ve moved to the Cape I have been driving past Paarl Mountain on a regular basis. It’s hard not to notice those three huge granite domes and that funny looking structure called a monument. I could not remember what we saw up there years ago, and I cannot even remember if we actually made it to the actual top of the mountain or only to the monument, but Sunday was the perfect day to go an explore what Paarl Mountain had to offer.

Afrikaans Language Monument

I was a bit skeptic about going to the Afrikaans Language Monument after all the changes in South Arica. I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to see people up there. Being Afrikaans in South Africa nowadays is more like carrying a disease. Since the ANC took power everything in South Africa that is either Afrikaans or relates to the Afrikaner seems to have a negative connotation to it. I thought when I reached the monument I would find something similar to what they have done with the rest of South Africa…change everything that as some sort of connection with Afrikaners. Maybe changed the name or covered it with struggle slogans and graffiti, or locked it up for no-one to be reminded that there were a group of South Africans that did actually do something productive in this country many years ago, albeit only for a small proportion of the population. On the other hand I was scared that I might run into some Afrikaners from the opposite side of the spectrum, the extreme right wing activists that might be guarding the granite erection for all its worth. Maybe see old South African flag flying and women dressed in Voortrekker dresses selling koeksisters and coffee. When I reached the entrance gate I was pleasantly surprized. Not only was the area very well kept with the appropriate flag flying proudly, but it even had a little restaurant apply named “Die Volksmond” which had more English speaking guests than what you would normally find in any restaurant behind the “Boereworsgordyn” (Boerewors curtain). It was a bit late for breakfast, but I am sure you could get a decent breakfast there. Had I not been set back already with a 15 Rand entrance fee I might’ve tried it for a breakfast review. The rest of the area is beautiful with green grass and pathways which leads to awesome spots for picnics and beautiful views over the Paarl and Franschhoek valleys. You can even see table Mountain from up there. I overheard the guard at the entrance suggesting to a couple to come back for the “full moon picnics” that they frequently have up there. I was also surprized to see so many people up there visiting the monument which actually only has meaning to approximately 13 % of the South African population, and most of them were not speaking Afrikaans themselves. Maybe I should just lift my head and be proud of a language we’ve created not long ago and which has been praised as one of the most original and colourful languages still around.

Jan Phillips Mountain Drive

From one of the view points at the monument I saw a gravel road running along the mountainside. Despite the fact that my bike was still wet in some areas after the wash, I knew I had to explore and was hoping to find that it was actually a public road with free access. It was indeed. Pretty soon I was on my way somewhere around the mountain on a gravel road which I did not expect to find up there in the first place. It later turned out that this road is quite well-known with an actual name and that is it used to get to the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve as well as some nice picnic spots and mountain bike trails. I was amazed with the views and how close I could get to the top. I would learn later than one can actually drive all the way to the top, but that you have to pay 25 Rand per vehicle plus an additional 7 Rand per person to have that luxury. Your other cheaper option is to walk up, but I had no intention of doing that. While I was cruising along the dirt road I was already in my head planning my return trip with my family. Maybe we can have a braai at one of the many picnic spots or I can drop my wife with her mountain bike while my son and I play “Ultimate Survival” on one of the many hiking trails . I can make good use of the braai areas where loud music is not allowed. Discovering this mountain really rounded off my weekend well and it is definitely one of those places I will have to return to.

1 comment:

  1. Dankie vir 'n wonderlike post! Dit klink na 'n goeie idee vir 'n daguitstappie.