As unwavering as the annual mass migration of wildebeest between the Serengeti and Maasai Mara, South Africa’s middle classes flock to the coast during the December holidays to soak up the summer sunshine. Available beach sand is packed with umbrellas and multi-coloured towels on which lie bodies varying from shades of pale, through to a lobster pink/red and those like myself, who could be mistaken for ‘Capies’ when sporting a year-round summer tan. ‘Burn baby burn’, the philosophy adopted by many who lather themselves in what can only be described as SPF ‘cooking fat’ in order to squeeze out a tan in the shortest time possible. Dealing with the ‘peel and flake’ is tomorrow’s problem. I’ve taken to applying a factor 50 sunscreen due largely to my age and fear of excessively contrasting with my wife in couplely photos.
This year we, together with our accompanying canine ‘children’, drove to Mossel Bay to spend a week chillin’ by the sea. The long drive was fragmented with a quick layover in Bloemfontein, where it is still possible to barter for beer and food and where weekly bathing is seen as an acceptable practice. The canopy of the Navara was packed full with dog beds, toys, leads, food, doggy dental hygiene products (don’t ask) and associated paraphernalia, whilst the boys sat in their back-seat hammock clipped into their doggy seat belts, which had just enough play to allow them to drool over my shoulder and warm the back of my neck with their moist and fragrant doggy-breath. We also took along a portable air con unit just in case the boys got too warm in their seaside guesthouse room.
Mossel Bay reminds me a great deal of Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the UK, where you can get fish and chips on demand, without (obviously) the dismal UK weather and risk of being accosted by a Great White turd. It is a traditional seaside resort where you can ‘camp’ over the Christmas period; my in-laws do this year on year. ‘Camping’ involves positioning a caravan, complete with chest freezer, tumble dryer, flat-screen TV, Christmas tree and porta-pottie on a plot where you can recharge your batteries for a complete month whilst sat staring out at the sea, braaing beneath the stars and waiting in line to use one of the limited shitters in the parks’ ageing ablution facilities. The state of Santos’ ablutions and the wake of destruction left behind by those using the privies still haunt my daydreams. In years gone by, I used to awake at sunrise to use the toilets without my experience being interjected with discordant bowel noises from a neighbouring cubicle, or exclamations of “Kak! Dis baie kak!”, when an unsuspecting Afrikaner lifted the lid of a violated toilet bowl (never fails to put a smile on my face).
This year we chose to vacation in a guesthouse overlooking Santos, complete with en-suite bathroom and double ply, and a stoep sporting a lekker view of the ocean and of the town’s only road to the mall; bumper-to-bumper traffic on the run-up to Christmas day. Our guesthouse was run by a heavyset tannie from Pretoria, who delighted in the fact that I was a real-life Engelsman, Soutie….call me what you will, from the UK…af. Each morning I would be introduced to the other breakfast guests and like a dancing monkey, applauded when I conducted select morning particulars in Afrikaans. Breakfast was sometimes confused with what most would commonly refer to as lunch and/or dinner, owing to its remarkable variability; namely bacon and eggs, shepherd’s pie, and pineapple-mushroom-and-banana pizza (cue stomach back-summersault).
Both our dogs are originally from Cape Town and sea water runs through their veins. They loved playing ball and frisbee on the beach, paddling in the water, pushing one out in the surf and then smugly watching as mum attempts to collect all the doo before A) everyone else on the beach realises and begins shouting obscenities at her and B) the waves grab hold of the particulates and distribute them over the entire beachfront (refer back to A).
Some things I love about Mossel Bay in summertime include; eating a Delfino’s pizza and/or good (cheap) seafood; sea gazing and seeing a dolphin pod swim by; braaing under a starry sky and attempting to match the stars with those on my Star Walk iPhone app; sneaking the dogs into the caravan park; opening Christmas presents on Christmas Eve (feels like you’re cheating Santa); the sense of community amongst caravan park veterans; and watching walvisse playing beach tennis. Unfortunately with everything you love comes the anti-love. This summer it was Finn’s bout of tick-bite fever which led to numerous leaky ass episodes, hose pipe bottom rinses and a very poorly dog. Memories of a return trip from Witbank with stinking, watery brown stuff on the roof lining, trickling down a door into my car speakers and all over Brett came flooding back.
The drive back through the Karoo seemed to take longer in reverse (as always), largely owing to the fact that I’d subconsciously memorised most of the awesome scenery, overplayed my entire CD collection and my wife’s addiction to reading “just one more chapter” of the 50 Shades trilogy; her vow of silence only to be broken after the car’s aircon had given her feet a mild dose of hypothermia. No matter, the boys were always on hand to share their drool and doggy-breath with me and at least I didn’t have to indulge in a game of ek sien met my klein ogie iets wat begin met ‘n…