Dispatches from the worlds worst local
I like to think I am the first one to admit when I make a mistake. One thing I am very proud of is the area that I have adopted through my extended family and now call home, the Overberg in the Western Cape. I really thought I was heading into the category of ‘seasoned, weather-beaten local’, replete with walking stick, summer AND winter gumboots (there is a difference), a daypack for collecting seashells/sinkers/litter/pretty washed up wood and the local fish and chips shop saved as number 4 in my phone, right after the alarm response guys, Cape Nature anti poaching teams and the vet.
I even know when the wind direction will change so you can close the house doors to not smell the penguin colony stink for goodness sake.
So when I got the opportunity to join Swellendam Tourism on a blogging trip to explore the area I really, honest to goodness, thought that it might not be the longest one I have ever been on. Especially considering that all I really understood from Swellendam was that it has “that prison with those prisoners in orange jump suites” and “that goat petting thing” on the side of the highway. I was always that little bit too close to home, consumed with driving fatigue to think of stopping and zoomed right past. I’m sure you might have as well if you are honest and have driven those long N2 roads. To borrow from Pretty Women- big mistake, huge mistake.
Sitting halfway between Cape Town and George on the N2 and nestled snugly underneath the Langeberg Mountains Swellendam is the third oldest settlement in South Africa, founded in 1745.Back in those days Swellendam was considered the last outpost of civilization and to anyone with a backbone of adventure and exploration this was THE stop before heading out into the wilderness. Just imagining what that must have felt like makes me tickled to the bone with excitement. Anyone who has even taken the leap to venture out into what for them is the unknown will recognise that nervous, jittering sense of anticipation you feel right before you take that first step beyond what you know. That off kilter feeling of bursting from sheer adrenaline or throwing up from fear, - or probably a bit of both at the same time.It’s a strangely intoxicating combination and I just love a town that can get the mix of modernity with old world history just right.
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My only downside was that on day one that evil bronchial flu bug that was doing the rounds in the Cape decided to make me it’s new host, rendering me five Nik-Nacks short of a packet. This meant that after only two days on the trip I had to pull out and head home, a bag full of medication in hand, and my Swellendam adventures cut short.
What I can say is that I can highly recommend Dr Dave, who was a sport and doctored me up with all the drugs to beat down the bug. I must have looked a right sight, drifting in and out of antibiotic comas and bouts of feverish sweats, but the rest of the blogging team were such troopers, making concerned mothering noises when I needed them most. And I am happy to report I didn’t infect any of them, which I think was a win-win on both sides. You can see the smile on Lisa of Food and Chatter's face , maybe thats a bit of fear as well? I'm undecided
I read somewhere that Swellendam is a town that serves as a useful refreshment station on the long slow journey up the coast. Well that might have been true in the 19th century, but simply dipping you toe in for refreshment is not going to be satisfying enough anymore. Just go ahead and try high tea at Schoone Oordt and then tell me you don’t want to get lost in the town for more than just a refreshment. It sounds like I’m gushing a bit, but I’ve gotten quite attached to this little section of my overberg. Similar to the feeling you have when you meet someone who you never gave the time of day when you were younger, and now meeting them all grown up realizing that you were terribly wrong and they are actually an incredibly cool person. Why did you not hang out with them before? You make good friends and you should invite them over for dinner or snacks one evening, maybe even take a mini break together? Who knows?
Even though my time was brief, my short exploration into Swellendam has made me realize that a lot of us need to ease up the pace and ferocity with which we bolt from one town and city to another, trying to cram in as much as we can. We too often bypass places because we assume that they won’t satisfy us the same way larger attractions will.
South Africa is blessed with a wealth of incredible people, dorpies,villages and little gems hidden just beyond our headlights, all we have to do is take the time of day to slow down, turn off the beaten track and go explore.
And we will be going back again this time with the whole family in tow…and going back again…and probably again…..maybe again…..
The blogging trip was thanks to Swellendam Tourism, below is a contact list of some of the places I visited or stayed at if you are in the area and are interested in popping in. Perhaps staying for a plate of food? Perhaps staying for a week? Or two?
De Vagebond Resturant
132 Voortrek Street
Stone Hill River Lodge
De Hoop Collection
Old Goal Restaurant