We made the most of the public holidays in the last week of April and spent four days in beautiful Paternoster on the West Coast. My mom was down from KwaZulu-Natal and wanted to explore this charming fishing village, which she had visited briefly during her last trip.
Paternoster (pronounced “putt-err-noster” and roughly translated as “our father”) is about two hours from Cape Town. My husband can do it in one hour and 45 minutes (in the Volvo, at the speed limit) and my brother can do it in 80 minutes (in his well-travelled bakkie, with less regard for the rules). I prefer the leisurely approach, with time to enjoy the scenery, because the drive takes you through some of the most picturesque, if weather-beaten, parts of the Western Cape.
We stopped at the West Coast National Park, where the Langebaan Lagoon is one of the main attractions. Its white beaches and gentle azure waves could come straight out of a travel catalogue for a resort island somewhere! But beware – the often chilly waters will test your resolve! There is a lot to see, no matter the season, although flower lovers should consider a visit between August and September, when spring has coaxed the fynbos into full bloom. If you take the time to stop and look, you will also see tortoises, ostriches, Eland, Cape Grysbok and even Cape Cobras (if you’re lucky, or unlucky, depending on how you feel about snakes). There are three bird hides scattered across the park and patient avian enthusiasts can expect to spot flamingos, waders and Black Harrier. When you’re done and need to address the rumbling in your tummy, the Geelbek Restaurant provides traditional Cape cuisine in a relaxed outdoor setting with plenty of space for the children to run and play.
Paternoster itself is a real dorpie (that’s Afrikaans for “little town”) and city slickers should be prepared to leave the crowds behind and experience a much slower pace of life. But there are rewards aplenty… Fresh fish from the colourful boats on the main beach; seafood and beer at the Paternoster Hotel (there are plasma televisions, too, in case you need to catch that rugby game); the rustic, stark beauty of the limestone fishermen’s cottages; and arts, crafts and pottery galore at the local shops.
In the evenings, there’s not much to do except enjoy quality time with your loved ones in front of a roaring fire. Luckily, the house we rented had an indoor fireplace, which we exploited for its warmth and cooking ability! Red meat and red wine go down well in my family! And once our bellies were full, we stoked the fire, dealt the cards, stacked the poker chips and laughed the night away together.
If you’re planning to go, contact the Paternoster Tourism Bureau on +27 (0)22 715 1142 for more information. The West Coast National Park can be reached on +27 (0)22 772 2144/5.