Monday, November 19, 2007

Back to Betty's

Cause of the day: STOP JAPANESE WHALING!
The Japanese are planning to catch 1,000 whales this season, including resuming Humpback Whale slaughter. How about one country makes all whales citizens and then protects them as such?

At the post office I apply for a permit to catch “West Coast Rock Lobster”, or crayfish, which costs 75r for the season ( a couple of months), and allows me to catch 4 crays per day. There’s been something of a stink recently in the press over the banning of abalone fishing. Previously they were controlled in a similar way to the crayfish, by permits and daily personal restrictions. Now it’s only the poachers (exporting very lucratively to the Far East) who are busy catching. My only experience of abalone that I can recall was in Puerto Montt with Jina, Tony and Marcia, and I didn’t think it was especially tasty.


My first mugging
Next, I’m off on the metro to Belleville Station to meet Gerhard, so it’s the fun walk to station with full pack. This time I use the shopping centre underpass to cross the major road just before the station. On the way out, some dodgy looking youths approach me fast, putting me on full alert. My suspicions are confirmed as the tallest grabs me round my collar whilst the other two dive for my pockets on both sides. I yell loudly at the guy in front of me, whilst pushing away the two at my sides, and people turn and are about to help when they run off. Hmmm, my first attempted mugging, great! Survived with me, wallet and mobile all intact, so I guess I’m fairly lucky. It does just confirm to me that walking around with full pack is just asking for trouble. Unfortunately I’m meeting Gerhard in Belleville, a busy transport hub in a poor area. And as he’s running late, I have to wait around. Gulp!

When I arrive, and have chosen a discrete spot to call Gerhard to alert him of my arrival, I then find somewhere to pass the time. There are some gospel singers performing on one side, and a chap selling snoek out of the back of a truck. It’s all quite interesting but for the “I’m a rich tourist, hassle me” neon sign I’m carrying on my back. I get rid of one guy by telling him that if I had any spare money I’d use it to buy a cassette of the gospel singers, which is true in a way, I would quite like to buy their cd, but there’s no way my wallet is coming out here!

Beautiful Betty’s Bay
We shop on the way down, and settle in with deck chairs out by the braai area. The evening braai today is spicy chicken. Despite being windy around the coast, especially in Cape Town itself, it seems to be beautifully sheltered and calm here.

Good to be back

Gerhard is apparently thinking of resigning, if nothing else so he can spend the next two months here. It’s easy to understand, as the sun goes down, lighting us up before the fire gets going.

The next morning we visit Beaumont Winery, on Compagnes Drift Farm, which I realise is just round the corner from the shuttle drop point for the Baz Bus to Hermanus. Ariane, the wine-maker’s sister, is just opening up when we arrive. Their enormous moulting dog Axel is sitting in the sun. Ariane recognises Gerhard and knows his parents well, so much so that she gives us a bottle of their not-for-sale Shiraz Rosé. We taste their range, from pleasant chenin blancs, the better of the two called Hope Marguerite, through to Shiraz and a good Bordeaux blend named after her, Ariane, a bottle of which I pick up for 95r. Their port and dessert wines are also good.

The morning’s work over, we head back to Betty’s to watch NZ floundering against South Africa in the cricket before low tide at lunchtime, usually the best time for diving.

Diving for Crayfish
It’s too rough in front of the house, even in the sheltered gully which in conditions like this, Gerhard calls “the washing machine”, with foam and froth being dragged back and forth and dashed against the rocks. Instead we drive out to Maanskyn Bay, having decided that Pringle Bay is also a bit rough. Gerhard’s friend Shaun joins us. It’s promising, as we walk out around the beautiful sandy beach, passing a few chaps who have caught their quota and are turning in. Some coloured guys by the car park are having their catch measured to ensure they aren’t undersized. The (coloured) inspectors decide that two are slightly undersized and they get a stiff fine. Perhaps being especially harsh with their own.

Dive site

After pulling on full wetsuits, we head out into the water. It’s a bit fresh as we slide into the kelp forest. What a strange experience! The kelp is enormous, thick trees of brown with leaves waving about underwater and there’s the danger of getting tangled up. Then as one dives, the strong swell throws the kelp and you back and forth, which you can’t keep track of until you see the bottom, then you realise which way you’re going. Almost nauseating!

After some time, Gerhard and Shaun have pulled in 4 crays, and it is decided that the swell and cold are getting a bit too much, so we head back. At the Dory, we enjoy another beautiful African sunset before getting the braai going.

Braaing the Sunset

African sunset

Whilst Gerhard tends to the fire, his father boils the crayfish before bringing them out for the braai.

Not yet

Once the fire has died sufficiently, on they go with a garlic bread and a steak fillet.

Drop those crayfish on

Steak fillet on there too

And now we wait

It’s not long before everything’s done and is taken inside. Gerhard’s mother is preparing a large salad with plenty of my spinach!

It’s done

That too, get it off!


We eat inside, and the food is marvellous, complimented by copious quantities of the salad, or none whatsoever in Gerhard’s case (he denies this of course).

Another tough day
Next day, another of Gerhard’s friends turns up, and we go diving in the gully (washing machine). Initially we suspected it was calmer than yesterday, but this was proved wrong once we were in. I found once in that the gully was deeper than I expected, but I still couldn’t find any crayfish. Most time was spent diving down, looking about, giving up, going up for air and hoping one wasn’t dashed against the rocks as the waves picked up, suspiciously soon after Gerhard declared that it was definitely getting calmer.

Into the washing machine

Total pull from this dive – 4 crays. A start, but not enough for a feast. I contented myself with examining the coral and anemones at the shallower end of the gully.

Success for those who know what they’re doing

Next we went round the coast looking for better spots, and chose Pringle Bay.

This looks more sensible

We walked in until the water was deep enough to float in, then swam forwards into the huge kelp forest. This was quite shallow, only a couple of metres deep, and there were crayfish everywhere. Now, surely, I would shine?! I found one chap on his own, but as soon as I neared him he retreated into a hole. I spent several minutes trying to coax him out, even resorting to sticking my hand inside to try to scoop him out (gulp), but nothing worked.

Further on I found a rock with more than a dozen of the buggers sitting there, some smaller, some larger. I completed a couple of reconnaissance dives before going in for the kill. I pinned one down but he slipped out of my grip and went wild, jumping about until he was hidden behind a rock. Next I went for a larger one, but he was surrounded by cronies all of whom lifted their antennae as I approached. Finally I managed to corner a small one sitting further from the pack, and held him as he squirmed. Yippee! He’s definitely too small to be caught, but I’ve caught something. Where are the other two? Nowhere to be seen. You’ll just have to take my word for it!

Nice and calm

The fishing is so good that the other two have more than we can bring in between the three of us, but as we’re walking out, another chap is going in, and we’re able to give him his full quota of four crays. A short dive for him! He still heads in to see if he can find any bigger ones, and he probably will.

In the evening we head back into town, and then over to Camps Bay, where a friend of Gerhard’s has an enormous house up on the hill, with marvellous view, an indoor pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. Brian, Dave, Trevor, and others are all there. They get a braai going outside on the large balcony, and boil the crays before sticking them on the bbq with the sausage. Trevor does rice, and 9 of us sit down to a tasty meal with a variety of local wines. This is what Cape Town life is all about!

Dave invites me to their New Year’s Party which they’ll hold here, the theme being Erotic and Exotic Astronauts and Aliens. Well, might be worth investigating flights back from Mozambique if I’m going to be Billy No Mates. Another friend, Ret (?) who is a keen sailor with his own yacht, advises me about the possibilities of sailing back to the UK – he reckons it would have to be via the Caribbean. Well, there are harder things to endure in life I suppose. We also have a joint moan about how slippery Crocs are – he thinks they were originally designed as sailing shoes, what a farce!

Before we tuck in, Gerhard pulls out the nasty bits from the Crayfish – basically the intestinal tract, which, as he knows what he’s doing, he pulls out with a couple of twists on the tail then a gentle pull. They’re delicious, and everything is finished in no time. It’s a school night, so we forgo the sauna and head home.

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