Archive for July, 2009
I met George on one of my walks along the beach soon after I got to McDougalls Bay. He was being interviewed by Get Away Magazine so I said I would catch up with him on another day. He has become quite famous in the area as he was also recently on SABC 2 in the 1st episode of a programme called “Shoreline”. It took me a number of attempts to catch up with him but yesterday I was eventually able to sit down and hear his story.
- George in front of his house.
George, who is 57, is a well spoken friendly guy, who has been living in the area for the past 30 years earning a living as a diver, extracting diamonds from the sea at various locations along the West Coast. He is passionate about the sea and diving. He is also a keen surfer and windsurfer and enjoys the solitude of living on his own at McDougalls Bay in his small house on the beach.
- The house right on the beach front.
- Training at Simonstown.
He received his diving training while serving in the navy at Simonstown.
It was near Simonstown that he and a friend salvaged a fishing boat, the Arabian Star, that had sunk without major damage. They restored, fitted out and renamed her Blues Breaker, then headed up the West Coast to try and make their fortunes.
- Blues Breaker.
I have watched a video that George made called “Diamond Divers” and can say that you have to be slightly crazy to do that kind of work. It is incredibly dangerous, they loose at least 2 divers annually, very physical and really long hours for generally not much reward. George has been fairly lucky and only had one major accident, right at the beginning of his career, when he was hit in the face by a propeller.
They can of course strike it lucky and have a really good pay day, of maybe R100,000, but that is an exception, a bit like hitting the lotto. They normally earn about R7,000.00 to R10,000.00 per month. These guys carry all the costs and only receive 50% of what they take out. They can only work when weather and sea conditions are favourable, which might be only 10 days of the month.
- Some underwater photographs of the dredging process.
George no longer works off his boat but from the shoreline. They use converted tractors to haul all the pipes, pumps and sifters right on to the rocks. In the video you see them working in the gullies as they look for and extract the gravel that contains the diamonds. I would not last an 10 minutes if I tried to do what they do.
- The once proud Blues Breaker is no longer looking too good.
George is a multi talented guy and supplements his income in different ways. He is a keen photographer and videographer and has produced a video which he sells for R100.00. I bought one of the videos and it has some fascinating footage of what these men go through in order to make a living. Most of the divers seen on the video are not young, average age of 50+ , and must be extremely tough and fit to survive. Many of the younger, experienced, divers have left for the oil rigs where they earn a good wage and work in far better conditions.
- Front entrance to George’s house.
He has converted part of his house into a small museum for which he charges R10.00 a visit and he also makes various articles from driftwood which he sells. He is separated, in a very friendly way, from his wife who lives and works in Port Nolloth and has 3 daughters, the youngest of whom is just about to matriculate.
- George with an old diving suite.
- Model ship he made from scrap wood.
- Info about the model ship.
- George with some of the goods he sells.
I gather from the video interviews and what George says, that there is a lot of uncertainty as to how much longer these divers are going to be able to make a living if things do not change. Right now the only ones making money are the mining companies who take 50% off the top with virtually no cost to themselves.
UPDATE ON GEORGE:
This post about George has been one of the most popular and most read so I thought I would post a quick update, thanks to Ludwig Venter, an old school friend who caught up with George and family a few weeks ago. Ludwig sent me some pix so I am posting these for all who might be interested.
Ludwig and George meet again after 40 years.
George and wife Debbie
George with family.
George's cabin which is right on the high water mark.
Another update on George:
George went to his 43rd school class reunion in Senekal recently and his friend Ludwig Venter sent me these photographs to post on this site.
George with a group of old school friends
George with daughter Helen looking at a slide show of his school days.
George after a quick dip in the pool - still looks pretty fit for a 60 year old.
Having a nice cold one.
George checking out all the messages and photos about him on "Gone Fishing"
All the very best for the future George and may you strike the “BIG” one soon.
On my first day of walking round Port Nolloth I found the Information Centre which is also part of the Biodiversity Centre in that one woman runs both from the same building. Her name is Alta Kotze and her official title(s) are Tourism Information Officer/Manager Biodiversity Centre. I also found out that she is a singer, composer and song writer trying to make a break into the world of music.
Port Nolloth Biodiversity Centre
I had been in a bit of a rush so made an appointment to have a look round the centre at a later date to take a few photographs of some of the exhibits. I nearly fell over backwards when I arrived back there yesterday and was told that she wanted to sing one of her songs for me using a backing track on her computer.
Alta Kotze the singer.
I think it took an awful lot of guts to do what she did (no ways could I have done that) and to be honest I was really impressed with both her voice and her own composition. I hope that somewhere along the line she gets a break and has a chance to make it doing something she is passionate about.
Alta the Tourism Information Officer.
Skeleton of a Pilot whale
Quite a few of the normal exhibits that use live animals – snakes, chameleons and lizards – are no longer functioning as they have died. Pity really as the setting for the centre is great but one should really have more displays.
Although not part of the museum I did find this exhibit round the back in the harbour area.
The Port Nolloth Locomotive.
The Port Nolloth Locomotive
Final word – If there is anyone in, or knows someone in, the music industry who might be interested in hearing a demo- tape of Alta you can contact her on 072-1941947.
The past 3 days, the weekend and Monday, have been pretty awful. It has been really hot, over 30ºC, and the wind has not stopped blowing at gale force all that time. There has been sand and dust everywhere and it has made me feel pretty depressed and lethargic. Being camped on sea sand does not help. Think Camps Bay Beach on a really hot, windy day when the sand is blowing all over the place.
Today, Tuesday, sees a complete change in the weather. It is overcast, a lot cooler, light breeze and feels like it could even rain sometime. It has also made me feel a lot better and keen to have a look around for more interesting places and people. I am still trying to track down George, the diamond diver, but he has proved elusive, and I hope to catch up with him later today or tomorrow.
Because I have been pretty well trapped at the camp-site I thought I might as well take some pix and show you what it is like. If you read some of my previous posts you will know that I was really given the run around as far as the pricing is concerned. It is a municipal site and I think their prices are too high compared to all the other municipal sites I have stayed at. They call themselves a Holiday Resort so have a look at he pix an see what you think.
McDougalls Bay Holiday Resort?
The security gate?
Unfortunately a lot of the time there is no one at the gate during the day and at night.
Broken security fence from beach.
Even if there was full time security at the front it would not make much difference.
Sea sand site
One of the 93 sites and they are all the same.
Each site has an electrical connection but some of them are very unsafe.
What can I say? Why do all the camp-sites all have the same problem and yet the ablution block is the most important feature that one looks for. At least there is plenty of hot water.
There are 2 0f these right on the beach front. They charge R440.00 per night out of season and over R500.00 per night in season. There are also 15 smaller chalets at the back for which the charge is R210.00 per night.
Overall I think the “holiday resort” is pretty run down and to be honest over priced but the one factor that overrides most of that is the position right on the beach front. The sights, sounds and smells of the ocean, in the protected bay, are fabulous and go a long way in making one overlook all the shortcomings.
Right on the waters edge.
Golden sun set.
Not many places I know that one could take a picture like this right from your caravan.
Yesterday (23rd) was not so great on the weather front. The sun was shinning but it was cold and a gale force wind blew the whole day. At one stage I was considering taking down my rally tent as I thought it was going to be ripped off the front of my caravan. That kind of wind makes me slightly depressed so I determined to take a drive into Port Nolloth and have a look around.
Port Nolloth was only given that name in 1855 when it was renamed from Robbe Baai (Seals Bay) by Sir Harry Smith. Prior to that it had also been known Aukwatwas (1779) and also as Gawaap. Copper was found in the Namaqualand area and the first shipment of 1 ton was was made from the harbour in 1850 and so the big rush to the area began. It was only in 1957 that Port Nolloth received municipal status.
I started my walk from the northern end of Port Nolloth and the first thing I saw was a really beautiful beach. There are a few houses overlooking the beach but not as many as I would have thought.
The bay to the north of Port Nolloth.
The coastline round the area is very rugged, as it is all along the West Coast and there have been quite a few big storms in the last year or so. It is known for its foggy weather, has an average rainfall of 20-25mm per annum and the average daytime temperature is a moderate 22ºC and 14ºC at night. As you will see a bit further on those storms caused quite a bit of havoc.
The unique lighthouse which was established in 1909.
The Roman Catholic Church.
Walkway above the beach You can see 2 boats that were washed ashore recently.
One of the entrances to the walkway.
Official opening plaque.
The walkway and beach front development were opened officially on the 8th August 2008.
The old building housing the History Museum
An old rail carriage in font of the museum.
Good place for a bite to eat? Love the Vespa on the roof!!
I have not been out for a slap up meal since I left Cape Town 24 days ago. I think this is where I will go next week some time. One thing this restaurant illustrates is how much bigger in all aspects Port Nolloth is compared to Alexander Bay. There are far more bigger and better shops and the population is also about four times that of Alexander Bay. Most people from the area either come come here or drive all the way to Springbok for their monthly shopping. As I said previously I am amazed by the local Spar Supermarket.
Another popular eating establishment.
The Bio diversity living Museum
You can even take up Karate at the local Do Jo
Lastly, just to show you how violent the storms can be, the boat below was washed up to where it now rests on the 16th of June this year. It has not been stripped down so it looks like they may try and re float her on a really high tide. Looking at how deep she has sunk into the sand it might be just wishful thinking.
The Pafuri out of Cape Town..
So as you can see an interesting walk, especially if one goes into the museums and spends a bit of time there. I hope to do a post on combined visits as there are some fascinating artefacts and things to see. I also popped into the De Beers controlled harbour and had a chat to the manager, Deon Lotter, and will do a short post on marine diamond mining.
I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning walking round and talking to some folk in McDougalls Bay. Again everyone was friendly and prepared to go out of their way to help me. One guy even offered to give me some 4×4 driving lessons when I told him there are certain places I don’t take the Pajero as I don’t know much about 4×4. Think I might just take him up on that!!
Plots in McDougalls Bay, belonging to mine managers in the area, date back to 1855 and it is believed to have been the holiday resort of the rich. In 1960 there was renewed interest in the bay and plots could be hired from the municipality but only removable structures could be erected. This changed in 1986 when the bay was resurveyed and tenants could get ownership of their plots.
A guy called Jack Carstens found the first local diamond at a place called Oubeep just south of McDougalls Bay 0n 25 August 1925 but it was only in the 1970’s that the mining of diamonds from the sea started.
- McDougall Bay taken from the North side.
Apart from the rough beauty of the place 2 things really struck me – one was the number of houses and plots on the market and two some of the unusual architecture. It seemed as if every third or fourth house is on the market and when I popped in at the local Seeff Office and spoke to Beverly Jackson I was given a list of all the properties and sites that are for sale. I count 44 plots and about 27 houses listed by Seeff alone. There are also quite lot of B&B’s and Guest Houses in the area.
The price of houses range from about R450,000 to just over R2,500,000. One that caught my eye was this one below.
- House for sale.
It is listed as being newly built but here is also a sign above the front door that reads 1894.
The Koi pool area.
This house is on the market for R1,800,000 and consists of 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 garages, a Koi pool, is also fully furnished and has a bachelor flat attached. Wonder what that would go for in say Yzerfontein?
Yesterday evening on my walk I met one of the real local characters, George who is/was a diamond diver, and I want to do a full post on him. Even his house is fascinating so thought I would start here with some of the unusual architectural aspects of McDougall Bay.
- The house that George built.
- Ben’s Den
I have seen something similar near Hangklip.
- Bigger is better?
This one is on the market for R1,530,000 and has 4 bedrooms and 31/2 bathrooms.
- Colourful hey?
- No ja well fine!
- On the market for R1,200,000
- Netting harders.
Spotted these 2 bobbing around in the bay netting harders. They were out the whole morning and I saw them pull in quite a few. I have been told that the fishing in the bay is very poor but I aim to try and disprove that in the near future. If there are harders around there must be other fish in the water.