18 December 2013

12. - 18 Dec.: Swellendam kayak and sherry

Great breakfast, one of those you remember, and I am picky with breakfast! Lots of freshly squeezed juices make for a great welcome.

Italian songs from a half a century ago or so gently fill the atmosphere in the background.  In particular, they keep playing "Tu vuoi fa l'americano", a song by Neopolitan Renato Carosone that was released in 1956. In fact, I will hear this song in several lounges and breakfast rooms during this trip. Not sure why, but it seems to have made a more long lasting impression here than in Italy, where it has long since forgotten and is hardly ever played in public spaces. If you've missed until now, you can listen to it here.

Trip to the dam for canoe. I asked the waitres of our hotel for directions to the Swellendam lake, but she kept referringto the "dam". That's how they call artificial lakes that are formed as a result Sunny and pleasant but a bit windy. Lots of tents around the artifical lake created by the dam.

So Yan drive off satiated by a and musically enriched by Renato Carosone and soon we find ourselves driving by what does indeed look like a fairly good size prison, with fences barbed wire and everything you would expect from a prison. Yet, somehow, a prison does not fit in this pristine and wild environment that is a celebration of freedom and wildlife.

We get lost, our navigator can't find the way, until we stop by a road block and ask a few friendly policewomen who ask a male colleague who apparently lives there and in no time we are on our (correct) way. As we get there it gets again a bit confusing as the camp is quite large and there is no indication where the canoes are, but with some persistent trial and error we get there! We are welcomed by Kelly, who tells us it's 100 rands for the canoe we can pay on our way out . She kindly gives us some sun screen when we ask and we are ready to paddle.

We choose a two seater kayak over two separate ones. In the water we start easy downwind, but soon we are at the other end of the lake, oops, of the dam, and working our way back upwind requires a fairly strenuous effort.



Some kids make merry on a floating platform moored in a crevice in the rock. We are about to ask them if we can join, but in the end we prefer to sit back and enjoy the sunshine in our face.

Dinner again in villa. Colonial feeling of luxury of old. Tonight we take and share the quail again and for contrast we gor for salmon. Both superbly prepared and served with delicate vegetables that fit the bill perfectly. Again a South African red wine helps wash it all down.

After dinner Yan and I decide to sit down in the living room, by the fire place. Sherry and port wines are available for a small charge and it's basically all you can drink, at least I did not see anyone check. Not that we wanted more than a small glass. David, a bubbly young black man who waited on us at the restaurant, comes to stoke the fire and ask if we need anything. This mellow experience we share with an elderly German couple who speak good English.  He is a retired Mercedes Benz manager, and they are driving pretty much the same road we are.

After the German couple politely excuse themselves to go to sleep, David comes again to stoke the fire. We strike a polite conversation but he gets very excited when I tell him I am a writer. Well not a household name of a writer exactly, I hasten to add, I used to write about international politics and nuclear weapons but now prefer to concentrate on travelogues. He seems overwhelmed.

"Do you mean I now know a real writer?" he says with his eyes wide open.  I am not sure what to make of it. He asks what my latest book is about and I tell him, it is on the Maldive islands. He'd like to see it and I offer to show it to him, but it's only in Italian. (Again, my mistake not to write it in English.) He says it does not matter, he's love to see it. So with immense pleasure I find myself almost blushing at someone asking to see my book. Not a friend, not a relative, but a perfect stranger who can't even read it. In the morning I'll present him with a signed copy and wait patiently for some feedback that will never come.





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