October 04, 2010 GMT
Mack And The Boys

Wandering around Lambert's Bay, I half expected to see Mack and the boys pop up somewhere, hatching some hare-brained scheme to earn a bob or two, or to do someone a good turn.

Anyone who's read John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, or seen the film with Nick Nolte (brilliant music from Big Joe Duskin and others) will now know what Lambert's Bay is like, I hope.

If you don't know Cannery Row, then this might give an idea of the place:
In the tourist information office, in the windows of various shops, and outside the museum, is the following notice:

Please don't encourage the following bad habits in our town -
Car Washing
Crayfish smuggling.

Right next to the tourist office is a car-washing yard.

I learned that crayfish grow very slowly, requiring a rigorously-enforced closed season to prevent them being wiped out, hence the plea not to buy from the smugglers.

The town is not yet a hundred years old, and up until 1918 only five families were living here, fishing the stormy Atlantic Ocean.
Then a crayfish canning factory was built, and the town grew to what it is now. That is, a small working town with derelict fish cannery, but with a newer factory next door making frozen chips and fish-meal, right on the water's edge. Plus a few B&Bs and a hotel, making it a compact holiday resort as well.

It seems a colourful sort of place, with sociable groups of beggars keeping an eye out for new faces to approach. I think they do it just to pass the time of day.

The road entrance to the potato and fish-meal factory has big steel gates carrying signs saying "Stop - No Entry - Report To Gate House. No Pedestrians."
Nobody does (stop, that is). People walk in and out (including me), because inside, in a corner of the factory, is the best restaurant in Lambert's Bay. Here, it enjoys prime views to the quayside, the ocean and the setting sun. Also inside the gates are the car park and the ticket office for boats to Bird Island, a nature conservancy a little way off shore. Maybe the marine biologist (played by Nick Nolte) lives there.
It's that sort of town, a bit anarchic.
So I'll borrow a phrase from Cannery Row - 'the world here seems to run in greased grooves'.

Quayside yard of the fishmeal factory. Best restaurant in town is behind the camera.

(I should say here, that the 'best restaurant in town' is just that - a restaurant. You need to have seen the film to know the need for that clarification!).


The Atlantic Ocean at Lambert's Bay..........

........... from the yard of the disused canning factory.

"Cannery Row"

The factories and a bit of the beach. Mack and The Boys hang out by this car park, hawking shell jewellery, next to the "No Hawking" sign.

The smart resort beach.


On the ride here, the road from Springbok to Clanwilliam follows the route of the Olifants River for a while, and passes through the Olifants River Irrigation Scheme.
It looks like a huge amount of water is extracted from the river judging by the extensive plumbing arrangements in all the fields, to feed the massive rotating sprinkler contraptions that trundle on wheels around the circular fields.
The vineyards, because of the way the vines grow, can't accommodate this type of irrigation-on-wheels so they are watered by aquifers winding along the sides of the slopes, fed from the river by various pumping stations.

Two small lakes on the Olifants River near Clanwilliam.

And a tiny section of the vineyards alongside.

I phoned the agent used by most travellers wanting to ship motorcycles out of Cape Town. They said to turn up in a week to arrange air-freight for the last week of October.
So after a few days at Lambert's Bay I continued down the coastal route to Cape Town. But there were no more colourful Cannery Rows. Instead, there were little holiday resort towns dotted along the coast, all very modern and manicured. Africa had become the south of Spain or the south of France.
And it got pretty cold. That's the Atlantic for you, without the Gulf Stream.

On my map, the small coastal town of Yzerfontein looked like it was separated from the southbound road by a respectable distance, and only about two hours from Cape Town. So it'll be my last stopping place before the last city. And, the last oil-changing place. It seems to come round so quickly now.
(But journey's end is still planned to be Cape Agulhas, a day from Cape Town, after all the freight bookings are done).

Posted by Ken Thomas at October 04, 2010 12:03 PM GMT

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