We had survived yet another windy night in our Campmaster nylon tent. We were not willing (or able) to fork out thousands for a canvas or rip-stop tent, so we rely on water-proof fire-retardant nylon to protect us from wind and rain and whatever other elements may have a go at us. And so far it is doing an excellent job.
The sun is up early and bakes with full force so we get the gear in the boot as early as we can. After an eventful shower (there was no dressing-area in the shower cubicle as the shower flooded), we have our breakfast – yogurt, and coffee with rusks – on our camping chairs next to the packed car. Then we take the road again – off to explore Lambert’s bay.
The sight that greets us at the public beach of Lambert’s Bay has us breathless. We are silenced by the beauty of the outstretched white beaches, lined with palm trees, curved along endless water in a variety of blues. It is as if we’ve stepped into a different country, a Greek island perhaps. Excitement overwhelms the astonishment and, after a quick spray of suntan lotion, we dash down to where the water laps gently at the soft white shoreline.
To the one side the beach continues as far as the eye can see, curling to form a lake-like stretch of water with almost no waves. To the other side, the breakwater harbours fishing boats, behind which fish fabrics and Bird Island is visible. The small red lighthouse on the end of the pier contrast brightly against the blues of the ocean surrounding it and the photographer in me goes wild.
We kick off our shoes and step daringly into the inviting shallows. Luckily my camera is up to my eye and ready to capture Z’s reaction to the rather cold welcome we receive. The icy Atlantic keeps us entertained for a while, as we wander along the water’s edge, looking for shells and other photographic opportunities. Sure enough, we spot dolphins playing around the entrance to the harbour. About 4 or 5, glistening in the sunlight as they come out of the water for a few moments, only to disappear again. Further down two dogs play fetch with their owners, swimming into the waters after pieces of driftwood. Another fat black Labrador appears from nowhere and poses for me, splashing around and rolling in the sand.
We stroll down the pier, breathing in the peace, the calming sounds of surf and seagulls, with the smell of fresh fish softly in the air, and at that moment I know why I had longed so for a West Coast holiday.
The sun starts eating through the SPF50 lotion we had put on and we reluctantly part with the splendour of Lambert’s Bay. I have made up my mind to dedicate much more time to this jewel on future travels to the West Coast. We set the GPS for Vredenburg and take the long(ish) road again. It’s a little back route and apart for the beautiful Clanwilliam Dam and the salt pans of Velddrift, there is little to be seen along the way. We head into Vredenburg to stock up on provisions for the evening, before searching for Windstone Backpackers, our home for the next two evenings.
The working horse farm is not really equipped as a campsite (yet) but can accommodate large groups for church and youth camps in Backpacker accommodation. The owner, Andy, meets me at the car and shows us around. He is very friendly and helps us find a spot hidden behind buildings as the wind has picked up over the afternoon. I suggest that we try out the storm ropes we bought for the tent, seeing as we have them, and the wind justifies them. We pitch the tent tucked away from the wind, close to bathrooms and a power source, but smack in the middle of loads of killer ant nests. An afternoon nap seems to be the perfect way to hide from their stings, and sure enough when we awake an hour later they have retired for the night. We explore the farm with our cameras, feeding the horses and snapping away at wheelbarrows, hay, geese and old implements.
As the sun sets we start on our evening feast: marinated pork ribs on the braai, with homemade garlic and cheese buns also toasted on the braai, and salad. We enjoy the feast on the porch of the building, out of the wind which now howls around the corners. Not long after the last bite we crawl into bed, with the tent snugly stable thanks to the storm ropes. Tomorrow we explore the heart of the West Coast. Need to be rested…