An Elands Bay Road trip – stories from the road by Ruan Smit
On a misty morning in late March I put myself to the road and hope that what it has to offer is what my soul is in need of. Only the road and the spirit of adventure can truly know what I need to experience on a day like this and I’ve long since given up on forcing the outcome of this road
The mist hangs like a cotton cloud over the veld of the robust west coast. The shrubbery only enough to feed the few sheep that have become friends the last few days. A road I cannot the end of stretches underneath the gray cloud as work the tar, my legs burning in the cold morning air and the feeling of being alive pumps through my heart into the rest of my body. A smile appears on my face before I realize it and when I do I try and frame it for use at another occasion …
I’ve heard about Elands Bay. I know there’s a dirt road that asks a fee to use it and that the waves here have given many surfers the experience of a lifetime. I know that fishing is core to this town’s heart and that its people respect the water as a mythical power that gives and takes life. But I wasn’t aware of the presence of Diederik.
There is a gravel road that leads up to his house and I am greeted by the unsure bark of five dogs as I enter his humble home. His presence fascinates me on first meeting as it speaks of care and gentleness that I had not expected from the unforgiving terrain that I entered a few days ago. He starts talking; his Afrikaans accent reminds of an era that I’ve only read of in books. When I ask about it he tells me that he is from Flemish Belgium … I understand.
Three years ago he left everything as Photo Journalist in his mother country, He picked up the little one could need and came to South Africa in search of a different life. He found it in Elands Bay where he has become an inseparable part of this town’s personality. We take a short drive into town to pick up what is needed for the evening and I realize this man’s influence on this space. He has time for everyone, he stops, smiles, greets and jokes with every child, mother and man that we pass. A five minute drive becomes a ritual of greeting and a theatrical presentation of the community that I have now entered.
In the little shop I cannot help but laugh at the ways of communication here. It is as robust and tactless as the earth and sea that is this area. But the conversation is fun and light after a hard week of work, the weekend has dawned and it shows in the faces of the tired fisherman.
Our short trip into town becomes a road trip when Diederik drives me through the rest of Elands Bay. I find out that he is part of many organizations and drives to help uplift the community. He has opened up a new way of thinking in this town through trust and patience.
He gets excited about his newest venture. A surf school for the locals and tourists. He sees a future where locals can find their happiness by not only expecting the sea to provide food but also an element of fun. Changing the way that we think about the ocean, he believes, will help further the respect of the ocean and what it shares with earth and man.
He shares his passion with those around him, when he talks they light up and share in the idea. They become a part of this future that he dreams of and it has become a communal dream.
I leave this town hoping to re-enter and experience those dreams as realization in this beautiful part of South Africa. I want to experience how a community can be nourished with the ideas of one man and how the landscape can flower when the dreams of many are planted as seeds …
You are reading Explore South Africa Cycle Tour Series Read more from this series of articles.
- Collecting people's stories – Cycling 9000km in 70 days
- Scraps of Hope - Pre cycle-tour Free State visit
- Where is Ruan? Join us as we follow him on his "Explore SA" cycle tour
- A human wallflower - from the road, by Ruan Smit
- She’s no Barberton Daisy ...
- Rashid had R30 - Stories from Explore SA Cycle Tour
- Not another high tea - stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- Give a Soccer Ball ...
- A Gonubie affair - Stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- Kenton on Sea inspires - Stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- Say Cheese! - Stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- Adin ‘The no money man’ - Stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- There is a city… stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- An Elands Bay Road trip - stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- Where love grows with flowers - stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- A River of Life - Stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- And Douglas smiles - stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- Digging for Dreams in Kimberley - stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- Seeking the sun - stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- Pitching a tent - stories from the road by Ruan Smit
- Parys with a ‘Y’? - stories from the road by Ruan
- A different forest - stories from the road by Ruan
- For the love - Ruan makes it home