Cape Town - Mention the name Tietiesbaai in polite conversation and the immediate reaction, almost invariably, is an embarrassed titter.
The truth, though, is that this rough-and-ready little West Coast getaway got its name from two large rocks that indeed look somewhat like a pair of boobs.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, we can talk about the place.
Located within the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve just 5km from Paternoster, Tietiesbaai (its name is never translated into English) features some of the roughest and rockiest coastlines close to Cape Town.
The reserve takes its name from the local lighthouse, which is in turn named after a British ship that was wrecked nearby in 1829.
When I first visited the place in 1989 – walking from Lambert’s Bay down towards Cape Town – facilities in the reserve were extremely Spartan: camping was allowed, but I don’t think there were toilets or taps. Now there are facilities such as running water, flush toilets and solar-powered showers but still no electricity.
It remains unspoilt.
You’ll find Sea Shack (www. seashack.co.za) roughly halfway between Paternoster and the nippled rocks of lore at an inlet called Soldaten Bay. Here several hundred British soldiers and sailors – en route to Cape Town – bivouacked and foraged for about three months after their ship, the SS Ismore, foundered without loss of human life during a storm in December 1899. It was probably their most pleasant time in South Africa because, almost immediately after they were rescued, they were sent to fight the Boers.
Dianne Heesom-Green is a long-time resident of the area, having lived for 17 years in Paternoster where she runs an art gallery and sea-kayaking business.
Late last year, Heesom-Green won a municipal tender to construct and operate an accommodation concession at Soldaten Bay. Sea Shack opened a few months later.
An eco-friendly facility in keeping with the ethos of the national park, it has waterless toilets and urinals, solar-powered showers and no electricity.
There are two rows of double- or twin-bed shacks (individually decorated by acclaimed artist Theo Kleynhans) and three small tents, all containing nothing but beds.
There is a communal kitchen/ dining area with gas plates and fridges, and a convivial fire-pit for braaing with fellow guests. A bare minimum of supplies – wood and ice – can be bought on site; everything else must be brought in from Paternoster or Vredenburg.
It’s a minimalist approach that works wonderfully for those who seek an authentic West Coast getaway a level above camping.
You’re supplied with solar-lamps before heading to bed; these have USB ports so you can charge your mobile phones overnight.
Of course, you’ll need the lamps if you have to trudge to the loo in the near-absolute dark. But the joy of waking up in the early morning (the cacophony of gulls and plovers means you’ll struggle to sleep late!) to watch two semi-resident sea otters scampering over the rocks or watch the local fishermen rowing their kreefskutte to the rock lobster beds makes the “hardship” moot.
Sea Shack is a glorious, inexpensive (R690 per shack per night, R350 per tent) spot to unwind for a few days. Go for walks, kayak or just laze around with a book. Bedding is provided in the shacks and the daily rate allows multiple entries to the national park.
A “shack” of completely different ilk can be found in the heart of Paternoster and it boasts probably the best views of the famed Langstrand.
Sugar Shack Paternoster (www. sugarshackcollection.com) is a 3-bedroom, 4-star-graded fisherman-styled cottage belonging to travel and hospitality perception management specialists, Lise and Ian Manley.
Sleeping six, Sugar Shack Paternoster boasts all the mod cons including a fully-equipped kitchen that would please the soul of a professional chef and big-screen TV with a full DStv bouquet. Its real charm, however, lies in the decor and abundant artwork, many of which are original pieces from renowned artists but with a consistent West Coast theme.
The bedding and linen is top-quality, while each of the three bathrooms (the one off the master bedroom has a Victorian bath) features Healing Earth Spa products. There’s an indoor fireplace for colder nights and a large built-in braai that’s big enough for a snoek or a dozen of the lobsters for which Paternoster has become famous.
When the weather is good, though, you’ll probably spend much of your time on the rooftop sundeck – sipping bubbly, nibbling canapés and enjoying the view. If this becomes too onerous, there’s a hammock that will allow a decent outdoor siesta.
Not surprisingly for a village that has sprawled over the past decade or so, there are quite a few restaurants and most of them have decent wine lists.
Reuben Riffel has a signature restaurant at Abalone House, Gaaitjie, which is excellent and offers West Coast fare with a twist and Voorstrandt prepares good honest pub-grub.
Perhaps the most eye-opening is Oep ve Koep, which is where master-forager Kobus van der Merwe devises imaginative and truly indigenous dishes.
The Paternoster Hotel is well known for relatively inexpensive food and, while you’re waiting, you can pop your head into the Panty Bar and discover where it got its name. No stay in Paternoster is complete without a walk along the beach when the fishermen are either putting to sea or returning with their catch. You can buy fresh fish and have it gutted, scaled and filleted ready to fry, bake or grill.
Sugar Shack Paternoster is serviced pre-arrival and post-departure. On longer stays, arrangements can be made to have the cottage serviced more often. Rates range from R2 500 a night in low season (May-August) to R3 800 at peak (December 15 to January 15 as well as the Easter weekend). It’s the West Coast at its classiest and if food, wine and romance are your thing, there’s nowhere to beat it.
Who said shacking up had to be tawdry?
Jim Freeman, Saturday Star