Tourists are drawn to places of distinctiveness. Of course some make a bee-line for McDonald’s on arrival in a foreign land, but for the most part we travel in search of unique experiences.
Our rich diversity makes South Africa a choice destination. In the north travellers can go on safari, in KwaZulu-Natal Indian flavours meet Zulu culture and in the Eastern Cape we find adventure coupled with rich heritage. The Western Cape is a destination of note, offering everything from spectacular winelands to Table Mountain.
It is our West Coast; however, that dishes up some of our most interesting experiences. The West Coast Way, a destination management company, has recently launched a handful of special-interest self-drive routes. These include a culture route, a scenic route, a berg route, the darling brew experience and, most-recently, the foodie route. Travel Ideas joined in for a day trip along the West Coast for the launch of their foodie route.
Stop One: The Thali Thali Game Lodge
Our first stop, the Thali Thali Game Lodge, is situated on the R27 West Coast Road 80 minutes from Cape Town. We arrive to a mouthwatering breakfast consisting of freshly-baked vetkoek, angel fish pate, fresh fruit and Eggs Benedict with slivers of kudu meat.
After breakfast we try our hands at a spot of archery. Charlie, our instructor, shares the basics of mastering the bow and arrow. “Always aim just below the bull’s eye,” he explains as we pull the bow into position. It takes practice to finesse my technique, but after a while I feel like my childhood hero, Robin Hood.
Thali Thali Game Lodge offers self-catering accommodation and guided game-drives to visitors. See: www.thalithali.co.za
Stop Two: Velddrif
Known as a birder’s paradise, Velddrif is next on the itinerary. A mid-morning snack beckons at Heron’s Rest, an estate situated a few metres from Velddrif’s estuary. The estate epitomizes country living at its best with blue skies and hectares of open dryland stretching beyond a ‘koppie’.
We’re guided through a four-bedroom house (available for rent) to a sunlit dining area where tables have been set for a tea-and-seafood pairing. It’s an unusual match, but after the first mouthful of lemon-drenched sardines coupled with cherry-orange tea I’m sold. Sips of Carmien chai tea are followed by bites of curried fish. This is chased by mint Rooibos coupled with fresh mussels. The tea lives up to its reputation of highlighting the seafood flavours.
After a sensual stopover at Heron’s Rest, we’re driven to Velddrif’s famous Bokkomlaan. The locals say that Bokkomlaan is to Velddrif what Wall Street is to New York City. This sandy lane is flanked by an estuary and a collection of fishing boats on the one side and cafes serving bokkoms on the other.
In between are pelicans strategically approaching the bokkom factory for tastes of salty fish. At the Pelican Trading Post, a fisherman demonstrates the art of skinning a bokkom. We discover that bokkom – the fishy version of biltong – is an age-old traditional point of pride to the people of the West Coast.
Stop 3: Saldanha Bay
Our final stop is Saldanha Bay where lunch is served at the Protea Hotel situated on South Africa’s largest natural bay. Staff members are preparing a traditional West Coast ‘braai’ of epic proportions. ‘Stokbrood’ sizzles on the grill, fresh oysters are presented on platters and mussels come served with salsa made of finely-chopped red onions, peppers and coriander.
We feast West-Coast style and watch as boats sail past. The day concludes with a walk through the Saldanha Cultural Village situated opposite the hotel. Limestone fisherman cottages stand perched on a hill overlooking the bay. This is the most historic part of Saldanha and home to a community museum where we learn about Saldanha’s rich fishing heritage, rugby stars and tumultuous past.
Taste for Yourself
The foodie route can be done leisurely over a few days or in one fun and delicious day. Other stops along the way include the Geelbek Restaurant in the West Coast National Park, Langebaan, Jacobsbaai, Paternoster, St. Helena Bay, Shelley Point, the West Coast Fossil Park and Hopefield.
Discover the friendly, rugged and sensual way of the west. For more information see www.westcoastway.co.za .