Busy down here

Agulhas is busy. Really busy

I recently heard someone remark the other day that Cape Town seemed quieter than usual over the holiday period this year. I’d noticed that too.
Not here though.

We only arrived in Agulhas yesterday, but wow: it’s busy. Really busy.

Even the internet is overloaded and slow like if you were at a concert or a sports event, or just on Cell C.

I’m sure that I have mentioned on here sometime previously that it’s really difficult for businesses to cope with this once off seasonal demand.
Cape Agulhas is a wonderful place, but you have to want to come here. It’s not somewhere you reach accidentally. It’s not near a big airport or transport hub. It’s not on the road to anywhere else (in fact it’s a good 100km-plus off the road to anywhere else). It’s a trip you have to decide to make. And so the two weeks or so around Christmas is the only time this place sees any major action.

That’s just how I like it, of course: it’s why we spend so much time here. But it does make it very hard work for the tourism-related businesses here to make things work. Fifty weeks of the year, they are just trying to survive on the meagre scraps provided by a trickle of geographically-curious visitors; but then they are expected (and required) to upscale for the annual invasion of the Christmas fortnight. The campsites are full, the towns are buzzing, the queues are… noticeable.

And the local restaurants have invested and really stepped up to the challenge this year: the wine shop now has a wine bar and does picnics, the fish and chip shop – an institution – has built a posh extension and can seat many more people, the Twisted Fork has rebranded as the Crafty Pig (and I even saw customers in there), Seagulls has renovated its downstairs restaurant area, Pot Pouri is now huge and has a double-storey gift shop, and Zuidste Kaap has done absolutely nothing, because that’s just how they roll.
With the investment comes a degree of risk, of course: the fish and chip shop was packed today, but on a drizzly Tuesday next July – probably not so much. But I’m sure that the owners and manager of these businesses have taken all this into account when making their decisions. And I’m delighted to say that they were all happily making hay yesterday.

I need to go to bed now, to mentally prepare myself for the very real possibility that that there might be someone on my beach tomorrow.

I haven’t dared to warn the beagle. But then it wouldn’t understand anyway.

Slow down…

Greetings from the bedroom at the cottage.
No. I’m not sharing any photos or a live video feed. This isn’t that sort of website.
I’m just sheltering from the midday sun and the heat (and the wind) as we approach midsummer’s day here in the Deep South. Outside is bright yellow sand, stunning turquoise ocean and sharp green fynbos. It’s almost too much to take in. Even the beagle has given up and fallen asleep on the beanbag in the living room.

Still, earlier, time was spent perusing the rockpools on the local beach. There are plans afoot to go and see the new Icon at the Southernmost point “soon”. Later, there will be a braai, some beer and some brandy.
And then sundowners and maybe (maybe) a timelapse as evening falls.
It’s well-deserved downtime after a hectic year.

And yet you still get a daily blog post. That’s service, hey?

Oh, Josh

I mentioned this cairn/monument thing at Cape Agulhas just the other day. Not only is it die mees suidelike punt van die vasteland van Afrika, it’s also the official meeting point of the two oceans.

But which two oceans?

If only… if only there was some sort of clue in the picture.

Oh, Josh.

Powder of Sympathy

I’m going to try some experimental stuff on the photography front this weekend – weather permitting. And that will result in experimental photographs. However, I obviously haven’t taken them just yet, so here’s a photograph of an experiment – or at least a photograph of a description of an hypothesis. Tenuous.

These days, one can simply glance at one’s smartphone to obtain an accurate reading of one’s latitude and longitude. And thanks to the position of the sun and the stars, sailors have long been able to gauge their latitude fairly accurately. Longitude was an entirely different kettle of fish though – the biggest limiting factor being that in order to calculate one’s longitude, one needs to know the time accurately. When a hefty prize was announced for anyone who could solve this problem, it attracted a lot of interest – not all of it entirely helpful. The Powder of Sympathy was one of the less successful ideas. I love the final sentence: as if we really needed telling.

Interesting fact about Cape Agulhas – it lies right on the 20° Meridian. And I mean pretty much exactly, right down to 6 decimal points. Given that we generally divide the world up into segments of 15°, this isn’t hugely important, but I have noted that if you poke the beagle at noon while standing on right on that imaginary line (I use my phone’s GPS to get it just right), it will let out a small bark, before glaring at you.

Now superseded by modern technology, back in the days of Diaz and van Riebeeck, every ship passing the Southern Tip would have had a beagle on board to poke as they rounded Cape Agulhas. This act wouldn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know, but it’s always good to poke a beagle whenever possible. Keeps them on their toes, see?

Southernmost sculpture

News from Cape Agulhas is that the new … the new… “thing” at the Southernmost Tip of Africa is nearly completed. I use the word “thing” simply because I’m not sure what other word I can use to better describe it. It’s a sculpture, yes, but it’s surely more than that as well.

The people building it are calling it The Agulhas Icon, which is all very well, but also suggests that they’re a bit unsure of what – other than iconic – it is.

For years, the Southernmost point in Africa – and the official meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans – has been marked by a small cairn unveiled by one P.W. Botha (who he?) on 23rd August 1986, and which people have climbed onto, been photographed next to, or blogged from several metres behind ever since. And that’s not going to change. It’s what is just next to the cairn which is being revamped.

The design is by Strijdom van der Merwe – and that’s great because I really like his stuff. It’s a circular area, sensibly based around a combination of a compass and the African continent.

The artistic representation of the African continent taking shape. It is important that this iconic form is visible on Google Earth as this will be the iconic destination point marker online.
Well-known geological features such as Cape Point, Table Mountain, Namib dunes, Victoria Falls,
Rift Valley, Sahara Dunes and the Nile River will be visible.

Low walls will encourage visitors to sit and stay for a while, soaking up the atmosphere, sheets of steel will dramatically emerge from the four points of the compass – with the Southerly point obviously given the greatest prominence – while lines created from the local stone will dissect and trisect and… well you get the idea… the space. A few teaser progress images were released this week, and I think it looks fantastic.

It’s very bold, very strong, very… Iconic.
A really cool and important addition to the area.