Travel and a bit of shopping
First published ( a re-worked version) in Khuluma, Kulula Air, December 2018
Biggest, baddest, quirkiest
Since a giant koeksister monument was unveiled in the Afrikaner enclave of Orania in 2003 much has been written about this plaited sculpture. It was the brainchild of a women’s organisation in Orania called Kaalvoet. One of their members sent a koeksister to a sculpture foundry who made a large scale model but – o aarde! – they did not plait the koeksister the way it should be done.
It turns out if you can plait hair it does not mean you can plait a koeksister. The kaalvoet culinary queens then made a clay koeksister that a design workshop digitally mapped – whereupon they cut out a second model.
The chairwoman of Kaalvoet, Lida Strydom, happily remarked, ‘It was important to keep it sculptural. It’s not like a proper koeksister, but it’s nice to look at.’
As they say, only in South Africa…
Indeed, our homeland has a lot to offer.
Bathurst baffles brains
The outskirts of Bathurst are home to the world’s largest pineapple, the headquarters of the Pineapple Growers Association.
The pineapple building was built in 1990 out of fibreglass, stainless steel and concrete. Once inside, the walls bulge like those of an oversized egg carton. It has four storeys and is 17 metres high.
At the gift shop on the ground floor there are pineapple-themed place mats, coasters, light switch covers, fridge magnets, drawing pins, stationery, T-shirts and battery operated lanterns. Also pineapple jam, curd, mustard and relish.
On the next two floors Sam the Big Pineapple Man tells you more about the pineapple industry by way of faded posters and amateurish displays.
Below a hankie, a letter from Hotel Niagara, New York, dated 19 June 1957, reads, ‘Dear Mr Meyer, My husband has asked me to send you this hankie made of pineapple fibre in Manilla (sic). Sure you will be interested! Kind regards from Helen Snow’.
From the observation deck at the top of the Big Pineapple you have a view stretching from the yellow and green edge of the deck over kilometres of farm lands to the Indian Ocean.
The Big Pineapple, Summerhill Farm, R67, Bathurst, Eastern Cape
Jou ma se post box
As a Tripadvisor entry rightly says, there is not much to do in Calvinia. It has a very quirky post box though which locals claim is the biggest post box in the world.
It might very well be, at a height of 6.17 metres and a circumference of 9.42 metres.
This mother of all post boxes used to be a water tank on the grounds of the Dutch Reformed Church. The local business chamber converted it into a post box in the 1990s. The post office supplied the red paint. A sign writer applied his skill. An official opening was held. And just like that it became the most photographed place in Calvinia.
Letters posted here get a hand-stamped flower emblem.
For those not in a hurry, the Calvinia Museum has a stuffed merino sheep with fleece that grew to 38 cm in length. The unfortunate sheep went missing for a few years and thus was not sheared for a long time.
Calvinia Post Box, Hoop Street & Calvinia Museum, 44 Church Street, Calvinia, Northern Cape
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe
The Shoe outside Ohrigstad on the road to Tzaneen is a guesthouse, curio shop, tea garden, art gallery and museum. It’s an eerie destination if ever there was one.
The museum claims to display iron age artefacts amid artworks by the owner, Ron van Zyl. There are also caves onsite that can be entered from the shoe.
The old woman who used to live in the shoe seems to have disappeared but some of her furniture – and a crocheted blanket and shawl – can still be seen at ankle-high level. Climb the rickety stairs to catch a glimpse of this.
A quick walk through the shoe will cost you R3. A 20 minute ‘guided experience into artistic Christ cave’ will set you back R50 but a brief foray into the 12 metre shoe should suffice.
The Shoe, 20 km north of Ohrigstad on the R36 towards Tzaneen, Limpopo
The southernmost gnome in Africa
According to Wikipedia a gnome is a diminutive spirit in Renaissance magic and alchemy. The southernmost gnome in Africa has no such illusions of grandeur.
He seems to be totally comfortable with being a garden gnome or lawn ornament figurine i.e. a small humanoid creature with a pointy red hat, blue overalls and a bright yellow beard.
Once you have turned onto the R319 from Bredasdorp the road is long and straight. After you have passed through Struis Bay and you have entered Cape Agulhas the road makes a turn at Spookdraai (loosely translated it means Ghost Corner). Once you reach the last house on the left look out for a tiny sign that reads ‘Southernmost Gnome in Africa’.
Beyond the sign in the garden itself there are a few more gnomes. The one with the blue hat sticks his bum out at an aloe. To gnome me is to love me, he seems to be saying.
In a flower bed another sign proclaims, ‘Oom Koos is the Southernmost Gnome in South Africa. He wants R5 for storybooks for the children of Struisbaai North’. A tortoise money box awaits your donation for this charitable project.
Southernmost Gnome, Great White House, 91 Main Road, Agulhas, Western Cape
Penguins drink their whisky on the rocks
Outside the Eastern Cape Penguin Rehabilitation Project at the Cape St Francis Lighthouse you won’t spot a raft (a group of penguins in the water). What you will encounter is a taller-than-a-human penguin with a black back and a white belly balanced on a large white concrete ball.
The penguin rehab centre provides treatment and temporary care to oiled, sick and dehydrated or injured African Penguins. If at all possible they return the penguins to the wild.
If you are in luck you will be able to spot a waddle (a group of penguins on land) in the outside rehabilitation facility.
Once a year penguins have a ‘catastrophic moult’, the term describing the two or three weeks they spend on land while they lose and replace their feathers.
This oversized penguin is not moulting though: it is guarding the centre and the adjacent lighthouse. It is ideally positioned to take great selfies or to angle the photo in such a way that the penguin appears to peek into the lantern (the glass enclosure at the top of the tower that houses the lens) of the lighthouse.
SANCCOB Penguin Rehabilitation Centre, Seal Point Lighthouse, St Frances Way, Cape St Francis, Eastern Cape
My scarecrow is bigger than yours
Why did the scarecrow win an award? Because it was outstanding in its field.
The scarecrows at Mooiberge Farmstall outside Stellenbosch and Affie Plaas outside Robertson are magnificent and to add to that they are more than double the size of conventional scarecrows.
As you approach Mooiberge, a strawberry as large as a lorry catches your eye, followed by tall scarecrow animals ranging from a zebra mounting a (blue) bull – explain that one to your kids – to two purple giraffes in the parking lot. When you cast your eyes you see colourful tractors, a tin plane the size of a sedan with ‘Strawberry Airways’ painted on the side, penny farthings built out of scrap, a boytjie riding an ostrich and a helicopter that seems to have landed in the trees.
Some of the animal scarecrows sport messages: on a warthog whose legs are too long I read ‘Local is Lekker’; an elephant trumpets ‘Always think ahead’; and a chameleon as long as a slide admonishes visitors to ‘Enjoy yourself’.
Mooiberge has its own restaurant, Thirsty Scarecrow, that serves craft beers and bistro food. You can pick your own strawberries – you pay by weight – in season.
The giant straw bale scarecrows at Affie Plaas are excessively rotund, they wear a pile of tyres on their heads and they seem to eye each other in a lascivious way.
Affie Plaas has an array of fresh produce and there is a lawn and play area for the kids.
Mooiberge on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West and Affie Plaas on the R60 between Worcester and Robertson, Western Cape
Jou ma se voet in ‘n visblik
Jou ma se voet in ‘n visblik is an Afrikaans saying that basically means ‘bugger off’. You can listen to this and other more derogatory insults at Gansbaai harbour when the fishermen get off the boats while checking out what is arguably the biggest pilchard can you will ever encounter.
The whiff of fish in the air is an indication that this traditional harbour is still active. The fishing trawlers are named after species of wild geese like Vleigans, Sneeugans and Berggans that used to be found here.
The factory cans sardines and pilchards and produces fish meal for livestock farmers.
The Boat House Restaurant and Pub has a view over the harbour and serves good seafood.
Gansbaai Harbour, Old Harbour, Harbour Road, Gansbaai, Western Cape