The first time I saw Hout Bay it was from the top of Chapmans Peak Drive.
We had driven up from the Noordhoek side before the toll gate of today, in an old grey Beetle, university students down all the way from Durbs, to attend a conference in Cape Town.
Actually my first time ever in Cape Town …
It was day three or four in this Mother Of All Places (Cape Town is actually called the ‘Mother City’ here in South Africa).
Somewhere we had stopped to buy fish & chips, and most importantly ‘Tassies.
‘Tassies was red wine that slipped down your throat like velvet – quality wine that in the market of those times was bottled in jugs for mass consumption!
The label has lived on but the wine is not the same … can you blame the producers when everyone woke up to the quality of South African wines.
But ask anyone of the Rodriguez generation here in South Africa and they will remember ‘Tassies.
You either drank Castle or Lion beer – or ‘Tassies if you were carefree youth.
The image is from roughly the same spot where we sat dangling our feet, sipping ‘Tassies and eating fish and chips.
I felt that I had never seen such beauty before … Hout Bay lay before us, the town itself hugging the beach and the lower slopes of the enclosing mountains.
Little Lion’s Head is distinctive in the centre, the pimple in the saddle.
Behind it the cold blue waves of Llandudno, crashing on white sandy beaches in between the granite … well, I think it is granite or granite looking at the very least.
Sandy Bay, the nudist beach, would have been behind the lower left slopes of Little Lion’s Head.
Stuff like that, nudist beaches, was rebellion & dissent, like the words of Sugar Man by Rodriguez.
I think it was whilst driving up from Llandudno one day that I heard about Rodriguez’s on stage suicide on the radio – he was every South African’s Jim Morrison, a tragedy that we mostly tried to forget about: until one day he thankfully came back from the dead!
But we never stopped playing the music and most kids grew up with “Sugar Man” and “I Wonder” playing in the house – it is just like the movie Searching For Sugarman says it is!
Hout Bay is this enclosed place that feels like it should be its own place.
Yes, the ‘Republic of Hout Bay’ is tongue in cheek, but also semi-serious for many. Play play passports were also issued in the fantasy … !
There are all sorts of semi-autonomous places in Europe, such as Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and Trentino-Alto-Adige in Italy, that I am personally aware of.
In Trentino-Alto-Adige (the northern half known as the Sud Tirol by the Germanic locals) the autonomy is substantial – to be a public servant from Bolzano and north of it you have to be fluent in both Italian and German!
Hout Bay is just a natural place to feel as if you want it to be just Hout Bay.
To the north is the valley that leads up against the back of Table Mountain, and to the Constantia Nek saddle.
The Twelve Apostles reach all the way through to Little Lion’s Head, all the way from the Clifton area.
The harbour is a working harbour, a genuine waterfront, not as big as the V&A in Cape Town but with its own unique charms.
The one spot known to most is Snoekies, famous for its fish and chips – hey, maybe that is where we bought them, and it was just the ‘Tassies that got me disorientated!?
So perhaps instead of coming up from Noordhoek we were actually on the way down to it having come up from Hout Bay?
Does it matter?
In that moment, the splendour of the Sun on the blue waters of the bay below, the red blood of ‘Tassies in our veins, and carefree days stretching out in Paradise – up or down, in and out, here and there, everywhere …why, that seems so irrelevant.
Copyright © 2015 G. Rigotti