The last day on our first stay in Cape Town, in the early evening, we were coming back up to the hotel in De Waterkant district and I saw these guys pushing this enormous box up the street. I would have helped but I was too busy taking photos.
I did feel very uneasy about the situation in South Africa, particularly as a white. I don’t remember if these guys were black, but by doing some manual work probably meant that they were. It seemed a metaphor for the country: the uphill struggle against poor education and poor housing holding many blacks back. What’s more upsetting and perplexing is that they have have a primarily black government, but the whites hold the purse strings – certainly the wealth.
So here are these black guys labouring in a rich white neighbourhood, pushing a box up the hill – you hope that they get to the top.
Finally back to Cape Town for a few days before departure. In the sunshine on Camps Bay with the sea smoothed boulders which at some time must have come down from the hills above. It would make me a bit wary of living there. The beaches seemed a bit empty, possibly in the weekdays running up to the school holidays.
We had a day out at the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens in Cape Town. They are set beneath the dramatic drop of Table Mountain so you could just put a lawn there and it would look stunning. I found painting the amorphous masses of folliage and obtaining a sense of depth difficult as even the mountain slopes are covered in vegetation. Sitting in the pelargonium garden I was offered some colour to pull the foreground forward and as I worked I noticed the background slopes get bluer so that offered more of a differentiation for the background. As the day progressed the hills grew a mysterious darkness which really set off the gardens.
On to the small seaside resort or Hermanus. The backdrop to this town is spectacular with it’s high mountains. Literature said that there could be sightings of whales from the shore, but I think we were a little late in the season and unlike the unpretentious town of Mossel Bay where you could watch dolphins cavort and surf in the waves here there were just a few fishermen catching crayfish.
However, the long walk along the front of the town was worth doing and this was where I painted the view above looking over the fynbos, which is Mediterranean type scrub, on top of the low cliffs back to the town centre.
This was the view from the hotel window, in the middle of the town, out to the new harbour. The waves crashing into the shore in the evening light were quite a sight which I havent really managed to capture.
We walked along the cliffs to the new harbour, but it was a rather sad affair. Hermanus is really missing a trick or two in not developing its old or new harbour areas. Maybe the town will wake up one day.
Starting our return journey back to Cape Town we stayed at a place just north of Mossel Bay which was at the foot of a mountain range with fantastic views everywhere. This was the view from one of the room’s windows.
There was riding as well as flat green bowls and squash available at this place. I sat in the morning light and sketched some of the horses in the paddock.
Then into Mossel bay which didnt look very promising at first with its oil refinery and business quarter but the old town was very pleasant. Sitting at a beach side cafe under the old lighthouse watching the dolphins surf the incoming waves in the bright December sunshine was better than Liverpool in the snow.
Down to Plettenberg bay. We had a 10k walk along the Robben Peninsular which, I was told later, a few dont return from. At the end it was hard going but we made for a pristine beach where the breakers pounded in and I rested my weary bones and did this sketch after cooling my feet in the crystal sea.
Another sketch from the same area on a different day. The cliffs tower above you though I think rockfalls are rare, they do occur from time to time.
So on to Stellenbosch to taste a few wines. I must admit I thought that the vineyards would be on the northern slopes in the southern hemisphere, but apparently not as I sat here facing north with the vines behind me, but I felt the mountain backdrop, with the grassland in front, was a better subject to paint .
Then on to Oudshoorn, further east. Here I sat at the gates of our hotel facing up to some of the shacks many of the black community live in. Some people’s housing in South Africa is appalling, although the whites seem to live in opulence, surrounding themselves with razor wire and electric fences. We have some pretty bad places in the UK, but nothing to what I have seen in South Africa. Someone said to me that they stable their horses in better conditions
The animal head sellers who stationed themselves just below our hotel balcony in Simonstown, south of Capetown seemed a good subject until they decided to up and leave mid session. There were two of them on the seafront pitch. The brains of the operation, I presume he was, as he didnt do much work, standing up and the head maker sitting under the shade making the strange animal heads out of wire. It might have been better if I had moved them up the page, but you dont notice these things in the haste of getting it down.
We then went to the end of the peninsular and sat on the Cape of Good Hope and I painted some of Cape Point. The cliffs are breathtaking and not for those who suffer from vertigo. I dont think I captured the plummeting cliffs very well, but it was great sitting in the sun painting. Fortunately a troop of baboons made their way past and headed for the beach, so leaving me in peace. It was a great place to visit.