I recently heard someone remark the other day that Cape Town seemed quieter than usual over the holiday period this year. I’d noticed that too. Not here though.
We only arrived in Agulhas yesterday, but wow: it’s busy. Really busy.
Even the internet is overloaded and slow like if you were at a concert or a sports event, or just on Cell C.
I’m sure that I have mentioned on here sometime previously that it’s really difficult for businesses to cope with this once off seasonal demand. Cape Agulhas is a wonderful place, but you have to want to come here. It’s not somewhere you reach accidentally. It’s not near a big airport or transport hub. It’s not on the road to anywhere else (in fact it’s a good 100km-plus off the road to anywhere else). It’s a trip you have to decide to make. And so the two weeks or so around Christmas is the only time this place sees any major action.
That’s just how I like it, of course: it’s why we spend so much time here. But it does make it very hard work for the tourism-related businesses here to make things work. Fifty weeks of the year, they are just trying to survive on the meagre scraps provided by a trickle of geographically-curious visitors; but then they are expected (and required) to upscale for the annual invasion of the Christmas fortnight. The campsites are full, the towns are buzzing, the queues are… noticeable.
And the local restaurants have invested and really stepped up to the challenge this year: the wine shop now has a wine bar and does picnics, the fish and chip shop – an institution – has built a posh extension and can seat many more people, the Twisted Fork has rebranded as the Crafty Pig (and I even saw customers in there), Seagulls has renovated its downstairs restaurant area, Pot Pouri is now huge and has a double-storey gift shop, and Zuidste Kaap has done absolutely nothing, because that’s just how they roll. With the investment comes a degree of risk, of course: the fish and chip shop was packed today, but on a drizzly Tuesday next July – probably not so much. But I’m sure that the owners and manager of these businesses have taken all this into account when making their decisions. And I’m delighted to say that they were all happily making hay yesterday.
I need to go to bed now, to mentally prepare myself for the very real possibility that that there might be someone on my beach tomorrow.
I haven’t dared to warn the beagle. But then it wouldn’t understand anyway.
That’s a direct quote from the lady behind the counter in the bottle store, by the way.
Agulhas is packed. Fuller than I’ve ever seen it. And while I’m happy that (according to several sources) the area is enjoying a bumper holiday season, I don’t really like all these people being around.
The fact is that the local infrastructure can’t cope with this huge influx of tourists. And I’m not just talking about the shops and restaurants, although they are happily groaning under the collective weight of tens of thousands of Gautengers: the food outlets are struggling to get the dishes to their patrons timously and the local supermarkets are finding it difficult to keep the shelves stocked. This is fair enough though, becuse you can’t restructure your entire business simply for two weeks of the year. The staff are new and untrained, because there’s no demand for them at any other time, and the kitchen size is more than adequate for more than 96% of the year.
But it’s not just food and drink that’s the issue. There’s simply not enough water to go around and thus, there are some draconian restrictions in force. Not that they are being enforced in any way, of course. And this means that Kobus and his extended family who are down from Pretoria (and there are a whole lot of Kobus’s about, believe me) are out unnecessarily washing their massive double-cabs twice a day, before they begin their Groot Trek back up North on the weekend, leaving Struisbaai some breakfast and taxi fare home. But no drinking water.
It’s not just that though. It’s personal too. I don’t want to have to share my beach. It’s not actually my beach, but it is my beach, if you see what I mean. If I’d wanted company, I’d have gone to Hermanus. But I much prefer wandering along the empty coastline with just the oystercatchers and the waves for company. Now I have Kobus and his fisherman friends filling the rocks every day while they discuss the latest vehicle shampooing techniques and plan where to have tonight’s dubbel brandewyn en Coke.
And yes, I’m “a visitor” too, but I like to think that I’m a bit different. I didn’t bring down any car cleaning products and I refuse to use a hosepipe unless I have express permission to do so. I’m nice like that. So thanks for coming, Kobus, and thanks for supporting the local tourist industry and the local businesses. But your time is up now, the Jukskei is calling you and I want my beach back.
As promised, we got up to the top of the newly refurbished Cape Agulhas lighthouse this afternoon.
Here’s Instagram’s take on the 7.5 million candlepower light and lens.
The museum, small art gallery and tourist info places in the lighthouse building are simple, but informative and there’s a much more open feeling about the whole ground floor. Upstairs, however, is as steep and as tight as ever, but if my daughter got up there when she was three years old, you have no excuse. 🙂