There is nothing like having visitors to prompt you into visiting places that are all too familiar but still exciting to explore.
Now that we are residing in the picturesque, fishing village of Struisbaai at the tip of Africa and a three hour drive from our former home, Cape Town, we welcome having friends to stay. Last week Tony and Sharon were our guests for a midweek break and what fun we had.
The weather was not perfect but at least the rain held off and it was not too cold. On Wednesday set off to visit Elim 36 km away. Of course we birded on the way there and back!
Elim was established in 1824 by German missionaries as a Moravian mission station. The grew vines in the viticulture suitable terrain so as to produce their own wine for communion. The he missionaries taught the villagers a variety of trades and skills. Thatching was a skill they mastered and to this day Elim thatchers are recruited to from all over the world.
The village is picturesque and has changed little over the years. The thatched whitewashed cottages are typical fo their homes. All the roads in the village lead to the thatch roofed church. The community, still mainly Moravian, consists of farmers, artisans and farmers.
Elim is becoming known for the export of fynbos, and as an emerging area in the production of wine.
We visited the museum which has some fascinating exhibits.
On Thursday, after a delicious “Early” breakfast we set off for the historic town of Swellendam wich was declared a magisterial district in 1743. It was the fourth oldest in South Africa, and was named after Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel who was the first South African born Governor, and his wife, Helena Ten Damme. This outlying settlement was the gateway to the interior, and was visited by many famous explorers and travellers including Francois Le Vaillant a noted ornithologist (1781).
A village was established beyond the Drostdy, where artisans including numerous wainwrights, blacksmiths, coopers and traders settled. Swellendam was the last outpost of Dutch civilisation on the eastern frontier and thus the services of the residents of the town were of utmost importance.
Our first stop after a scenic drive from Struisbaai was The Old Mill Restaurant. We wanted to sit in the garden but it had rained and the seats were wet so we settled for an indoor table and ordered coffee and milk tart. Inside the menu we found a touching trip report written by one of the staff. They had all been taken to The Kruger National Park and surrounds to do a training course. What an amazing experience they had flying for the first time, seeing fascinating wildlife and exploring a part of our land that they’d only dreamed of. And what a lot they learned about their trade too. The piece was written with such warmth and appreciation of every aspect of the experience. It’s worth going to this restaurant just to read it!
Feeling refreshed we went to the Drosdy Museum and really enjoyed all the exhibits and re-informed ourselves of our South African history.
We spent a good few hours exploring Swellendam and I can recommend it as a destination especially if you have an interest in things historical. There is also a pottey you could visit and we popped into an art gallery too. The exhibits were interesting and if I could choose I would have take this.
The weather was cooling down quite rapidly by the time we left and made our way to The Bontebok National Park. There was not too much to see but we were thrilled that we saw its star performers plus a few other creatures.
Back in Struisbaai we popped into the harbour and took a photograph of the stingrays cruising beneath the surface.
On Friday Sharon and I made the most of the most glorious morning and walked to Agulhas.
The men met just over an hour later and we did the compulsory standing on the southern tip thing, took a scenic drive to Suiderstrand and then had breakfast at Potpourri.
It was a lovely end to to a brilliant visit with our friends.