THIS IS WHERE MY HEAD IS AT TODAY
Edited for Greg, who asked …
A repost, first published on my Original Cin blog in 2008.
From the age of fourteen, Old Spouse and his friends, Tuffy and Iggy Pop, have been going to Smitswinkelbaai as often as they could. As teenagers, they would put their bicycles of the train at Heathfield Station and disembark at Simonstown. A hard pedal led to Miller’s Point, where they would stop for a swim before carrying on toward Cape Point. Just before the bend leading to the entrance of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve they would stop, hoist their bikes onto their shoulders and begin the steep hike down the mountain to the little clapboard cottage; owned by a kind old lady, to which they had unlimited access.
The years have altered their activities; teenage fishing expeditions led to the inclusions of girlfriends, innocent beers led to braver experiments and – eventually – there were wives and children tagging along.
We took Original Bunn down there for the first time when she was just two weeks old, crammed into her dad’s backpack, between a crusty loaf of bread picked up from the Olympia in Kalk Bay and a bottle of Johnny Black.
The village is inaccessible by car; we park on a farm up on the main road and walk down the steep slope;
the men go the hard way, but I like to use the rudimentary stairs laid down over time by the homeowners and rangers. There are about twenty cottages, originally stop-overs for trek fishermen and their families; handed over from generation to generation. The property owners are fiercely protective of their privacy and gatecrashing hikers are snubbed with blatant growls and frowns.
Few houses have electricity and there are no municipal services, so garbage must be brought back up the mountain at the end of our stay. The old owners, inevitably, have died off and some of their children have modernised the cottages to enable DSTV and microwave ovens. This is frowned on by some.
It is a place largely unchanged in a hundred years, a place where a child can disappear, at dawn; into the bush or to the lovely swimming beach and be in no danger other than having a chance encounter with a baboon and come; ravenous, grubby and exhausted, home at sunset. We collect mussels for a hot-pot, or – if we help the trek fisherman haul in their nets – we may have the prize of a Yellowtail to lay on the coals for our supper.
‘Our’ shack has provided some memorable moments in my life and there is little to beat the feeling of immense peace that I get when; wrapped in a blanket, with a crossword on my lap and a glass of Old Brown Sherry or Merlot by my side; I look out of the window at the roiling ocean and listen to the crashing symphony of the Southeaster.
©Cindy Taylor 2008