1 March 2009
It is Sunday and we have woken up at Zalala Beach after spending the night in a Zalala Beach Cottage, the first time ever. I remember visiting Ute, a couple of years back, when she was staying at a Zalala Beach Cottage, but that doesn’t count. That visit was particularly eventful as I was accompanied by three small children and two dogs and managed to run out of petrol and get a puncture. Richard was away, so Eric came to the rescue but that’s another story.
When we arrived here yesterday it was extremely hot. And we had to get our heads around the fact that there is no kettle, stove or running water. Why do we still expect these things? When will we ever learn? But that was yesterday’s story.
Today, it is 6.30am and we are walking along a sandy trail towards the beach. Wood pigeons are calling and the grass is singing. We pass a little grass hut, perched on a sand dune, under the towering pine trees planted by the Portuguese. The hut looks like it belongs in the story of the Three Little Pigs, luckily no wolves in this part of the world. Apart from the wolves of hunger and pestilence but that’s a completely different story.
We round a corner and locate the source of melodic singing, a young man is clearing the undergrowth with a machete, filling the air with it’s pungent aroma. Then we cross over a sand road, up an inclination, and there is Zalala beach stretching as far as the eye can see in all directions. This is the spot where we had Zina and Mark’s farewell with the prawn braai or was it Aukje’s birthday. Different stories.
There are the ever present crows, of course, and the patchwork sail of a fisherman’s boat waves pirate- like from the middle distance. Two busy bicycles glint in the sunlit sea.
busy bicycle glints in the sunlit sea
I can still distinctly recall being deeply disappointed the first time I visited Zalala and encountered it’s chocolate brown sea. A brown sea, an oxymoron for me spoilt by Kwazulu Natal’s beaches. But now Zalala holds so many memories. There is Smithies era, when Noel played golf on the beach getting children to collect his golf balls for him, while those without the benefit of dark skins turned deep red in the midday sun. Then another time under the shade of the pine trees, the image of 4 yr old William determined to hold his nose for the duration of his beach visit. And the stress of wanting to rescue an injured wild bird offered for sale but knowing this would perpetuate the selling of birds. The time Benjamin crawled for the first time as we sat on the sand in the late afternoon sun with Tim and Lyn and possibly also Catherine, listening to an old man crouched down besides us singing to the accompaniment of a three string tin guitar. Benjamin was transformed from a sitting thinker to a crawling dancer, at his first taste of the wild side. A mix of crab and wolf pup. Then much later, there was Cindy’s 30th birthday and beach rounders and the famous photo of nossas amigas wallowing hypo-like, in a line, in a large sea puddle. And little Jonathan and his sister were also there – a huge story all of its own.
In today’s story we plunge into the waves, Joanna in her many-coloured plastic ring holding tightly onto my hand. Yeah!! the sea doesn’t feel like warm bath water as it did yesterday. How on earth does such a huge quantity of water actually cool down overnight. Joanna is full of six year old glee as I lift her over the waves, skin touching skin, joy connecting. Benjamin the 8 yr old incessant talker says: “I like the smooth part of the wave, just before its about to crumble.” “Now for some peace and quiet”. I wait with bated breath will he stop talking. “”I call these waves floaty waves.” And on goes his verbal diarrhea. His exhilarated, full-throttle energy carrying us along.
I go to shore to relieve Richard and take over the camera watch. Joanna and I build a sand ‘mud hut’ and decorate it with shells and a zig zag of tiny sticks. It has a leaf flag jutting out the pinnacle of its roof. This suddenly takes me back to the fact finding mission I was part of, when Namibia were about to have their first democratic elections. Most the houses in the township’s displayed flag’s, jutting up on the end of poles, from their roofs showing their party allegiance. A historic tale.
The fishing boat comes to shore loosing all hint of pirate and we buy two manteiga fish and two peixe pedra. . Richard walks back to the Zalala Beach Cottage to pay the fishermen, taking Joanna with him. Benjamin sits in the shallows playing a game with clam shells, talking to himself.
I lie on a towel, against a piece of drift wood. Silence and solitude abound. Until an olive green crab pops up by my toes, clasping a clump of wet sand, bearing two ‘stick flags’ side by side on top of his head. I notice that with the absence of footsteps crabs now litter the beach. If these things were ten times larger, no way I’d stick around. But then if they were ten times larger they would probably have all been eaten. Down goes my olive green crab, he’s got work to do. Next time he comes up, he opens a star-trek door where a mouth might be, and in a split second cleans something from one of his ‘stick flags’ which bends towards the opening. He exudes busy importance, in a sergeant major type of way. A coral pink crab pays my olive green friend a tentative visit but decides against it. I tell you olive green is awfully busy today, no sabbath rest for him.
Benjamin comes thumping up the beach and instantly every crab vanishes. He has a tiny, fragile, pink butterfly type shell to show me. It looks like it might melt in my hand.
I return for a swim and both Benjamin and I are stung by something unseen in the chocolate sea. A reminder that this sea does not simply exist for our amusement.
Back at the Zalala Beach Cottage, I decide to make pancakes but soon realise that spontaneous decision making is not suited to the available technology, as I watch the person employed to fill the gap of no kettle, stove or running water, run off down a sandy path with half a coconut shell in search of fire.
But despite my awkward attempts at making pancakes over a fire in the baking sun, the cockroaches floating in the container of water in the bathroom and emerging from the gaping hole in the shower, the heat beating down. We would recommend a stay in a Zalala Beach Cottage any day. Take your own kettle.
Read Full Post »