Travel and a bit of shopping
First published in Sunday Independent, 2017
You have to taste a culture to understand it.
You have to chew on a bokkom (whole, salted and dried mullet) from Velddrif – some call it the bokkom capital of the world – to get the real feel of the West Coast.
When slicing thin strips off a bokkom it’s impossible not to envisage a fisherman with a weatherbeaten face and a twinkle in his eye. Often belied by a curt answer in a gruff voice. But that’s before the storytelling begins.
Luckily for the more squeamish the Foodie Route of the West Coast, one of the unique themed routes by West Coast Way that showcases the area’s attractions and activities, offers much more than the ubiquitous bokkom.
The West Coast – and its Foodie Route – offers an eclectic experience, or rather, 13 eclectic experiences.
Storytelling and earthy hospitality is part and parcel of the West Coast. As the Foodie Route is a self-drive route – as a day trip, short break from Cape Town city life or extended West Coast holiday – it is up to you whether you want to linger longer.
Often it is indeed difficult not to do once you have decided to visit a museum or two, view some art, learn more about the fishing history and listen to some of the local stories in order to become acquainted with the culture of the West Coast.
Huge portions go hand in hand with hospitality in this part of the world.
At Thali Thali Game Lodge the seafood platters and eisbeins, not to mention Sunday buffets, will attest to this. Those who are not seduced by stoep sitting can attempt to hone their skills with a bow and arrow. Owner Thys van Niekerk won a silver medal for South Africa at the 2014 World Field Archery Championships.
Geelbek Restaurant in the West Coast National Park – before I’m accused of casting before I’ve baited my line – is the starting point of the Foodie Route.
At Protea Hotel by Marriot Saldanha Bay you feel the sea breeze caressing your face whilst slurping oysters. The world – or rather, the West Coast – becomes your proverbial oyster. This 3-star establishment also makes a mean braaibroodjie.
Club Mykonos offers total relaxation with panoramic views over Langebaan Lagoon. Lather on some sunscreen and enjoy a little bit of Greece as you breakaway on an Elite Charters cruise of Langebaan Lagoon. You’d probably be tempted to stay for a night or three.
Or enjoy one of the countless sunny days per year – it’s said that the Cape West Coast has more sunny days per year than anywhere else in the world, though it might be one of the countless yarns they spin good-naturedly – at Russels on the Port overlooking the Port Owen Marina. Chef Charl Coetzee serves distinctive local cuisine with global inspiration.
Head inland to Ormonde Private Cellar in the town of Darling. Ormonde offers wine tastings including bespoke chocolate and wine tastings as well as artisan platters with a selection of goodies like chicken liver pâté with port wine jelly, onion marmalade, poached pears in merlot and apple-cinnamon pastries.
Blue Bay Lodge & Resort in Saldanha has its own restaurant, Blue Bay Café Restaurant and Bar, with views over the bay of Saldanha. It’s a popular meeting place over cocktails.
Albatross Guesthouse is in the heart of Langebaan. They have four double rooms with private entrances and they are a short walk from the beach.
At West Coast Fossil Park The Sivatherium Coffee Shop offers tasty home-bakes.
Paternoster has more restaurants than you can shake a harder at. This is but one of the reasons why you should seriously consider spending a few nights in this fisher village turned trendy. Stay in Paternoster (www.stayinpaternoster.co.za) has a plethora of places from cottages to boutique guest houses and everything in between – with the quaintest names as one only finds in a seaside village – to stay.
Still fancying a bokkom? Herons Rest in Velddrif is within walking distance of Bokkomlaan where you will find bokkoms, sushi and art all next to each other.
After all, bokkoms, a derring-do attitude and a passion for their district are what the people of the West Coast share – it’s their culture on their plate.