When you visit Paternoster on the West Coast, one of the highlights is the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve & lighthouse about 5km away along a gravel road. The nature reserve is especially pretty when carpeted with spring flowers and there’s something hugely romantic about lighthouses and their keepers.
Light-keeper Japie Greef let us walk 97 steps up a series of wooden ladders to the top of the 15-metre tower where the light is. It was boiling hot in there, so we stayed only long enough to admire the view and notice brass vents polished to within an inch of their lives.
What about ghosts? On our last visit eight years ago, Japie admitted he had felt the presence of a ghost. But he said he just told it, ‘Go away, I’ve got work to do.’ That would have sounded awfully brave if he hadn’t kept looking over his shoulder. Now he told us the ghost had left.
Japie has been here for 11 years and is about to retire. He plans to live in Upington in the Northern Cape – about as different a landscape as you could imagine. ‘My mother’s there,’ he explained. ‘And anyway I’m looking forward to just sitting on the stoep and listening to the sound of motor bikes going past. I like to see if I can identify them by their different engine sounds.’
Eager to banish all thoughts of ghosts, we drove to Tieties Bay. Inside the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, it’s on one of the most gorgeous coastlines in the country. In September, yellow, white and orange spring flowers blanketed the veld.
We’ve seen Tieties Bay in high season with hordes of campers cheek by jowl, all convinced this is the best spot on the coast, not caring that the rest of the world has turned up too. They pitch their tents and caravans on rock and sand, just inches away from each other, yet smugly satisfied with their tiny patch of paradise. All they need to be happy is some snorkelling gear, a skottel and a cooler bag packed with cold beers.
- It cost us R19 per person to enter the Cape Columbine reserve. You can spend the whole day there if you like and there are plenty of places for a picnic.
- It’s free to walk around the lighthouse and get an info pamphlet, but if you want to walk to the top of the light tower you’ll pay R16 per person.
- Paternoster is on the West Coast Way’s Foodie Route.
Where to stay in the reserve
1. Camp at Tieties Bay where there are about 60 sites for tents or caravans. Be warned that it gets extremely busy in the Dec/Jan holidays. Off the grid. Reservations, tel 022-7522718, email Ronnie.Martins@sbm.gov.za.
2. Stay in an old light-keeper’s cottage next to the lighthouse. Reservations, tel 021-4492400, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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