Friday, May 27, 2011

Winter Castles

I can't make up my mind whether I like Winter, or not.
I think it depends on the duration. And the depth of cold.
England was too much of both. So was the Langkloof - and with no central heating!
Still, there is much to enjoy in a month or two of mild chill.
Stripy socks. Hats. Fires. Mohair blankets. Bredies and Pies and Soups. Boots. Books in bed.

And a winter beach.
Last weekend I bullied my two children into leaving the comfort of their books and face book and all screens in general to venture out with me and L into the icy outdoors.
The drive out was a miserable one, but I remained unfazed by our two gloomy backseat passengers.
The final idea had been L's, when he said something like -if we were tourists what would we do?.
And so we headed off to Noetzie.

We had both been there years and years before.
I did not remember the turn off being through an informal settlement. No doubt it had not been. These places almost suddenly appear. The road sides were lined by structures that had truly embraced the term 'lean to'. Lean too far and they would topple their bright turquoise, purple, red selves right into our path. They cheerfully teetered into the banks of nasturtium leaves, whilst the children outside their toppling houses waved. We waved back and proceeded on.

Down the gravel road we drove, leaving all behind us until it was all trees only on either side. And then we entered the Pezula Estate zone, of mansions perched in fynbos behind electric fencing, with soulless sheets of glass eyes staring with a lonely gaze down towards the sea.
We passed on, and our passengers cheered up, and we remembered other trips down gravel roads, dragging tents and gear to isolated spaces, and it felt a little like that again.

The parking lot was not quite deserted. L and I both know crime stories that have  happened at Noetzie, but we both said nothing. Deserted places in South Africa always cause us to hitch our senses up a notch, pull out our  antennae, as it were,  and become a lert, in the African sense.
We met two fishermen on the steep path down. They were tired and armed with long rods and knapsacks. We greeted them, and they us.
I relaxed a little on the descent of bricked path. That had not been there before, and was built no doubt, by Pezula who have privatized a section.
A castle.

By way of explanation we told our two children (bright eyes now, with the assault of sea air and pungent fynbos, and the shiver of steep cliff to our left) that the castles built at Noetzie beach were a kind of folly. I forget the story, or history of it all, but the fact is - someone one or some people built six stone castles down there on the sand sometime last century - simply, I suppose, because they could.

By the time we made the final descent of 132 steps to the sand the children were ahead of us, and we were warm. L and I followed the bend of river around the corner and peered up at the castles and peered down to the sea, and ended up perched on an abandoned lifesavers chair - to keep watch. The children, meanwhile, with sticks in hand, followed steep tantalizing pathways up between stone walls and hanging vines, to wave to us, after a while, from blind, glassless windows in the very top, decaying castle.

They came back eventually, to say that apart from some graffiti about heroin the castle was absolutely clean and tidy, as far as abandoned buildings go. Only a rich kid shooting up then, took shelter once, it would appear. No shack dweller, wandering down the dirt track, past the shut away Pezula houses, came upon, and decided, on a cold day, to set up home in a castle by the sea. No dirty rascal making a bid for being King of the Castle.
It would be too lonely down there. There is a  desolate lack of company - only a colony of seagulls gathered together on the icy sand, and two back birds with spread and drying wings on the foamy waters edge. No Ubuntu. No community in Castle land.

Even I was glad of two smart figures with large cameras glimpsed behind the buttresses of Pezulas private luxury castle. And there were one or two other tourist strays coming down with clicking cameras.
The ascent was harder work and my heart beat alarmingly. No fear now though, the spirit of adventure had caught up with us by then

We were a cheery lot on our return, and threw all final caution to the wind  at the Knysna Heads, where we drank wine and ate pizza on the way home.

Tourists we remained, until the end.

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