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Travel updates and news. These will either be blogged from the road or at a later time when the photos have been processed.

Cape Dutch Style, Paternoster

My dream house will be such.

I think Marie agrees. Whitewashed, bright, in and out. Soft corners but complex lines. Multilevel. Rustic yet comfortable. Thick walls. Flowers outside, and inside too. Old place, multiple generations having lived there. A long history, many stories to whisper to us when we rest, through the whining of the wind under a door, a floor creaking, the ringing of a bell, the clear drip of a tap, songs of the birds nesting under our roof* and a million other echoes that surface when the house is silent. Oh yes, most importantly: it will be quiet. No BQE hum.

Come and meet us there some day, wherever that might be. For now, I give you glimpses of Paternoster Cape Dutch architecture through various wealth levels and mixed purposes. Still. It makes for a stunning little village.

* This was an omission example of the infamous US-adopted Oxford – or serial – coma. Just because. United we stand.

View from the roof of the Oystercatcher’s Haven
Stairs up to neighboring house
Cape Dutch whites
Oystercatcher’s haven, the annex
One of many B&B slash rentals
Thatch roof
The Oystercatcher, our room was upper right
Anonymous number 3 (I Photoshopped the ID out)
Paternoster public library
Going monochrome, some whites are secretive
The other side of Cape Dutch – no corners, no bleach, little hope
Posted in: On the road & Photoblogs & South Africa on January 22, 2013 | Show Comments(9)

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Paternoster, South Africa – The Sequel

Almost four years ago, on our way back from an epic road trip to Namibia, Marie and I stopped for the night in the small seaside village of Paternoster, camping just out of sight in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve.

We had bought lobster from fishermen on the beach and cooked them as a few rain drops fell and evening fog blanketed the coast. We had previously camped in the relative solitude of the Namib, oldest desert on earth and later in the Kgalagadi National Park with leopards within earshot, but Paternoster proved to be a difficult re-entry to civilization. I ended up standing watch all night because of a deep social divide and semi-urban extreme poverty that worried us more than scorpions and 40°C in the shade.

But we visited the adorable little town again this year, having instead booked a night at the Oystercatcher’s Haven and a table at Oep ve Koep. We drove in straight from Cape Town, a dash of about two hours on a good road. We rode the good old Landcruiser that has not only whisked us to Sossusvlei, but to the roof of Southern Africa and through a mix of floods, landslides, rocks, sand, mud, heat, dirt tracks and game parks without a whisper. This in comparison was a very brief and luxurious escape on an already short trip.


Paternoster is essentially a fishing village with less than 2000 souls. But it is rather easily accessible from Cape Town and for that reason, gets quite a bit of tourist traffic, causing B&B’s and vacation rentals to pop up everywhere, and wealthy people to establish fancy outposts. At Oep ve Koep, Kobus van der Merwe cooks delightful, unconventional dishes of which Marie said: “Each plate is a story. In the story you read about the place, the land, its seasons.”

The main architectural style throughout Paternoster, to my utter delight, is Cape Dutch. Walls are white-bleached, corners rounded, thatch roofs common. The village is a living postcard and its beauty changes with every mood of the light, from blinding whites at noon to pinkish subdued tones towards sunset. Nearby Cape Columbine Lighthouse is the last manned lighthouse in South Africa and was named after a ship wrecked offshore in 1829.

Cape Dutch
Cape Columbine Lighthouse

We had a lovely lunch at Oep ve Koep upon arriving, met by our friends Johan and Peter.

Calamari bobotie at Oep ve Koep

Later, we checked into our B&B and spent some time on the little balcony overlooking the beach, marveling at the sight, the peace, the harmony. It was late afternoon and the golden hour shone in all its glory, deep shades of orange contrasting brilliantly with the ocean’s blue and turquoise. We walked on the beach, sipped a ritual G&T and by the time we ventured out to eat once more, the sky turning a beautiful pink, we found most possible dinner spots closed and had to fall back on greasy seafood in a strange joint.

Ritual G&T, lemon slice missing

The night was excellent and more than made up for the strangeness of our previous story, making us wonder, in the comfort of a secluded bedroom, if we had not maybe exaggerated our worries about camping in an open, unguarded site a few years before. And yet…

Make no mistake about it, most locals, like anywhere else in South Africa, are very poor. They seem to subsist mostly on fishing and maybe some bits and pieces from tourism leftovers. Kids roam the streets with bags of lobsters whose freshness is hard to assess, charging towards cars at intersections to offer their merchandise.

Our sources could not agree on the risks of buying crayfish, as it is called there, off the street, nor a reasonable price to pay for it. But all warned us that the lobsters should still be moving, or else. Just as last time, we headed down to the beach in hopes of cutting out the middleman and minimizing the risk of buying something bad. Colorful boats were pulled up on the sand and kids ran to us with their sales pitch all rehearsed. “As big as a bull, as big an army”, they said in Afrikaans about their catch.

I let Marie negotiate and shot the scene for the record. This mostly allowed me a cowardly distance from the action, as I must admit that me dealing with South African – and all – poverty has always been extremely uncomfortable. I freeze and become either defensive or retreat. I don’t really know how to handle my luck and relative wealth, and don’t seem to have the kind of personality needed to interact lightly with the needy without over-complicating things with cumbersome feelings.

At the bargaining table

Marie walked out with four enormous lobsters that we stuffed in a cooler filled with ice bought at the only village store. We had also purchased a fishing permit that would allow us safe passage if stopped by the police, as carrying lobsters in one’s car is otherwise forbidden. These were not to be eaten on the spot but rather taken back home to Constantia for our farewell dinner.

We hit the road and as fast as it had materialized from our memories, Paternoster disappeared again behind us in a heat blur. I believe that we do leave a little bit of ourselves everywhere we go, and in exchange take away other bits that become part of us. The world is constantly redrawn by our very presence in it.

Enjoy these images. They might be my footsteps. As someone said it so well, I hope I leave pretty footsteps.

I’ll post more Paternoster images in separate sections soon, more Cape Dutch architecture, lunch, the B&B, our lobster deal, Langebaan lagoon on the way back, and more.

Posted in: On the road & Photoblogs & South Africa on January 19, 2013 | Show Comments(2)

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Cape of Good Hope – The Postcards and a Happy New Year

As promised, here are more Cape Point pictures.

After the critters, I’ve decided to combine flowers and landscape in one post since they are part of each other.

Cape Point

I guess it is appropriate that I am writing this on New Year’s Eve and the word “hope” is in the title. The ability to hope has to be one of our greatest strengths. It focuses our mind and, far from being a passive, fatalist attitude, it channels our will into action and turns coincidences into fate.

The hopes of explorers rounding the Cape when they discovered it were certainly very different from the hopes of its inhabitants today. But one thing is for sure, the settlers did not simply hope, they acted upon those hopes to build forward. And so should we, now. (The battle of good against evil is another topic and despite the presence of the word “good” in my title also, I will leave this one for another day…)

Happy New Year to the blue planet and its fleas. May we keep on hopping.

Posted in: On the road & Photoblogs & South Africa on December 31, 2012 | Show Comments(2)

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Flying Over Africa – Part 2

As promised, here is the second batch of pictures captured while flying south from Amsterdam to Cape Town. These were taken roughly in the last third of the flight, somewhere between Angola and Namibia, around sunset.

I particularly like the one of the jet on a parallel course. It’s one thing to see another aircraft in the busy airspace above New York, it’s another altogether to have company in the numbing immensity of African skies…

Notice the jet on a roughly parallel course, 2000 feet higher than us
Tankers at anchor near the seaport of Luanda, Angola
Angola coastline at sunset – Click here for Google Maps location
Posted in: Airborne & On the road & South Africa on December 18, 2012 | Show Comments(6)

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Flying Over Africa – Part 1

On the second leg of our journey to Cape Town, we took off from Amsterdam Schiphol, flew southeast towards Paris, then due south until the mountain wave over the Pyrenees was unmistakably felt, a strong chop keeping us seated with the seat belt sign on until we were well over the Mediterranean. The plane’s route then took us over Northern Africa, Algeria at first, then Niger.

I had been waiting for another opportunity to fly over the Sahara desert for four years. My camera was ready. I spent hours rotating between three very tiny windows at the back of the plane where I had set up camp. Marie was forward in our extra leg-room upgraded seats, all three extra inches of upgrade, trying to turn two seats into one inhabitable space for 11 hours. Over 20 hours flight time and a 30 hour trip make you le tired. We are so over economy class. Ready for luxury.

KLM did not impress me so much, but the view was extraordinary, every bit as mesmerizing as it had been on my first flight to Africa, on-board an Air France Boeing 777-300ER in late 2007. This time we only had a 777-200ER and the lack of a middle section and its cross-over alley-slash-galley meant the plane was plagued with passenger traffic jams.

Imagine the size of the dunes

About half-way into the flight, we left Nigeria behind and hopped over the Gulf of Guinea, flying across the Equator. Convection clouds had appeared far below and we caught a glimpse of the equatorial forests of Gabon through a partial white blanket. Later Angola flew by, and at sunset, a thick row of cumulonimbus obscured Namibia’s Namib Desert.

I’ll post these in two parts, desert first and clouds later. Please keep in mind that all these were shot through the thick multiple panes of airplane windows, with limited reach to the scenery right below. Auto-focus was often impossible because of ice crystals on the inner surface of the portholes ‘outer layer and I had to use a manual approximation of infinity minus a bit. Earth’s lower atmosphere is hazy and humid in these latitudes, and the further up the camera was aimed, the more haze it captured, along with a distinct color distortion probably due to the plexiglas.

Are these ripples in the sand of a beach or waves in a desert

So these images are far from perfect and at development time I often had to increase contrast to recover some saturation and detail. But they speak for themselves. Our planet is still stunningly beautiful and seeing it from so far above, one loses a sense of scale, intricate textures across entire regions becoming identical to those found in rocks or gems at close range.

Amazingly, I was able to find the exact location of most of these shots on the satellite view of Google Maps, by matching obvious landscape features. I identified a 100,000 year old meteor crater in Algeria and an open air uranium mine in Niger. I am including links to those Google Maps views on a map of the flight, just for fun. Do yourself a favor and visit them, and then zoom in and out with our mouse wheel to get close to the ground or see the entire continent…

Talemzane meteor impact crater, Algeria – Click here for Google Maps location

Note: I had initially labeled the crater “Amguid” incorrectly, thank you hartmut for pointing out that it is in fact “Talemzane”, the two craters being near one another in Algeria. So cool to think that we were talking about the same point in a desert seen while flying at 35,000 feet…

Posted in: Airborne & On the road & South Africa on December 15, 2012 | Show Comments(12)

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Test africa


Our KLM flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town took us over the immense Sahara Desert in daylight, a spectacular overflight I will post more about soon.

There will also be many South African flowers, fynbos, a chameleon update, much larger animals and some beautiful scenes from the Table Mountain area. Stay tuned.

Sahara Desert seen from 35,000 feet, somewhere over Algeria or Mali
Posted in: Airborne & On the road & South Africa on December 11, 2012 | Show Comments(1)

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