Miguel Willis: South Africa Trip
Article printed in kiteworldmag.com
Posted 9 March 2009
The rapidly rising temperature gauge was matched by the sinking feeling in my stomach. Was this going tobe the end of our African trip, I thought, stranded on the side of the roadin a pool of radiator fluid. Our jeep had covered over seven thousandkilometres through Africa without any major trouble,surprisingconsideringits age, but now things had just turned for the worse.
Kris and I were continuing our journey through Africa,and from Namibia we crossed in to South Africa. The landscape that had been dry and arid for so long was now lush with rolling hills, vineyards and farms. We were headed for the small town of Langebaan, a hundred kilometres north of Cape Town. We had almost arrived when water started spewing from the engine. Fortunatelywe were able to identify the problem and limped into townmaking frequent waterstops.
While my jeep was being repaired we set about to explore Langebaan. Itis on the edge of a huge lagoon and has a small town charm, witha friendly community of kiters, everythingin walking distance,and a laid back atmosphere. We had originally planned to stay a couple of days but ended up stayingfor over a month. After being on the road for while it was nice to take a break and stay in an apartment with a hot shower and a real bed.
On the main kite beach thewind blows cross-shoreand to our surprise the wind was consistent considering the large hills upwind.There were some nice areas of flat water perfect for freestyle. The only downside was the current onan outgoing tide when we had toconstantly work to stay upwind.If the windwastoo strong, which was often the case in the late afternoon, we would head to Shark Bay, a spot close by where it was usually a few knots less.
After a month in the small town it was time to head for the bright lights and big city of Cape Town. There were hundreds of kites in the air when we arrived at the beach, and kiting has exploded in the few years since I was last here. Ithas become a popular destination for Europeans fleeing winter in the Northern hemisphere. With all the elements for a perfect kiting holiday -strong wind, sun, surf, beautiful beaches and a vibrant nightlife all set under the picturesque backdropof Table Mountain, it is easy to see why.
The long beaches at Table View and past Big Bayare perfect for down-winders and theyhave become so popular that a return shuttle service has been established. The morning was often light wind and around mid-day a cloud would form on top of Table Mountain a sign that the wind was coming in strong. It would often quickly pick up and howl across the bay,myseven meter kite had a lot of use and I could have done with a five. The water is cold and a full suite is needed even during the summer months and the temperature seems better suited to the whales and penguins that it’s not uncommon to share your session with. With the amount of waves here there are almost as many kiters riding surfboards as twin tips. The predominant wind direction is from the South East so most of the waves were lefts although we did have a few days when it blew from the other direction bringing some large swell that broke right.The strong wind and huge variety of conditions is one of the reasons it has become the main training ground for so many top international kites.
From the adrenaline pumping cage diving with Great Whites to the more sedate although possibly more dangerous winery tours,there was no shortage of things to do when the wind dropped. For an impressive panoramic view over Cape Town you could take a cable car to the top of Table Mountain, as long as you don’t mind a long wait in line, andalthough winter was the main season for big waves I was usually able to find a beach with some surf.
Cape Town is a modern multicultural city, so there was a variety of places to eat, from Japanese Sushi, Chinese take out, Italian and Indian. With the South Africa Rand currently weak compared to the dollar,eating out was affordable. The Braii, a South African barbeque, was a great way to end the day and have a few brews with the other kiters.
Unfortunately being in a big city, with a lot of poverty, each person we met seemed to have a horror story of having something stolen. Computers, cameras, and kite equipment all seemed fair game. We all had a few hundred dollars go missing from were we were staying, and although it could have been a lot worse, it left a bad taste in our mouth. We made sure to stay cautious andon our guard as much as possible.
A few miles South of Cape Town is Cape Point, this rugged peninsular is where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet and is usually windier with bigger swell. We had a few sessions here with some huge swell but made sure not to get caght out on the jiggered rocks.This area is home to many baboons and signsprohibit the feeding of them. If you forget to close a window when you get out of your car you might not have too much choice.
Continuing along the coastline, we took the Garden Route passing through rolling green hills andsheep farms. An ostrich farm was a reminder that we were still in Africa. These Jurassic looking birds are usually shy but here I was worried that I would lose my camera as they became a bit too curious.
Witsand is a small fishing townat the Breede river mouth. The southeasterly wind blows across the huge sand bar creating an amazing flat-water spot. Even though there is not much else to do in the town besides kite, it has to be one of my all time favorite places to ride and it will be a hard place to leave.
The effect of months riding was taking a toll on my kites, and I managed to crashon to the one sharp object on the beach, ripping it in two. While it was easy enough to have kites repaired in Cape Town, here and certainly in Mozambique and Tanzania, we would not have that option so we decided to become self sufficient. The next day, Kris found an antiquehand operated sewing machine for sale. Made in Czechoslovakia, probably pre cold war and weighing in at fifteen kilos, it was heavy duty enough for kite repairs. We managed to find all the supplies we needed and stocked up for the next few months. We will be following the coast towards Mozambique, and then up to Tanzania and Kenya. With so many spots the hard part will be deciding where to ride.