We chat to Thapelo from Matatiele in the Eastern Cape, the only artist at work in the craft centre today. He’s busy painting a plaster of Paris model of the nearby Agulhas lighthouse with acrylic paint, and tells us that his smaller models of gabled houses are much in demand with tourists, especially foreigners, who probably find them endearing and easy-to-pack reminders of their trip to the Strandveld.
At the coffee shop, we order milkshakes and carrot cake, choosing to sit inside instead of under the tree outside so we can chat to Maryna Newman, one of two locals who run the show.
When we admire the wood-fired oven that has pride of place in the coffee shop, she explains that they use it in winter to bake bread to order; in summer they use an electric oven so their guests don’t get fried in the heat. Our ears perk up: home-baked bread? We immediately order a loaf to be collected, still warm and crispy, the following day.
Maryna’s partner in this community venture, which started about two years ago, used to live in this house as a small child and still remembers that eight of them shared the tiny bedroom. Today it’s a doll-sized kitchen curtained off from the coffee shop, where Maryna scurries to make our milkshakes. It can’t be more than about two-and-a-half metres by two metres. For eight people.
Later we explore the thatched and whitewashed fisherman’s cottages across the road, all national monuments and in various states of repair. One of them has a sign in the window warning that it’s protected by poisonous snakes – a clever security ploy we seriously consider importing to our own home back in the city. A plasterer is hard at work on restoration of another. We remark on the fabulously neat paint job on the window frames nearby and he smiles and tells us that’s his work too.
We end our visit to Struisbaai with a walk along the jetty in the harbour to see the fishing boats with their colourfully peeling paint. Then on the way back to our roost for the night, we amuse ourselves with some of the names that people call their homes around here – Mamma Moan, Bitter Aangenaam, Sputnik, Rassie se Kassie, Amper Nie, Bakgat and Oppi-C being just a few of them. Each tells a tale.
But my favourite has to be a really narrow double storey, not much wider than a door and a window. Painted yellow, it looks just like an upended pound of butter. An observant owner with a quirky sense of humour has aptly called it Pondjie Botter (Pound of Butter)!
More about the area
Agulhas walking trail
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