It’s been months since I’ve gone fishing, which is really sad, because there are so many good fishing venues within two hours of Cape Town. There’s simply no excuse for any self-respecting fisherman to not go fishing. Now was my chance and I was more than happy to put my line out. With my lady, our dog and fishing tackle ready, we set off for the town of Bonnievale on a mission to dial into the rhythm of the Breede River and hook into some fish. Or that was the idea, at least.
When it comes to choosing fishing accommodation, location is king. Then I found Bordeaux River Cottages. What a place! Three private timber cottages lie perched high on the steep banks of the Breede River and flanked by beautiful vineyards, this was prime. Wooden decks built into Bluegum trees offer splendid views over the river. And here’s the best part, the final link in the chain, the clincher. Each cottage has its own canoe, the perfect vessel to launch a fishing assault.
Tough Luck Fishing
With its source in the Swartberg Mountains, the Breede River runs some 337 km before reaching the Indian Ocean at Witsands and fish species vary depending on the region being fished. In Bonnievale, bass, barbel and carp are common and since we were hunting bass, we rigged our tackle accordingly. I was keen to give my trusty fly rod a go while my lady would attack using a standard coffee-grinder setup with a Junebug worm. A two-prong offensive was our best shot. Akatski, the dog, would be our fish-spotter. A bit of strategy always helps, you know.
The Breede River is a marvellous place to be, especially in a canoe, which makes exploring the nooks and crannies so much easier. The water was surprisingly clear and we saw plenty large fish cruising around beneath us, which was a positive sign. The river was alive. Birds bickered in a nearby tree and peace soon consumed us. Hours passed, drifting along slowly to the whim of the wind. This is what we came here for.
Then, it happened. The boat rocked with excitement, there was action on my line. Akaski was on high alert and after some splashing and a brief tussle, I had a small-size fish by my side, but what was it? It wasn’t carp or barbel, so my guess was smallmouth bass, but somehow I wasn’t entirely sure.
It didn’t really matter anyway, because over the next four days and despite countless hours of persistent perseverance, the Breede River wouldn’t yield another fish and we were left to drift along with only questions in our minds.
After exhausting our tactics, we set course for the shore, utterly outwitted and defeated. I docked the boat and proceeded with more frivolous things, like making fire and finding answers in the bottom of a wine bottle. That’s fishing for you. There’s always next time.
Just the other day, I was minding my own business, working away quietly, when in the distance I heard a rumbling sound barreling towards me. It was a sunny day so there were no storms around, just this rumbling sound coming closer, and closer. Baffled, I peered out my office window and saw nothing. Seconds later, the 2014 Lamborghini Huracan rolled up before me in all its glory and the sound spitting from the quad exhausts was so loud, my heart skipped a beat.
2014 Lamborghini Huracan has looks to kill
There are few cars in the world that have a hypnotic effect on those who set their eyes on it and the Lamborghini Huracan is one of them. You simply can’t help but ogle and drool at the beauty of this car. Its low, predatory stance and sharply defined features lock you in and if your’e not careful, will hold your gaze for eternity and possibly turn you into stone.
The face of the Huracan is dominated by large reptilian-like air intakes and the LED headlights are reminiscent of a snake ready to strike on command. Stepping inside the Lamborghini Huracan is like stepping into a fighter jet, with flickable switch gear and viper green sports seats that make you feel like you going to war. Everything about the the Lamborghini Huracan just screams FAST! And it is…
Riding the Bull
Obviously, there was no way I was going to drive the Huracan, I’m just not man enough, or rich enough, so I was quite happy to experience my first ride in a Lambo in the passenger seat. Out on the road, the Lamborghini Huracan seemed out of place. Congested city roads is no place for a car of this caliber.
Other motorists quickly fell under the spell of the Huracan and just couldn’t help themselves from stopping in the middle of traffic to get a snapshot of the car. The attention the Huracan generates on the road is perplexing and fascinating, people just love supercars I guess, and what’s not to love about the Lamborghini Huracan?
With a stiff suspension setup geared for track driving, the drive within the city was rather bumpy and every little imperfection in the road surface could be felt. But who cares, this is a Lamborghini Huracan right? On the open road, the Huracan comes to life and the sound of that 5.2-litre V10 howling away behind you is just magical. With thumping 448 kW of power and 560 Nm of torque on command, you can just imagine what’s possible on a quiet country road.
Acceleration in the Lamborghini Huracan is ridiculously brutal with the help of a 7-speed dual clutch transmission that sends power to the large 20-inch alloy wheels. The 0-100 km/h sprint is claimed at 3.2 seconds and if you have the nerve to press on even faster, the beast that is the Huracan will take you right up to 325 km/h without even batting an eyelid.
I got back to the office with my heart in my throat and a big smile on my face, my work was done for the day.
The story of Gavin Erwin, a professional fish artist based in Johannesburg, is both fascinating and inspiring. Specialising in painting fish, water and marine life, Gavin’s fish art is rapidly gaining popularity in South Africa. At first glance, you might think that he’s just an ordinary guy, and he is, but there’s more to Gavin Erwin than meets the eye.
Take a good look at his fish art and you will soon realise that Gavin is bursting with artistic talent and flair that deserves recognition. Look a little deeper and you will discover a man true to his heart, a man living out his dream, no matter what. There’s a lesson in that for all of us. Driven by his passion for fishing and nature in general, Gavin has harnessed and honed his artistic skills to become one of South Africa’s top fish artists, alongside renowned artists Craig Bertram Smith and Tom Sutcliffe.
A Fish Artist is born
For Gavin, life as an artist started at a very young age and time played an integral role in forging the artist he is today. “I started drawing as soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil and talk, I was probably about 5 or 6 years old when I started, maybe younger. My Dad always had a pile of scrap paper lying around, and he always said, ‘you must draw’. As kids, with my brother Steven, we used to sit and draw. We drew dinosaurs, cars, fish and pretty much anything, but the passion for drawing and painting started there”, explains Gavin.
With the support of his family, Gavin kept putting pen to paper, slowly developing his own style throughout his childhood, but it was fishing that lit a fire within him and so, a fish artist was born. “My father, Ken Erwin, was a big influence in my life. He started fishing in his twenties and he basically passed his passion for fishing and the great outdoors onto us. It has inspired me ever since to actually paint fish and obviously the angling side of it inspires me too,” says Gavin.
Fishing became an important part of Gavin’s life and provided him with much joy, but fishing also gave Gavin a unique perspective on life and brought him closer to nature and the subject matter of his art. For Gavin, fishing is a way of life.
Gavin explains it best, ” Fishing, to me, is a lifestyle. I love fishing. To me, fishing means getting your mates together, planning a trip, going and getting out into nature for days at a time, just enjoying yourself and appreciating the great outdoors. The thing I love about fishing is the mystery. You’re on open water, whether it be brown or blue, you don’t know what’s lurking beneath you, you don’t know what’s there, it’s about the mystery of ‘are you going to catch?’ and ‘what are you going to catch?’ and when you do catch something, you’re satisfied, you’re over moon. It’s all about the mystery. Fishing is in my blood, I can’t help it.”
Life as a Professional Fish Artist
It was only when Gavin finished school that he had to decide what he was going to do with his life, and he was in no rush. While most of his school friends went off to pursue ‘traditional’ careers, Gavin went fishing…and decided to become a professional fish artist and he hasn’t looked back since.
“I’ve been painting professionally for about 10 years now and each year has been getting better and better. People are starting to recognise me as the ‘fish artist’ explains Gavin. ” I always had the dream of becoming an artist. When I discovered that there was a demand for art in general, I decided to pursue it as a career”.
Humbly plying his trade from his art studio in Kensington, Johannesburg, Gavin has learnt to cope with the hardships associated with being an artist living and working in South Africa. Hard work and commitment towards his fish art has put Gavin on the road to success. “I have learnt that you have to work hard and work smart. Just like anything in life, the more energy you put into something, the more reward you get out. It’s not easy being an artist in South Africa, especially a ‘fish artist’, but I have found that niche market that everyone talks about and I’m just riding the wave to success from here” explains Gavin.
The art industry is flooded with artists trying to make a name for themselves and Gavin is no different. Painting is one thing, but differentiating yourself from the crowd is something that every artist has to grapple with. How an artist deals with that dichotomy is often the difference between success and failure. Gavin shares further insight into the rigors of being a successful fish artist, “To find your fish-loving client you definitely have to market yourself hard, find something that you love painting and then get yourself out there. The only way someone is going to see your talent is by showing people the real thing, in the flesh. The current state of art in South Africa is not as good as it has been in the past, so it just means that you have to work and paint harder to make it. My art is affordable and that’s what I want, I would rather paint constantly for the rest of my life than sit on a painting for months at a time waiting for the right client with the credit” says Gavin.
Although there’s no doubt that hard work, commitment, perseverance and a sound marketing strategy contributes towards success as an artist, there is one crucial and powerful ingredient that determines the degree of any artist’s success, and that’s passion, something Gavin has in bucket loads. “Art is just an expression of the person doing it and the more passion you have within yourself, the better your art will be and the more satisfied you will be with your art. If you not fully into it and you haven’t got any passion, you not going to like what you painting and you not going to like yourself for it. Passion is key. I am basically doing what I love and painting what I love, I’m painting my passion.” says Gavin, with a smile on his face.
The Art of Fish Art
For Gavin, there’s no shortage of inspiration and his vast experience as a fisherman informs what he portrays on canvass and when it comes to painting fish, it’s all about the fish. “I love the flow of fish, the movement. If you can portray the movement of a fish and people can see what you trying to get across, that’s awesome. I love painting movement under water, the colors are amazing. There is not a boring fish out there, every fish has its own character and personality, whether it be a Tigerfish or brown Trout in a stream, each one has its beauty” explains Gavin.
Realism is something Gavin’s fish art has in common with well-known South African fish artist, Craig Bertram Smith, but perhaps so to a lesser degree. Although Gavin strives for realism in the fish he portrays, he also places value on textures to develop the character of the fish he is painting. Gavin explains his technique further, ” I usually use the fish as the main focus point, the main character, and actually try portray the character of the fish before anything else. The way that I differ in some of my paintings is that I put in a lot of textures, so it’s not only visual, but you can feel it, you can see the texture. The texture adds another dimension which I think is great. I don’t like to get too real, I work it until I get a nice character of the fish. Lines, sparkles, movement and light is what defines my fish art.”
Capturing the essence of a fish and it’s aquatic world is no easy feat but by embracing his medium, Gavin is able to bring his fish art to life. Drama is something Gavin incorporates into his fish art which adds to the overall effect of the scenes he portrays. “With paint, there’s no limits. You can put extra shadows, a bit more contrast in places where there usually wouldn’t be, but it makes it more dramatic, it’s all about making things more dramatic, making things stick out, making things pop. That means you are altering what you have in your mind, it adds drama to the painting” explains Gavin.
Through years of trial and error, Gavin has developed his own unique approach to painting fish but he also recognises the influence that other fish artists had in his development as an artist. “From my perspective, guys like Craig Bertram Smith and Tom Sutcliffe are the best of the best. Craig Bertram Smith is brilliant, he’s an inspiration to me and has inspired me since I was a kid and his work is top-notch. Tom Sutcliffe is also very good, he’s got his own style and his focus is mainly on streams and wild trout. His art is very well done and there is a market for that” says Gavin.
Apart from painting fish, Gavin also dabbles in fly tying, an art in its own right. As an avid fly fisherman, Gavin experiments with various materials to make his flies and uses his artistic experience to create beautiful fly art. The delicate art of fly tying has inspired Gavin to paint a wide variety of fly patterns, in various sizes, which supplements his larger body of work.
The Future of Gavin Erwin Fish Art
Although Gavin revels in the joy of fishing and painting fish, he also takes great pleasure in sharing his fish art with the public and displays his art in numerous galleries and art shops in South Africa (see list below) while also steadily breaking into international markets. “I want to get my art onto different continents. I have a few works in Miami, Florida at the moment. More of my fish art must go there because that area is very fishing orientated. There’s a big market there and I want to get my work into more galleries, I want my work to be seen. Everyone must see my work”.
Being a friendly, social person, Gavin enjoys the reaction his fish art generates and he holds his audience in the highest regard, “I love it, I love the reaction. Some of my artworks are in your face, as fish art goes, but it’s the reaction I get from people that makes my life worthwhile.”
At age 28, Gavin Erwin has come a long way as an artist and each and every stroke of his brush is painting his future as one of South Africa’s finest fish artists.
Buy Gavin Erwin Fish Art
Gavin displays his fish art at numerous venues in South Africa and if you would like to buy fish art then don’t hesitate to contact him directly or feel free to visit any of the venues listed below. Gavin also does commissioned fish art, so if you have an interesting idea, tied your own fly or want to portray a special fishing moment as art, Gavin will be more than happy to meet you.
The 2014 J-Bay Open was incredible. The final day was epic, off-the-chart incredible. We arrived at the Supertubes arena and our jaws dropped to the sand. Huge 8-10ft sets were pummeling Boneyards to shreds and firing down the point, Spike’s swell predictions were correct it seemed and Jeffreys Bay was very much alive, in a very big way.
Surfing Feast for the Eyes
Just before I had time to wipe the drool from my gaping mouth, J-Bay Champ Mick Fanning dropped-in on a bomb of a wave and started hacking away at the massive wall ahead of him before pulling into a tube a bit further down the point. Today was Mick’s day.
We stood in awe at the sight before us, eyes locked on the surreal waves unleashing at Supertubes. Watching the world’s best surfers riding big J-Bay is a humbling experience and for three hours, time stood still. By early afternoon the beach was packed and the action was heating up. The quarter finals were done and surf legends Tom Curren and Occy paddled out for their heritage heat. Then, the penny dropped.
Should we go surf? asks Steve. Matt laughs and I join him. Good joke, Steve. It takes a few minutes for the question to really sink in though. Do we attempt to surf these waves or do we watch the contest to its conclusion? That was our dilemma, a dream and a nightmare barreling towards us at the same time. Decisions, decisions. What would you do?
Two hours later we were suiting-up in the parking lot at Point. We watched some big sets rolling in and that anxious feeling set in. Here we were at J-Bay about to paddle out in perfect and somewhat intimidating 8ft+ surf, the biggest we’ve ever seen here, crikey!
Steve pipes up and says “Don’t worry man, the take-off is just like Muizies”. Silence ensues before we all burst out in laughter at the absurdity of the comment. How can anyone even compare J-Bay to Muizenberg? Really?
I noticed that my leash looked awfully thin, definitely not suited to the conditions, but we headed to the water anyway. With our hearts in our throats and adrenalin coursing through our veins, we set out on a mammoth paddle. The ocean was bearing down on us as big sets kept pumping down the point, but we eventually made it out. We could finally breathe.
In the distance, Supertubes was going mental and I knew that those very waves were coming our way. At that very moment we witnessed Mick Fanning weaving his way through an endless tube to victory against Joel Parkinson. This was all just too much to take in. Watching the contest from the water and seeing those waves offloading at Supertubes is an image burn’t deep in my mind, something I don’t want to forget. Man pitted against nature at one of the world’s best waves, it doesn’t get much better than that, hey!
A few minutes later and before I could even think about catching a wave, a big set detonated on my head. I felt my leash pull tight, and then nothing. My leash snapped, and I was left bobbing out at sea. I could see my board about 5- metres away but the next wave was already upon me and I had no choice but to let it go and start the long swim back to shore. The guys caught some waves and stoke levels were through the roof for the rest of the day. I found my board washed in over rocks, still in one piece. I was happy. What a great day to be alive…
A warm and welcome winter sun breaks the peaks of the Witzenberg mountains and the Tulbagh Valley comes to life. This is wine country, home to countless wine farms and the birthplace of the good-old hangover. In search of charm and wine, we followed the road to Vindoux with the surrounding vineyards lying bear in the morning glow.
Only a 90-minute drive from Cape Town and with the splendid Saronsberg mountains as a backdrop, Vindoux Guest Farm & Spa greeted us with a smile. Accommodation varies according to your taste and although Vindoux is very much geared for couples looking for a romantic getaway, there’s something here for everyone. Vindoux Guest Farm is well-known for its romantic luxury tree house units which offer perfect views of the farm and mountains. A large and well-sorted tree lodge is ideal for family and friends and there are also country cottages to choose from. If you’re like me and you enjoy having your pet around, then it’s pleasing to know that Vindoux is pet-friendly, but only on request. That said, pets are only allowed if you reside in a cottage. The self-catering country cottages have a certain simplistic charm about them, which I liked very much, and the cottages are fitted with everything you could possibly need for your stay, including a cozy fireplace.
A lovely viewing deck revealed zebra, wildebeest and springbok grazing quietly in the sun. We were told that a female wildebeest was to be darted and relocated to a nearby farm. A few moments later and with dart gun in hand, Mark Walton, the local veterinarian arrived and invited us in on the action. Mark waited patiently for the perfect shot and finally his moment came and he took careful aim. He pulled the trigger and the wildebeest bucked high into the air before bolting off, it was a good shot. Minutes later, legs buckled and the beast dropped, sleeping soundly in the soft grass. Mark and his team got to work quickly and moved the animal to its new home.
Wine Tasting by Bike
With the action over, we decided to get stuck into some wine action. Vindoux offers ‘Wine by Bike’ which is a very fun way to experience the countryside and taste some wine while you at it. With a map in hand and the scent of wine on the wind, we set off to a nearby wine farm. Our first stop was Montpellier and we didn’t hesitate on sampling some wine. Our taste buds were working hard. As a beer drinker, the wine-tasting experience was surprisingly pleasant, and I wanted more. I don’t regard myself as a sophisticated wine drinker, but I can certainly appreciate the way wine makes me feel.
Eager to get a second wine farm under the belt, we mounted our bikes and headed towards Saronsberg wine farm for round two. The wine was flowing at Saronsberg and we spent the afternoon soaking up the sun and scenery, eventually returning to Vindoux for a much needed and well deserved braai. A day of drinking wine and peddling the sunny countryside takes its toll on the body and there is nothing more welcoming than a comfy bed after a long day on the bottle.
We awoke at sunrise to go fishing at a nearby dam in the hope of hooking into some bass. The bass were leaping from the water in the early morning light but we didn’t catch any and were left to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings instead. On our return to Vindoux, we paid a visit to Vindoux Day Spa for a relaxing treatment which successfully expelled the lingering aftermath of our wine tasting forays the day before. Unfortunately our stay had come to an abrupt end and the friendly staff at Vindoux Guest Farm bid us farewell.
The nearby town of Tulbagh is interesting and we parked in famous Church Street for a bite to eat. Tulbagh was rocked by a 6.5 earthquake in 1969 which left the town mostly in ruins. The buildings in Church Street, with their distinct Cape-Dutch architecture, were restored and today Church Street has the largest concentration of National Monuments in a single street in South Africa.
We checked our map and decided to visit the local waterfall on our way out. A 15-minute walk takes you to the top of the waterfall where you get a different perspective of the mountains and the Tulbagh Valley, a must-see for anyone visiting the area. With a boot full of wine, we put the Tulbagh Valley behind us and headed back to Cape Town, well-rested and ready to conquer the world.
For more information visit www.vindoux.com or call +27 (0) 23 2300 635 to make a reservation.
Namibia holds a special place in my heart, not only because my late father was born there, but also because there is no other place like it on this planet. It’s a truly amazing place. I vaguely remember visiting Namibia as a child but I was just too young to comprehend where I actually was and to be honest, I still struggle to wrap my mind around the beauty that resides there.
I returned to Namibia recently, along with my family, to pay tribute to my dad’s life, to bring him home and to say goodbye. This was a remarkably special trip for me and I have chosen several photographs of my journey that showcases some of the beauty of Namibia, but they also have particular relevance and represent something more to me that simply can’t be expressed. I hope you enjoy them.
Swakopmund is situated 360 km west of Windhoek and is a popular coastal holiday destination for local Namibians. This German colonial town is also a tourist hot-spot and khaki-clad Germans are as common as the sand on which the town is built and they can be found marching in the streets and drinking beer in every restaurant and pub in town. Swakopmund is the gateway to the vast Namib Desert and it also happens to be where my Dad grew up, which makes it significant, to me at least. Compared to similar towns in South Africa, Swakopmund is remarkably clean and the people here are really friendly. The architecture of the buildings in Swakopmund point to its German heritage and many of its residents are actually German.
The Namib Desert is the oldest desert on earth with an estimated age of 55-80 million years and is largely uninhabited. Just beyond the town of Swakopmund, sand dunes unfold into the distance and the landscape here is nothing short of spectacular. We had some time on our hands and decided to take a two-hour quad bike tour of this sandy abyss. Our guide, Gideon, was a friendly Namibian chap who knew his way around the dunes and ensured that we didn’t get lost in the bowels of this vast landscape. Exploring the Namib Desert on the back of a quad bike is a great way to have some fun and experience the desert up close and personal. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
The Search for Welwitschia Mirabilis
Our main reason for coming to Namibia was to search for Welwitschia Mirabilis, an extraordinary plant that is perfectly adapted to life in the desert. A few kilometers out of Swakopmund, we entered the Namib-Naukluft Park which is home to the famous Welwitschia plains. Along the way, we stumbled onto what is known as the ‘Moon Landscape’, a barren and eerie looking Damara Granite landscape that formed some 460-million years ago. As barren and devoid of life as it is, the ‘Moon Landscape’ is strangely appealing to the eye and serves as a reminder of how harsh and unforgiving this place can be.
We pushed on towards the Welwitschia plains some 80km from Swakopmund and eventually crossed the dry Swakop River bed. With our petrol running low, we decided to pull over and take a closer look at the strange but intriguing Welwitschia Mirabilis. The plant is endemic to Namibia and southern Angola and is only found in what is known as the ‘fog belt’ stretching roughly 1000km along the west coast from the Kuiseb River south of Walvis Bay to the Nicolau River in Angola.
Most Welwitschia Mirabilis specimens are found within 80-100km of the coast and consist of a large tap root and a short hardy stem which produces only two strap-like leaves that grow continuously to lengths that can exceed three meters or more. Apart from groundwater, the plant survives largely on fog condensation which is captured by the leaves and channeled into the ground which is then absorbed by the tap root.
The Welwitschia Mirabilis is commonly referred to as a ‘living fossil’ because this ancient plant can live for hundreds if not thousands of years. The Welwitschia Mirabilis is undoubtedly the ultimate survivor of the desert and is plentiful in this region, but treat them with respect, they are considered to be endangered and are reasonably well protected in Namibia.
Game Viewing in Erindi Private Game Reserve
With our mission accomplished and only one day left in Namibia we headed to Erindi Private Game Reserve some 175 km’s from Windhoek. Erindi is massive and is home to just about all the animals you would expect to see in Southern Africa. The accommodation was stunning, with a big waterhole on our doorstep and crocodiles basking on its banks, it couldn’t get any better than this. Lucky for us, we arrived just in time for the evening game drive, the perfect opportunity experience the bush and photograph some animals.
Ully, our Herero guide, guaranteed some good sightings and he certainly lived up to his promise. It was only five minutes into the game drive when Ully’s radio came to life. There were lions nearby. We made our way to the sighting and sat for a couple of minutes watching the lions lounging in the grass. A particular lioness, shown above, unsettled me. Her wild stare pierced right through me and I couldn’t help but think that she wanted to eat me. As more vehicles arrived on the scene, we decided to head off in search of tamer game.
About 30 minutes later, the radio informed us of African Wild Dog in the area and Ully put his foot down in hot pursuit. We found the pack along a boundary fence and I was happy to lay eyes on them, for I had never seen them in the wild before. The game drive was turning out to be a treat it seemed. It was great to see them purely because the African Wild Dog is the most endangered carnivore on the continent and are rarely seen in the wild. I never imagined them to be so slender, almost to the point of looking under-fed, but Ully explained that they will run their prey ‘dead’ and are fierce and highly intelligent hunters.
Erindi only has one family of African Wild Dog with 14 individuals. The picture above shows the alpha female of the pack posing beautifully for the camera. Shortly after this photo was taken, the radio alerted us to elephant in our vicinity and we left the African Wild Dogs to their business. A while later, Ully stopped the vehicle and showed us fresh elephant tracks on the road accompanied by liquid spatter in the sand. “An elephant in musth” said Ully, apparently not something you want to encounter face-to-face. We drove on for a while and spotted two White Rhino grazing peacefully in the bush. Ully switched the vehicle off and we watched them intently. Then, the unexpected happened. About 100m ahead of us, a herd of elephants crossed the road and out of the bush, Stompie appeared.
Stompie is a large bull elephant and the dark temporin secretion on the side of his head confirmed that he was in musth. Elephants become highly aggressive when in musth and Ully told us that Stompie was notorious for causing trouble in the reserve. Unbeknownst to us, Stompie was about to show us his dark side. Upon spotting the rhino’s, Stompie charged at them and drove them away into the bush. Ully started the vehicle and moved slowly forward to get a better view. Then, Stompie turned his attention on us and chaos ensued.
I’ve never been charged by an elephant, but let it be known, there are few things scarier than a bull elephant in musth bearing down on you. This was a pure, adrenalin infused moment. Ully put his foot on the gas and my family were in a flat panic screaming ‘GO!! GO!! GO!!’ while Stompie charged us at full speed. In the chaos, I managed to maintain some composure to capture this amazing image of Stompie doing what he does best, being the boss of the bush. This was by far the most intense experience I’ve ever had in the bush so far and I will remember it for the rest of my life.
We kept a safe distance from Stompie and set off to find the breeding herd nearby. Ully told us that the reason why these elephants have such short tusks, unlike the elephants from the Kruger National Park in South Africa, is because they lack the necessary calcium in their diet, an interesting fact I wasn’t fully aware of.
We watched the elephants for a while, keeping a keen eye-out for Stompie feeding nearby, before moving on for sundowners in the bush. With gin and tonic in hand, we watched the sun set over Erindi, the perfect way to end a perfect trip. Somehow I knew I would return again, someday.
Just the other day, out of the blue, a friend hooted outside my house. I opened my front door and a sexy blue 2014 VW Golf 7 R, the most powerful production Golf yet, stood before me for the first time. ‘Can I drive?’ I asked. The answer from the driver’s seat was a powerful ‘No, just get in’. I smiled and happily headed for the passenger seat. I had to ask.
The new 2014 VW Golf 7 R was literally launched in South Africa a few weeks ago, so this was expected to be a very special experience, even though I wouldn’t get my hands on that flat-bottomed steering wheel. You can’t have everything, you know.
First Impressions Count – The 2014 VW Golf 7 R shows its teeth
I stepped in and was instantly overwhelmed by a smart, comfy interior bathed in blue ambient lighting. Unlike anything I had ever seen before, this was the highly-anticipated 2014 VW Golf 7 R, in all its glory before my eyes. The leather sport seats felt remarkably genuine and the clean surfaces around me refreshed my senses. The lights and gadgetry however, hinted at something a little more sinister lurking beneath its skin. Then, I heard a distinct rumble.
The uprated 2-litre TSI four-cylinder turbo petrol engine came to life, growling under its breath. Bred with 206kW of pure muscle available from 5500rpm and 380Nm of vicious torque dripping from its fangs at 1800rpm, the 2014 VW Golf 7 R is a hungry wolf wrapped in wool.
The hunt begins with a bang
In Normal Mode, the 2014 VW Golf 7 R seemed to tolerate urban roads with utter confidence, but I could sense a certain frustration within this beast, possibly a longing to stretch its legs and hunt on the open road. At standstill and with an empty highway stretched out before us, my good friend switched into Sport Mode and suddenly the atmosphere dropped a gear. In full-blown hunt mode, the wolf piped up quickly and with eyes locked on the clock, my heart rate felt like it doubled instantly as I took a deep breath. About six intense seconds later we were clocking 120km/h and I finally had a chance to grab my breath, my body tingling all over.
VW claims 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds which is pretty fast for a layman like me, but as hungry as it is for speed, the new VW Golf 7 R isn’t as thirsty as you’d think. It’s said to average at about 7-litres/100km which is excellent considering what it thumps out on command and only expels 159g of CO2 every kilometer. Not bad, hey.
The hunt ends tragically
The new 2014 VW Golf 7 R delivered me home safely but I was reluctant to get out. I just didn’t want to. ‘Can I drive?’, I asked again, pushing my luck once more. My friend gave me a devilish laugh and replied, ‘No, get out’. I laughed and about six seconds later, the sexy blue 2014 VW Golf 7 R was gone, and I was left to ponder on my dreams, in silence.
Winter surfing in Cape Town is by far the best time for surfers to suit-up and ride waves. The water is ice cold and it’s usually raining, but on the up side, the dreaded South Easter is mostly dead and perfect offshore winds prevail most of the time, depending on the break. The best waves are known to grace the Mother City during the Winter months thanks to regular low pressure systems sweeping across South Africa.
So, when the first proper, large, winter swell of the year hit the weather charts around Cape Town last week, surfers everywhere went mentally haywire. On the one end of the surfing scale, there were a few big wave surfers piling into boats with tow-in crews revving their jetski’s in Hout Bay Harbour, ready to surf mountains in privacy at Dungeons. And on the other end of the scale, you had everybody else, myself included, piling into the sea to surf mountains at Muizenberg and Long Beach. With my GoPro in hand, I set my sights on the sea and paddled out into the chaos.
Surfing in Muizenberg
Surfing in Muizenberg is almost always a crowded experience, even more so when there is fresh Winter goodness pulsing into Surfer’s Corner. Unsurprisingly, I arrived to find at least 300 surfers waiting to scratch onto the next wave that appeared on the horizon. It was low tide and by the looks of it the swell was still filling in and a clean 2-3ft Muizies freight train was on the cards.
Although Muizenberg is super crowded most of the time, it’s often exaggerated by the fact that it’s such a big lineup and everyone just spreads out, making it bearable on most days and thankfully I managed to catch a few chilled waves of my own. Later that day, the swell whipped up into a frenzy of meaty walls and the incoming tide extended the paddle-out by what felt like a couple hundred metres. The wind was offshore with clouds brewing on the mountain and the waves just kept rolling in for everyone’s enjoyment. Surfing in Muizenberg is like that. On its bad days it makes you feel like going back to work and on the good days it makes you feel like you surfing in heaven.
Surfing at Long Beach
Two days later, Muizenberg went flat and I had a sneaky suspicion that Long Beach in Kommetjie might still be picking up some nice leftover swell. I was right, but an army was surfing there too. Long Beach differs from Muizenberg in the sense that the lineup, or zone for catching waves is much smaller, so like always, when it’s crowded, it’s really crowded and you have to fight for your waves. Consider yourself a winner if you get a Long Beach wave all to yourself.
The wave at Long Beach is a bit more punchy compared to Muizenberg, especially on the inside section and it can be a really fast and fun ride when the swell is a bit bigger. I joined the army of surfers in the water with clean 3-5ft waves washing our sins away. It took a while to get a wave but perseverance paid off and when that wave came along, it was good. I decided to beat the crowds and do a bit of bodysurfing in the shorebreak to end my session, which actually turned out be loads of fun.
Across the ocean, Dungeons was alive with moving mountains of water pounding the Sentinel senseless. The sound of Jetski’s revving filled my ears, somewhere there, a wave was being ridden.
An eerie mist hangs over a glassy sea, its secrets held close. In the distance, birds float freely while a seal cavorts nearby. The renowned Elands Bay surf break, some 200 km North of Cape Town, lies dormant. I have seen the reef at Elands Bay working to its full potential only once before, and besides the pleasure of surfing this wave, just standing on the beach and watching it crank is a special sight. Nature has indeed done splendid work to create such a remarkably mechanical wave. However, on a recent surfing trip to Elands Bay, that perfect wave of our dreams was nowhere to be seen.
Surfing in Elands Bay, for me at least, is a deeply cleansing experience, whether there’s a wave or not, there’s always fun to be had. The scenery, cold water, mountains, dust and sand that dominate the West Coast landscape creates a perfect playground for the soul. The best thing about surfing Elands Bay when there’s no swell is that there are no crowds, you have the reef all to yourself and even better, there won’t be anyone watching. Frolicking in the stinky kelp in hope that the odd wave might come along is certainly fun and it can pay off if you’re patient enough.
Most surfers wouldn’t even bother when the sea is flat, but surfing in Elands Bay no matter what, forces you to realise that it’s not always about the quality of the waves, but rather about appreciating the experience. Throw some good friends and camping into the mix and you have a recipe for making unforgettable memories that will keep your stoke meter topped up until the swell eventually arrives.
As it turned out, there was no swell coming our way so we decided to explore the coast towards Lamberts Bay for a wave, however small. Luck was on our side, and we found a tiny gem. It wasn’t long before our wetsuits were on and we paddled into the mist, but we weren’t alone. A pod of West Coast Dolphins welcomed us while we had the time of our lives on this desolate piece of coast. The experience was surreal and full of joy. It was all worth it in the end.
It’s on!!! The time to whip out the ‘Big Guns’ is looming on the horizon as the monster that is Dungeons is set to come alive for the 2014/15 Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) following the announcement of the official tour schedule by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP).
The BWWT will see the world’s finest big wave surfers tackle surf no smaller than 25ft and South Africans will witness the full power of Dungeons bearing down on their heads, so yes, there is definitely reason to be excited.
The BWWT is split into a two-part schedule, with generous window periods for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, with the gnarliest big wave spots in the mix. The 2014/15 BWWT schedule is as follows:
Southern Hemisphere (April 15, 2014 through August 31, 2014):
• Punta de Lobos, Chile
• Pico Alto, Peru
• Dungeons, South Africa
Northern Hemisphere (October 15, 2014 to February 28, 2015):
• Todos Santos, Mexico
• Punta Galea, Basque Country Spain
• Pe’ahi (Jaws), Maui HI
Dungeons and Pe’ahi (Jaws) are new events to the tour and will hopefully add some big wave flavor to what looks to be a tasty treat for the contestants and big wave spectators around the world. Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, the current BWWT leader, will no doubt be chuffed to surf in his home waters and put on a show of a lifetime in front of a home crowd. All we need now is for ‘The Kraken’ to emerge from the depths of the Atlantic and kick up some serious swell when the times comes. For now, all we can do is wait…BRING IT ON!!!