14 December 2005
Colleen and Ralph lived in Nigeria for a couple of years while Ralph was working for MTN (one of the 3 big cell phone companies here). When they returned to South Africa, they bought a house in Betty's Bay, which is about an hour southeast of Cape Town. They moved back to Johannesburg in June of this year and rented the house for a few months. The renters recently moved out, and the Mills have decided to sell the house in Betty's Bay. They flew down this past Thursday (8 December) to mow, clean, etc. in order to have an open house on Saturday. They invited me to join them for the weekend, so I flew down on Friday afternoon, after the office year end function. Ralph picked me up from the airport, and we drove to Betty's Bay. The drive is not quite an hour. I was glad he was driving, so that I could enjoy the scenery. The drive is right along the coast, and it reminded me a little bit of Highway 1 that goes up and down the California coast. It was really windy that day. Ralph told me that some of the locals say that wind was invented in Betty’s Bay.
He also warned me that they had come into the house to find it infested with fleas. They bought some spray from a veterinarian friend in nearby Kleinmond and hoped that dealt with it. Unfortunately, we battled with the fleas all weekend. But apparently fleas feel the same way about me as mosquitoes, because I had only one bite the whole time. Poor little Brody (Colleen and Ralph’s 23 month old), on the other hand, was tortured by the tiny demons.
On Saturday the estate agent (realtor) had planned an open house from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., so we loaded up the car and drove to Hermanus. First we visited Hamilton Russell Vineyard in Hemel en Aarde (heaven and earth) Valley (http://away.com/features/south_africa_wine_4.html). It’s a really lovely place, and reminded me so much of a couple of vineyards I’ve visited with Ginanni cousins in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California. This particular estate produces only two wines – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I especially liked the Chardonnay and bought two bottles. They also grow and press their own olives to make a very nice olive oil.
We then drove on into the centre of Hermanus, which seems like a real holiday town. Could just be that everyone in the country is on holiday now (or will be soon), so the town was teeming with tourists. We had lunch at a nice outdoor café, did some shopping at the outdoor market, bought some books at a nice used bookstore (new books are very expensive here; it’s the shipping fees), then loaded up the car and started driving back towards Betty’s Bay.
One final stop, though, was at The Wine Village (http://www.wine-village.co.za/default.asp). I’ve been looking for a wine that Colleen and Ralph introduced me to weeks ago – Steenberg Catharina 2002 (a red blend) – and we thought they might have it. They did! I bought half a case. But wow, they had everything! A sign outside announced some accolade the store had won from a South African wine magazine, and did they ever deserve it. The proprietors were very nice, helpful and good sales people. Colleen and I each also bought a bottle of a divine dessert wine that has a good bit of Chardonnay brandy in it. Not too sweet at all.
We arrived back in Betty’s Bay tired but happy. The weather, which had been cloudy earlier in the day, had niced up, so we decided to walk down to the jackass penguin colony (they’re called “jackass” because of the braying sounds they make, which they demonstrated for us). Brody especially enjoyed that, but I did too! It is moulting season for them, which means they can’t swim for a few weeks, so there were plenty of them sitting around. Ralph spotted a few out in the water who must have finished moulting. They were trying to come in to shore, but apparently they don’t do well in shallow water. It was pretty funny to watch them as a wave would wash them in so close to their rocks, but then wash them back out to sea. A little bit closer the next time, then back out. And so on, until they finally got close enough to scramble up onto the rocks.
On Sunday one of Colleen’s older sisters and her family came to join us for a picnic at Pringle Bay beach. Michelle, Kevin and Shelby (Michelle’s daughter) live close to Cape Town. The beach we went to was so nice, and not very crowded. There is a closer beach in Betty’s Bay, but the good thing about this one is that there is a tidal river that borders the beach on one end and flows into the ocean. It is shallow and warm enough for Brody to play in. The beach also has an area that is big and flat enough for a local group to play touch rugby, which Ralph stayed over later in the afternoon to do.
We had such a nice time. We had lunch, I took a brief dip in the ocean, we played in the river, everyone played beach cricket while I read for awhile. Very relaxing. That evening, the Mills and I went to nearby Kleinmond (in between Betty’s Bay and Hermanus) to have dinner with their friends Vanessa and Peter (the veterinarian).
We needed a fairly early start to get to the airport for a 10.40 a.m. flight on Monday morning, but Colleen was determined to have a swim in the really nearby freshwater lake, and she woke me up to join her. I’m glad I went! It was a beautiful little lake. The bottom was very sandy. The tannin content was so high that you could barely see your hand in front of you as you swam. It looked like incredibly strong tea, but the water smelled good and it was so delicious to swim in the cool morning air. We swam out to the center of the lake and back. Then we rushed back to the house, ran around like chickens with our heads cut off packing up and cleaning up, and then dashed to the airport. We just barely made the flight.
All in all, it was a fine weekend, even though I’m not used to being with such a young child full time. But Brody is a sweetheart, and adorable, so it was actually a pleasure. I’m glad I went, and I wish they weren’t selling the house!