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.

Drought posters: too much?

Local authorities in Cape Town have come under fire this week for their latest attempts to convince tourists of the severity of the drought in the Mother City, with critics saying the posters “go too far”, and are “frankly rather scary” and “wholly distasteful”.

The summer tourist season is approaching, and many residents have expressed concern that transient visitors will either be unaware of our water crisis or simply won’t care, and would therefore waste our precious resources. Tourism is huge business in the Western Cape, with 1.5 million international visitors spending a massive R18 billion in the province in 2016. It’s clear that without that money, Cape Town would be in deep trouble, but running out of water completely would obviously be a disaster.

However, those same residents were stunned at the authorities response, with shocking posters which are set to be displayed prominently in the arrivals area in the airport and at popular tourist sites around the city.

Elsie Grootbek of Newlands was aghast:

Look, of course I know that the drought is a big issue, but South Africa does have a bit of a reputation and posters like this really don’t help with that. This is terrible. Which moron actually thought that this would be a good idea?

Reaction to other posters was equally incredulous. Fanie Praatbaie, a guest house owner in Melkbosstrand, couldn’t believe the posters and was concerned what effect they might have:

It’s bad taste and really off-putting. We’ll talk to our visitors, one to one, and explain the water crisis. We don’t need this sort of thing welcoming our tourists. It might even spark vigilante action if one of our guests takes a 4 minute shower or something. It’s hugely worrying.

However, government representatives were quick to point out that this ‘shocked’ reaction was exactly what they were after.

Spokesperson Willem van der Maydup told us:

It’s really not meant to be threatening. It’s just designed to make people think when they turn the taps on in their hotel rooms. Water is the lifeblood of any city, and we want visitors to value our water as if it were their own blood.
I showed one of the posters to my 6 year old son last week and it’s clearly had an effect: he hasn’t even gone into the bathroom since then. Or slept.

It’s unclear whether the backlash will force the authorities to change their mind on the controversial campaign, but with the local tourism season just around the corner, it may be too late to come up with an alternative means of getting their important message across.

Genius Tourism Board

Regular readers know I love Cape Agulhas. It’s my happy place. I walk, I take photos, I fly my drone, I eat, I drink, I braai, I sit, I watch, I enjoy; I love it there. It even has its own category on here. And in my mind, it doesn’t need selling as a tourist destination. But of course, if does need selling as a tourist destination, because there are loads of other amazing places in South Africa, all vying for your visit by being sold as tourist destinations.

Generally, I have to say that the agency responsible for encouraging you to go down south – “Discover Cape Agulhas” – does a pretty good job. And while the drive through the rolling hills of the Southern Cape is usually very enjoyable, I’m really not sure what they were thinking by posting this quote over (arguably) their biggest draw card this morning:

Eish.

Let me set the record straight (if you haven’t worked it out from my first paragraph already):

Yes, the journey is great, especially if you travel well. But arriving is actually what it’s all about – we’ve been through this before. Don’t be put off by the thought of a decent journey being ruined by eventually getting to Cape Agulhas. Because when you get there, it really is very good – I promise.

Despite whatever the tourist agency are hinting at here.

Hermanus thoughts

Some further thoughts and recommendations following our Hermanus trip this weekend.

We stayed here. After a rather rocky start, it got better. Comfy, cosy and close to the beach, it’s a bit out of town, but nice enough.
So. Many. Windows. I imagine that in summer, it would be magnificent.

We went here. A decent Saturday morning market. There was wine, beer, food, crafty stuff. You know that other Saturday morning market you go to? Well, this is like that.

We ate here. It was really good. Really, really good. Great staff. Eclectic decor, coupled with a really interesting fusion of Asian and local cuisine with some completely unique dishes (the Bun Cha has to be top of your list here).

We walked here. So accessible, so well signposted and maintained, and some excellent views as well.

We did one of the shorter routes, but if you’re fit enough and have the time (and if you don’t have young children attached!) there are some exciting looking longer walks as well.

And then – as described yesterday – we dropped in here on our way back to Cape Town. And look, I know that Boulders has its plus points: proximity to Cape Town, nice sandy beach etc, but for me, the penguins and the other wildlife make Stony Point a much better all-round experience. Don’t @ me.

Hermanus gets too busy for me in the summer, but out of season, it’s a great local getaway and – especially if the weather is good – there’s plenty (or more) to do.

Note: This isn’t a paid review (unlike some blogs, I always tell you if I do paid reviews), we just had a good time and it would be great if you could too.

Tight timetable

Despite being the second city of Norway, Bergen is actually pretty small. But it seems like there are still loads of things to do there. The thing is, you might not have ever so much time. We don’t, so I was delighted to find a blog post entitled:

Explore Bergen In 1 Day – The Complete Guide

Thing is, I’m now just a bit unsure exactly how long 1 Bergen day is. Because the blogger in question managed to fit: 1 funicular ride to a scenic viewpoint, 1 historical UNESCO heritage site, a market, an aquarium, a castle, 4 museums and 2 hours of shopping into his one day in Bergen.

Blimey.

I can’t imagine that Parichay Mehta (for it is he) saw any of these places in great detail. Allowing for a reasonable amount of travel time between them, we’re looking at about half an hour per visit. Still, it has at least given us a bit of a heads up as to what’s on offer, given that we have… wait for it… a whole 1 AND A HALF days in Bergen.
Which of course means 45 minutes per attraction. And given that tourism is very much our secondary reason for visiting, that seems more than reasonable.

Oh, and we’re going to do one of these as well, because you don’t go to Bergen and not do The Sognefjord (apparently). Cannot wait.

(Obviously, when we go, I’ll do a more sensible ‘Bergen in a limited amount of time’ post.)