Winter wandering along the West Coast: Lunch in the Elands Bay cave

Categories Travel
Elands Bay, Lamberts Bay, West Coast, South Africa, travel, gypsified, road tripping, south african road trip, road signs, backroad adventures in south africa

After a warm and cosy night at Die Opstal in Paternoster, we packed the bakkie once more and set off bright and early towards Lamberts Bay.

With only 150km to cover, we decided to take it super slow and stop ever so often along the way. Instead of tracing our way back along the R399 via Vredenburg, Guillaume took us on a scenic back road adventure through St. Helena Bay, where the prevalence of Lucky Star branding suggested that this must be the tuna and sardine canning capital of the West Coast.

The chilly morning skies were clear and blue, forming a striking contrast with the rolling green farmlands unfurling to the left and right.

Quick stop in Velddrif

We eventually reconnected with the R27 just a few kilometres before Velddrif, a small town surrounded by salt pans where the mineral is harvested for our tables, and pulled in at the local OK Grocer for a few essentials.

What I love about small town grocery stores is the fact that they always stock intriguing items you’ll have a hard time finding elsewhere. True to form, Velddrif’s OK delivered two exciting discoveries: beautifully labelled (yup, we’re that superficial) bottles of Weskus Pinotage and Chenin Blanc* and… wait for it… miniature boxes of UltraMel Custard (which I have, in the meantime, spotted at my local Pick n Pay – hallelujah!)

Rocherpan recce 

Just about 20km outside of Velddrif we made our next stop at Rocherpan Nature Reserve. Run by CapeNature, it’s a birding hot spot and boasts newly renovated accommodation, which both our sets of parents had been curious about it. So, we decided to do a bit of reconnaissance.

The lady at reception welcomed us heartily and asked if we wanted to see one of the new cabins. They are super eco-frienly, running on solar power by day and switching over to Eskom electricity at night, make use mostly of rain water and even feature special compost toilets. Apart from being kind to the environment, they are also exceptionally attractive and have indoor fireplaces – always a bonus!

After checking out the cabin, we braved the icy wind and followed the network of boardwalks to one of the bird hides. The pan was deserted, but still made for a pretty sight.

Elands Bay – lunch with a view

By the time we left Rocherpan our stomachs were properly growling, so food was our next priority. Guillaume had made us yummy sandwiches that morning and I couldn’t stop thinking about those little boxes of UltraMel.

We decided that Elands Bay – just 40km up the coast – would be the perfect location for a lunch stop, but instead of making our way to the beach, we headed for the cave at Baboon Point just outside of town. Slightly elevated, it offers stunning views of the pristine bay and is home to some extremely well-preserved rock paintings. Excavations show that this cave was intermittently occupied by Stone Age hunter-gatherers between 100 000 and 1000 years ago, with the rock paintings dating back to sometime within the last 5000.

The rugged walls literally dance with hundreds of red hand prints, interspersed with the faded remains of illustrated animals and people. Eland figures feature prominently, but are barely recognisable anymore, as the white paint used for their necks and legs has faded away entirely over time.

Once we’d taken in all the ancient magic, we settled down on a large flat rock and soaked up the sun while enjoying our broodjies and custard.

Back road bribes

IMG_7380

With the afternoon rays reaching through the windscreen of the bakkie, we lazily set out for Lamberts Bay, taking the gravel road running along the train track. It used to be run as a sort of toll road, as it cuts through private property belonging to Transet, but nowadays you need a pre-bought permit (only available for purchase in Saldanha) to access it. We didn’t know this at the time.

Fortunately the officials manning the boom took pity on our evident ignorance and waved us through… but only after subtly hinting at their thirst and how delicious a cooldrink would be. We caught their drift and did what needed to be done.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Winter Wandering along the West Coast where we pitch a tent in Lamberts Bay’s somewhat dodgy municipal campsite.

In the meantime, you can head on over to Slow Drive and check out Beyond a Dream, a beautiful video of our trip, shot and edited by Guillaume.

*Apart from the eye-catching label design (look out for the fishing boat on the bar code), these wines produced by Winkelshoek Cellar in Piketberg are affordable and easy-drinking – perfect for a camping weekend away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *