Showing posts with label golf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label golf. Show all posts

16 December 2013

10. - 16 Dec.: Knysna golf and dining

Tour of downtown Knysna. It's a wonderful late Spring day and it is obvious that Summer is knocking at the door. Lots of people strolling about, eating in the numerious terraces, drinking and shopping. Inevitable in an upmarket area like this, most shoppers and diners are white while many of the workers are black.

As I walk aimlessly around I meet a painter of dogs. A man in his mid-sixties perhaps, kind of short (even by my own 1.69 cm standards) and sporting a long graying beard almost down to his chest. His thick mustache do not completely hide a sweet greagarious smile. A pair of rectangular glasses with a thin frame combine very appropriately with a black beret to produce a perfect blend between a carefree XIX century bohémienne and a modern alternative street artist.

Yes, Teddy is a painter of dogs. He has a dog with him, a small hairy dog called Jock. I know the dog's name because it carries a bright golden badge around its neck with the owner's phone number, in case it should get lost. Teddy paints Jock a lot, it is his main subject, but he also paints other dogs. Occasionally, he paints something else, mostly when he gets motivated by a commission for a specific subject, he told me. But dogs is what he likes to paint.

Just a few steps from his position a couple of sturdy guys are playing their guitars while singing country music. It is a rich mix of Southern country, with some occasional blue-grass overtones, and other local street music. They both wear black T-shirts, a thin necklace, dark sun glasses and a hat that reminds me of Indiana Jones.

Our walk continues to the local supermarket, where Yan and I fall in love with the most colorful baskets of tropical fruits. You can buy it as it comes from the tree, or for a small premium they will serve it nice and peeled in small trays. Prices are incredibly low, at least for our strong Euro, but Yan tells me these delicacies would be far more expensive even in Beijing.

Afternoon back to golf practice. Trying to hit the ball into a more or less straight trajectory toward some flags planted at varying distances into a huge field. I aim at the 50 and 75 meters flags, with mixed results, but who cares? Mike, Lifang and I have a fun and relaxing time while the sun gently sets behind us.

Dinner with local friends at Cafe Mario by the Waterfront. There are no black or colored patrons. My local friends say it's normal because blacks like different food and each of the peoples of South Africa keep to the company of their own kind. Just like Germans and Italians. Well, maybe. It is true, when I live abroad I tend to have more Italian friends than others. But here other considerations come into play: safety, a backlog of racial distrust, if not hatred, that has not yet been completely overcome.

I ask them a question that I will ask a number of times when talking with white South Africans old enough to remember apartheid. The question is: All whites now say they are for racial equality, but what did you think then? (Actually not all whites would agree, there are yet some factions of overtly racist white South Africans, but they are marginal.)

The answer I get today is that they did not know much of what was going on during apartheid because there was no tv in South Africa until the 1980s and a strong censorship prevented news from spreading even within the country and even among rich whites. It is true that there was no TV in South Africa until very late, it started broadcasting only in 1976 to be precise, and then only one channel was available and it was strictly controlled by the government.

And yet I find it hard to believe they did not know, there was so much noise around the world, they certainly knew of Archbishop Tutu winning the Nobel peace prize in 1984 for his anti-apartheid activities. I come out of this conversation with a belief that while most whites were, and are, honestly open and not racist, they acquiesced with apartheid at least, and feared change.

In a way this reminds me of Italy and Fascism: most of my compatriots supported it as long as it was successful and made them feel special, but after 1945 it was virtually impossible to find anyone who would admit to having been a Fascist. And of course many claimed a role in the Resistance, just like many South Africans now say they operated to end apartheid for what they could and were never racist to begin with.

Be that as it may, the restaurant serves very good, real Italian, ossobuco, the best I can remember having outside my beloved peninsula! Italy is well known here for the food, of course, but not for much else. My friends are an exception: they are highly sophisticated lovers of the arts and know Rome as well as any bona fide civis romanus.

When I ask, however, I am surprised no one remembers another Italian who made South Africa known around the world in the 1970s: Marcello Fiasconaro who almost accidentally broke the world record for the 800 meters wearing the blue Italian shirt with a tricolor in the middle. The world record was gone three years later but the Italian record still stands forty years later and counting...

Back home, just after midnight, Mike pops a bottle of bubbles. It is now 17 December and it is officially the day of my 54th birthday.

15 December 2013

9. - 15 Dec.: Knysna golf and spa

Breakfast at home on our panoramic terrace. It is inspiring to overlook the estuary of the Kynsna river from up here, an unobstructed view that stretches to a distance where the naked eye can barely make out the low lying buildings that make the Eastern side of the town.

Mike then takes us for a town tour which is made even more enjoyable by the fact that we are driving is his vintage convertible Merc. Knysna is indeed an idyllic paradise and I have little difficulty understanding why many like to spend time here, especially the warmer months between November and April.

Another round of golf practice (yes I am getting addicted, I know because I get the first blisters on my hands and don't mind) and it's time for some shopping downtown. Great opportunities for outdoor clothing and equipment here. I am like a child in a candy store as all this khaki colored multipocketed garments are my favs. Besides being practical, they project my ego into endless Indiana Jones fantasies and make me feel less a tourist and more an explorer. Well, at least an eccentric travel writer.

In the afternoon massage Yan and I book a massage and steam room at the Conrad. We are given a twin room and get our muscles pain relieved by a couple of young South African ladies, one white and one black, both excellent masseuses.

Dinner (which was included in our massage package) is in the Conrad's terrace. The sun is setting behind a row of houses but it's still warm enough to keep our bleach-white robes on for the meal. As some point Yan feels a draft: because of an open door nearby the warm air from inside the building gets sucked out and blows over our table. Funny, usually a draft is only a problem if one is inside: and the ladies then ask to close the windows or doors. Superb cheese cake to close off the night.

14 December 2013

8. - 14 Dec.: Knysna golf and tour

Today we take it easy after the intense pace of the last few days. Breakfast at the Pezula golf club, sitting in a wide terrace under a blue sky. Full English breakfast with the most appropriate African enhancement of tropical fruits.

We then go and try some golf. It is my first time ever and I kind of like it. I can see how it can become addictive. Just try some putts for now. I am quite excited so I run to gather my balls after shooting my first set too far from the flag, only to be gently reprimanded by Mike who intructs me that one never runs on the golf course lest the impacts of fast feet landing on the delicate grass should dig holes that would distort the game. OK lesson learned.
My first ever golf ball

We then drive around a bit and explore the Pezula property. About 400 hundred lots, some two thirds of which have beed developed into beautiful villas of various sizes. Eighteen golf holes naturally, plus all the infrastructure that makes this a world-class course. It seems that most owners, who are by right members of the Golf Club, don't even play golf at all, but enjoy the setting, the scenary and the company.

Dinner is at a family run restaurant downtown, Pembreys. Well appointed yet informal and warmly welcoming atmosphere, with excellent fish from the region, and of course Cape wines. The owners are Vivian and Peter Vadas, who besides their lives share a passion for Mediterranean and especially Italian cuisine. Their son Peter John has moved on but not before he absorbed his parents' dedication to high quality food, and recently has become the chef of a top notch restaurant near Cape Town. I opt for a pair of excellent Cape soles, nicely grilled and served with potato wedges.

Much to my own chagrin I decide not to drink nearly so much as I would like. Alcohol tests are apparently taken very seriously here and spending a night in a local prison (the usual penalty for speeding, it seems) is not my idea of an alternative, off-the-beaten-path journey through South Africa.

Another problem with driving home is that the speed limit changes every few hundred meters and, while I strive not to exceed it, Mike tells me not to go too much slower either, lest I become suspicious as the police think I can't cope with the allowed speed. It's a little stressful to keep within the narrow speed range that will keep the police away for either reason - I did drink a bit after all. But eventually we make it home in one piece and can cap off the night with a little grappa.