Home Features Maybe Tomorrow 09 - Issue #38

Maybe Tomorrow 09 - Issue #38

INTRO - After spending six years bringing him up in a Land Rover travelling around Asia and Africa, Miguel Willis' parents settled on living in Oman in the Middle-East when he was nine-years-old. Since then, travelling has been in his blood and he's visited the world's most remote kite spots. After his first post from Africa last issue reporting on his journey through Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia we rejoin him in South Africa.
Caption > Looking up at Table MountainThe rapidly rising temperature gauge was oppositely matched by the sinking feeling in my stomach. Was this going to be the end of our African trip, stranded on the side of the road standing in a pool of radiator fluid? Our jeep had covered over seven thousand kilometres through Africa without any major breakdowns; surprising considering it is 23-years-old. But things had now just turned for the worse.
Kris and I were continuing our journey through Africa, and from Namibia we had crossed into South Africa. The landscape that had been dry and arid for so long now consisted of lush, 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. Fortunately we were able to identify the problem and limped into town, making frequent water stops.
While my jeep was being repaired, we set about exploring Langebaan. It is on the edge of a huge lagoon and has a smalltown charm with a laid back atmosphere and a friendly community of kiters. We had originally planned to stay a couple of days but ended up staying for over a month. After being on the road for a 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 the wind blows cross-shore and to our surprise it was fairly consistent, considering the large hills upwind. There are some open areas of flat water that are perfect for freestyle. The only downside was the current on an outgoing tide when we had to constantly work to stay upwind. If the wind was too strong, which was often the case by 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. It has 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 against the picturesque backdrop of Table Mountain, it is easy to see why.
Caption > Miguel launching a slim over Table MountainThe long beaches at Table View and past Big Bay are perfect for downwinders and they have become so popular that a return shuttle service has been established. The morning often had light wind, but around midday 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. My seven metre kite had a lot of use and I could have done with a five at times. The water is cold and a full-length wetsuit is needed even during the summer months. The temperature seems better suited to the whales and penguins that sometimes share your session. With the amount of waves here, there are almost as many kiters riding surfboards as twintips. The predominant wind direction is from the southeast so most of the waves were lefts, although we did have a few days when the wind switched direction, bringing some large swell that broke right. The strong wind and huge variety of conditions are two of the reasons it has become the main training ground for so many top international kiters.
From 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. However, although winter is 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 is a variety of places to eat, from Japanese Sushi, Chinese take out to Italian and Indian. With the South African rand currently weak compared to the dollar and pound, eating out was affordable. The South African barbeque, known as a braii, is a great way to end the day and to have a few brews with the other kiters.
Caption > You'd never guess the wind was blowing 40 knots would you!Unfortunately, being in a big city that's laced with poverty, we did hear the occasional story of people having something stolen. Computers, cameras and kite equipment all seemed fair game. A few hundred dollars went missing from where we were staying and, although it could have been a lot worse, unfortunately it left a bad taste in our mouth. However, stay cautious and on your guard more than you ordinarily would at home and you'll have an enriching experiencing in South Africa.
A few miles south of Cape Town is Cape Point, the rugged peninsula where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet and is usually windier than elsewhere with bigger swell. This area is home to many baboons and signs prohibit feeding them. If you forget to close a window when you get out of your car you might not have too much choice, though. We had a few sessions here with some huge swells but made sure not to get caught out on the jagged rocks.
Continuing along the coastline we took the Garden Route, passing through rolling green hills and loads of sheep. 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 town at 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 favourite places to ride and it was a hard place to leave. The effect of a month's riding was taking a toll on my kites especially as I managed to crash one on to the only sharp object on the beach, ripping it in two. While it was easy enough to have kites repaired in Cape Town, here and further up the coast we would not have that option so decided to become selfsufficient. The next day Kris found an antique hand-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.
Caption > Cape Town's night-lifeCAPE CAUTION
It is worth renting a car as there isn't much public transport. There are a variety of budget car hire companies, though the reliability of the very cheap ones might be an issue on long journeys.
The sun is intense so make sure to keep covered with sunscreen. There is nothing worse than being red, blistered and missing out on kiting. Bring small kites - the wind is often very strong. Miguel and Kris paid ?300 a month for an apartment in Langebaan. Prices seemed to range from ?200 to 4,000, so it is worth checking around. Peak season (December through January) can be very busy.
There are a large number of kite shops and schools in Cape Town and Langebaan with most brands represented. The South African Rand was weak compared to the US dollar and Euro during this trip (December '08 ? January '09) making it a great place to pick up clothes, kite equipment and surfboards.
TYPICAL PRICES IN ?
Coke: 0.40
Beer: 0.70
Petrol: 0.4 per litre
Camping: 6 to 15 per night
Night at a backpackers: 10 to 20 per night
Dinner: 5 to 10
Cage diving with Great Whites: 120

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Added: 2010-03-11

Category: Features

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