Travel and a bit of shopping
First published ( a re-worked version) in Khuluma, Kulula Air, December 2018
Contrary to popular belief, the most fun you can have during summer is not playing volleyball or toasting in the sun. At least not for geeks that is.
Let’s get it straight. Geeks are not nerds. Or wannabe nerds.
In today’s world, being a geek is actually cool. It means you are intelligent and that you are interested – intensely and passionately – in a variety of topics. Geeks have a strong sense of curiosity. No wonder the saying goes, ‘Geek today, boss tomorrow’.
The word ‘geek’ comes from English dialect meaning a ‘fool’ or ‘freak’. In 18th-century Austria geeks were freaks who were displayed in circuses; in 19th-century America geeks were performers in geek shows in circuses, travelling carnivals or funfairs.
Throughout South Africa, there are museums and art galleries a geek will find geek-tastic.
Two car museums to get geeks into gear
Ask any normie (normal person) to explain what a unicorn looks like and the answer would be that it is a mythical horse with a horn on its forehead.
Not for a geeky petrolhead, though. A geek’s answer will be something totally different: ‘It’s a rare car that can only be seen in a car museum; it’s almost never for sale’. Unicorn cars get geeks all revved up.
Franschhoek Motor Museum at L’Ormarins has unicorns, motorcycles, bicycles and memorabilia from the past 100 years on show.
For the end-of-year school holiday there is a surprise display in one of the four buildings pending. It will be announced on their website closer to the time. The old favourites like the Ferraris and McLarens are on permanent display throughout the year.
Most city slickers who make their way to Steytlerville are presumably lost, on their way to long-forgotten family or they are spending the night at the Karroo Theatrical Hotel for a burlesque cabaret show that defies description.
Inevitably, everyone stumbles upon the Pegasus Early Motoring Museum in the main road.
Jurie and Michele Prinsloo run the Verandah coffee shop on the stoep of their house; at the back a fleet of restored cars – with a predilection for Fords – and motor memorabilia await gearheads, geeky or not.
Over school holidays, you might be surprised by a motor club arriving with gleaming vintage cars or even by a gaggle of travelling Splitties (highly sought after Volkswagen Kombis with split windshields dating from the 1950s).
Franschhoek Motor Museum, on the R45 leading into Franschhoek, Western Cape & Pegasus Early Motoring Museum, Sarel Celliers Street, Steytlerville, Eastern Cape
Ten weirdest objects in a small-town museum
Officially, the Port Nolloth Museum is focused on the history of the town and its people, its copper ore, diamond mining, fishing industry and shipwrecks.
The museum is housed in a cottage with a corrugated iron roof. In front of the cottage a fishing boat lies on dry land. A life jacket that has seen better days is pegged to the door frame. An anchor from the Gertrud Woermann which was wrecked on 23 August 1903 guards the door.
The museum is run by George Moyses who calls himself ‘a tough oke, a humble ou, a diamond diver and boat builder, a writer, photographer, videographer, actor and producer, all in one time’. He claims he ‘used to be a good-looking guy, until a boat propeller altered my features’. He talks the hind leg off a donkey once he gets started.
Inside the museum, a ‘Public Hanging-Execution’ reads: ‘The execution will take place at midday/noon at 12pm on the said date, after which the gallows will be dismantled and stored at the Magistrates Court premises’.
On the wall, shipwreck photographs are interspersed with desiccated crabs, a Sedgewick’s Old Brown Sherry label and an advert for Captain Morgan Dark Rum. A black and white photograph, partly obscured by a rusty scale, bears the heading ‘The Diver’s Woman – Deluded & Greedy’. Plastic diver figurines are glued on to a hand-drawn map of Kleinzee.
Someone looking for a job has put a notice detailing his credentials and his cell number on a mannequin dressed in a wet suit; bits of foil depict the weights on his hessian weight belt. A Barbie mermaid with blue locks is perched on diving goggles.
A post card of vygies keeps dusty fossils and shells company. A poster proclaims, ‘James R de Wet – The only man in Port Nolloth to ever finish the Comrades. A Tribute – The shoes with which he did it (sic)’. There is so much to see that I miss the shoes.
Christmas cards on a string adorn the fire place. An arrangement of very old dried flowers hunkers in front of it.
Ten Golden Syrup tins are huddled together with an explanation of what you see in front of you: ‘The tin bears a picture of the rotting carcass of a lion with a swarm of bees and the slogan “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. This is a reference to the Biblical story … in which Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines’.
A table laid with cutlery and crockery has a crudely cut out magazine picture of a bredie placed in a plate. I suppose it’s to help those who struggle to identify the function of the aforementioned crockery.
I would not recommend a visit if you – or your offspring – have the geeky tendency to organise your books or movies alphabetically though.
There are no special holiday exhibitions or displays; more artefacts – loosely defined – are added to the shelves randomly, it seems.
Port Nolloth Museum, Beach Street, Port Nolloth, Northern Cape
A grand geek gathering on a caravel
The life-sized caravel – a replica of one of the Dias caravels – in the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex in Mossel Bay is the perfect place for a celebration of geek culture.
Bartolomeu Dias left Lisbon in 1487 with two caravels of 100 tonnes each. After sailing along the coast of Africa Dias headed for the open sea. Luck was not on his side; he sailed round the southern tip of Africa without realising it. After some more calamities he finally landed at ‘Aguada de Sao Bras’, today known as Mossel Bay.
In November 1987, the replica ship sailed from Lisbon to Mossel Bay with a crew of 16 to commemorate Dias’ landing. Many more geeky visitors can fit onto the caravel now that it has been winched into its permanent home.
Apart from the caravel the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex houses the famous 500 year old Post Office Tree, a Shell Museum and resident mountain tortoises and ducks and a museum cat.
Planning a grand geek gathering? Then dress the part by donning oversized horn-rimmed glasses (with or without lenses), suspenders/braces and highwater trousers.
At the time of going to publication the holiday programme for the Dias Museum was not yet available. Call the museum on 044 691 1067 for updated information.
Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex, 1 Market Street, Mossel Bay, Western Cape
A geeky building where you sleep surrounded by art
If a building could have a geeky look it would be the Graskop Hotel. Its facade gives a nod to the 1970s. Yet inside it’s ultra-quirky with 19 of the 22 upstairs rooms decorated by different contemporary South African artists.
Have fun by trying to establish what each art installation depicts, then read the note from the artist describing their work and inspiration.
A pleather dachshund, the colour of unhealthy gums, at the foot of your bed. An orange-themed room, with an orange suitcase on top of the cupboard – inside is the orange overall the artist wore when he created his fiery installation in Room 14.
Glass plates reminiscent of jellyfish as wall décor. Gooey candyfloss pink walls.
Beware of the makeup stretch mirror in Room 22. It pinches fingers.
Lighthouses as head boards, apparently not to be seen as phallic symbols. A bed and a wall dotted with white and red arrows. It depicts the daily routines of guests. Or so they say.
Graskop is less than an hour away from the Kruger National Park. Early December is a good time for spotting wildlife with their young.
Graskop Hotel, corner of Main & Trichardt Streets, Graskop, Mpumalanga
Three in one for little‘uns
On a quick jaunt out of Cape Town, you can kill three birds with one proverbial stone. At De Malle Meul you can teach your kiddies how a flour mill used to work, they can learn what mandalas are and – on a Sunday – you can introduce them to curry tripe, the way your grandma used to make it.
De Malle Meul, a restaurant and art gallery, is inside what used to be a working flour mill. Much of the original machinery inside the building – partly museum – is still intact.
When the kids get fidgety, they can play on the old Vaaljapie tractor (a Ferguson TE20) parked next to the entrance, provided they are not as naughty as previous little guests who managed to push the vehicle all the way into the garden.
Having spent their energy, take them back inside to view the mandala art exhibition by musician and artist Lize Beekman. For the slightly older children colouring books are available.
A new range of mandalas will be unveiled on 1 December 2018. Brush up on your knowledge of these circles representing the universe so as not be caught out by your children.
On Sundays De Malle Meul serves a boerekos buffet that includes curry tripe. Don’t tell the children what they’re eating until they have cleaned their plates.
Surprize them on your way home with a 1970s song on Youtube, ‘Pencil-Necked Geek’, by Freddie Blassie.
De Malle Meul, corner of Main & Meul Street, Philadelphia, Western Cape
The father of quirkiness in South Africa
Walter Battisss (1906 – 1982) was the father of quirkiness in South Africa. He created the fantastical ‘Fook Island’, an island of his imagination.
He created and designed a map, a currency, a set of postage stamps and the Fookian language with its own alphabet for his utopian island. He peopled the island with imaginary characters, plants and animals.
Battiss proclaimed himself King Ferd III of Fook Island.
He loved to boast that his Fookian driver’s licence was accepted in America and that his Fookian passport had official stamps from a few countries.
At the Walter Battiss Art Museum in Somerset East, the Fookian driver’s license, the bank notes and coins and the cartographical ‘evidence’ of the island are on display. An engrossing video tells the story of his life.
You can view – but not try on – King Ferd’s colourful royal cloaks.
Walter Battiss Art Museum, 45 Paulet Street, Somerset East, Eastern Cape
The geekiest spectacles on the planet
In March 2009, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s glasses – together with his leather sandals, a pocket watch and a metal bowl and plate – were sold, after much controversy, for about $1.8 million. A billionaire businessman from India bought the items at a New York auction.
Although the Telegraph in the UK reported that Gandhi’s spectacles went missing from the ashram where it was displayed in a show cabinet, the pair of glasses at The Satyagraha House in Johannesburg is definitely a replica. Albeit a cool one.
Mohandas Gandhi lived in this house in Johannesburg from 1908 to 1909. The house was restored by a team comprising an historian and a curator, amongst others, and turned into a museum and guesthouse in one.
Throughout the establishment, Gandhi memorabilia and period pieces are dotted.
Satyagraha means ‘seize the truth’ and it refers to a particular form of passive resistance.
The Satyagraha House, 15 Pine & Garden Road, Orchard, Johannesburg, Gauteng