Travel and a bit of shopping
First published ( a re-worked version) in Khuluma, Kulula Air, February 2020
Who is your hooligan?!
It’s all monkey business at In’t Aepjen, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The In’t Aepjen (it roughly translates to ‘In the Apes’) bar is five minutes’ walk from Centraal Station in Amsterdam and a stone’s throw from the Red Light District. It is located in one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam, one of only two wooden buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1452.
In the 17th century In’t Aepjen was a popular hangout for the sailors of the Dutch East India Company. Legend has it that one of the sailors settled his debt with a monkey that he brought from the Far East. Soon other sailors followed suit. It didn’t take long for the tavern to be overrun with monkeys as well as fleas and lice. Back then, if you scratched your head or arm pits in the morning it probably meant that you have spent the previous night in In’t Aepjen. To this day the Dutch say ‘Je bent in de aap gelogeerd’ (You have been in the ape) to indicate that someone is in a spot of trouble; it’s also the slogan for Aepjen beer.
To solve the itchy problems the monkeys were given to a customer who kept them in his garden. This garden eventually became the Amsterdam Royal Zoo.
In’t Aepjen is still filled with monkeys but luckily these won’t make you scratch incessantly. A troop of wooden monkeys cling to a branch on one bar counter, a gorilla with a hat plays a violin on a window sill, a fluffy monkey peers from a bird cage dangling from the ceiling and wherever you look you see oil paintings, vintage posters and porcelain ornaments of monkeys.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea at Punta del Diablo, Uruguay
Punta del Diablo – it means ‘Tip of the Devil’– is situated 298 kilometres, from Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, and 172 kilometres from Punta del Este, the ‘Plettenberg Bay’ of Uruguay.
The name of this fishing town is derived from a rocky promontory on the main beach that vaguely resembles the devil’s trident. Some of the villagers also claim that this off-putting name was originally given in order to make the town sound less appealing; they didn’t want their village to become overrun with visitors or developed any more than what was necessary.
Less than 1 000 people, mostly fishermen and artisans, live here permanently but in high season (from Christmas to the end of January) the beaches and dirt streets are totally overrun with thousands and thousands of tourists, especially since the Lonely Planet named Punta del Diablo one of the top 10 places to visit a few years ago.
The rest of the year you will encounter very few people as you saunter around town; it takes about an hour to walk from one end to the other. The ramshackle buildings and plots crammed with colourful cabañas seem fit for a hippy community and, much like in South Africa, each abode has its own braaiplek, or parilla as it is known here.
On Playa de Los Pescadores (Beach of the Fishermen) fishing boats resting on the beach offer a great photo opportunity; head to the nearby promenade for seafood and a Pilsen, the most popular beer in Uruguay, thereafter.
Life in Skagway, Alaska was a little better than a hell on earth
In 1896 gold was discovered in the Yukon Territory of Canada. This led to the Klondike Gold Rush. Skagway in Alaska became known as the ‘Gateway to the Klondike’. In the spring of 1898 Skagway had 8 000 residents with another 1 000 miners passing through the town each week.
Back then a member of the North-West Mounted Police described Skagway as ‘little better than a hell on earth’. It was clearly a matter of opinion as many enjoyed Skagway’s 70 saloons and dancehalls.
From Skagway prospective miners had to travel 500 miles to the gold fields. Each prospector had to take one tonne of supplies with him otherwise they would starve during the winter.
The Klondike Gold Rush did not last long. By 1899 it was all but over. But before that Skagway was notorious for the fights that broke out, the prostitutes whose businesses flourished and the amounts of alcohol consumed.
These days visitors to Skagway flock to the Red Onion Saloon, with its own brothel museum, or the Happy Endings Saloon.
Every year on the 4th of July the Skagway Chamber of Commerce organises a Ducky Derby. In 2019 nearly 2 000 yellow bath duckies raced down Pullen Stream into Pullen Pond.
The most photographed building in Alaska is the former Arctic Brotherhood Hall which is covered with nearly 10 000 pieces of driftwood.
Nothing is simple at Szimpla Kert, or the other ruin pubs in Budapest, Hungary
In about 2002 innovative entrepreneurs came up with the concept of ‘ruin pubs’ in Budapest. In a quest for cheap places to drink, some derelict pre-war buildings, mostly in the Old Jewish Quarter, were transformed into quirky drinking holes.
Expect a no-frills drinking experience. And rowdy customers who love their palinka, a traditional Hungarian fruit brandy, that is downed accompanied by deafening yells of ‘Egészségedre!’ (cheers in Hungarian). Not to mention excessively rude bar tenders especially at Szimpla Kert, as many have reported on Tripadvisor.
Szimpla Kert (it translates to ‘simple garden’) was the first ruin pub to open its doors. Set in an old factory building it was purposely not renovated. The warren of rooms is pleasantly chaotic, the furniture and bric-a-brac are mismatched, an old Trabant car is parked in the courtyard and one feels as if you are kuier-ing in a bohemian thrift shop.
Like Szimpla Kert, most of the ruin pubs in Budapest’s Seventh District, Erzsébetváros are eclectic. Seriously cool. The atmosphere is laid-back, the drinks affordable and the crowds trendy.
Say boo to a loo at Ngepi Camp, Caprivi, Namibia
One of Ngepi Camp’s biggest drawcards is its loos. As in lavatories. All outside.
On their website they list why you should opt for Ngepi Camp if you are travelling through the Caprivi – from clean Kalahari desert air to a camp set on an island under trees with river frontage, and then, what they term as, ‘funky ablutions’.
Funky they may be, but these ablutions are not for the faint-hearted or the humourless. They might not be long drops or pit toilets in the strict sense of the word, but, hey, they are barely enclosed – though reed walls ensure that you won’t be fined for urinating in public – and city slickers will probably recoil somewhat knowing that there are no other lavatorial options if they happen to find themselves at Ngepi Camp.
Ngepi Camp might just have the world’s only self-guided toilet tour. It takes you to adjoining his-and-her toilets, a lav-a-tree, a toilet throne, a rocketship with signage that reads ‘You pilot this rocketship entirely at your own risk’ and Poopa Falls.
A dog’s life in Hondeklipbaai, West Coast, South Africa
Fancy a stay in a kennel? Then head to Hondeklipbaai (Dog Stone Bay) on the Northern Cape.
The locals in Hondeklipbaai stuck with the doggy theme of their town’s name; guest houses and self-catering apartments have names like The Dogstone Cottage, Honne-Hemel: Oubaas (I kid you not) and Woef se Moer.
Then there’s the Honnehokke Resort as well as the Honne-Pondokkies. No star ratings apply.
Hondeklipbaai either got its name from a rock close to the police station that resembled a dog on its haunches before the rock was struck by lightning which caused the dog rock to lose its head or from a pack of wild dogs that used to terrorise the district; they were eventually killed near the aforementioned rock.
These days there are no dogs to be afraid of; but don’t pick a fight with a Hondeklipbaaier in Dop & Kreef or Die Rooi Spinnekop, the popular watering holes. The people on the West Coast are a friendly lot but they don’t like to be mocked about the name of the place where they live.
Strolling around Hondeklipbaai you will also come across a dilapidated caravan, the home of Villain’s Art Studio. On the side the artist has spray-painted: ‘Don’t feed the artists. Buy their art so they can feed themselves’.
Born with the smell of bokkoms in Velddrif, West Coast
Bokkoms (or bokkems) are whole, salted and dried mullet, deemed a delicacy on the West Coast.
All along Bokkomlaan in Velddrif the whiff of countless bunches of bokkoms strung on washing line lingers. It takes some getting used to unless you were born here.
Above the door of Ek & Djy Vissery the owners state that they are open from 9h00 till they are ‘gatvol’. Beware of a gatvol Weskusser. If you are lucky the worst thing that would happen to you would be that you are force-fed bokkoms, jam an optional extra.
It’s an acquired taste but the locals swear by a slice of white bread, apricot jam and thinly sliced bokkom pieces.