THIS time last week I was in in L’Agulhas. That is the small town at the southernmost tip of Africa, part of the Cape Agulhas Municipality, which includes Bredasdorp (the largest town), Napier, Struisbaai, Elim, Arniston and L’Agulhas, and the De Hoop Nature Reserve.
Why the name? The internet is divided. Bartolomeu Dias came around the bottom of Africa back in 1488, naming it the Cape Of Good Hope. Elsewhere it is reported “The name Agulhas, Portuguese for needles, is said to have been given to the cape because the compass-needle was seen to point due north, that is, with no magnetic deviation.” Sticking with needles, other historians think the name may be a reference to the needle-like rock formations and reefs along its coast. This is plausible given the number of ships which have crashed into them.
In any event, Cape Agulhas also defines the official geographic divide between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, marked by an underwhelming plaque set in a block of stones. The hostile coastline isn’t a big swimming attraction but there are three tidal pools; otherwise turn around and go back to Struisbaai where there is a lovely beach.
My accommodation for this trip was at Agulhas Country Lodge, on the main road that runs along the coastline. It’s virtually impossible to get lost; if you continue along that road you’ll soon come to the village where there are restaurants, two convenience stores, and a bottle store, all the important stuff. Past that is the lighthouse, the second-oldest in the country, and a bit farther, the famous southernmost point of the continent, which you might miss if you don’t know where it is and it’s a slow tourist day with no other visitors to indicate the spot.
The family-owned and run lodge is constructed of limestone, set against the rocky hill and overlooking the ocean. The owners are Phil and Sue Fenwick – who literally and physically built it herself (with a construction team) while Phil was still in the Air Force flying helicopters. It has eight rooms on two floors: a double room, a family room and a suite on each level, all with ocean views. I was fortunate to spend an evening with the couple, who shared so many wonderful and interesting stories, about themselves, and the lodge. The highlights are on the website, including the source of many of the fittings; what’s not there though, are all the dusty old letters from a hundred years ago that came with from the from the demolished asbestos mining town in the Kalahari, which provided fascinating reading.
The Fenwicks aren’t involved in the day to day running of the lodge any more; their daughter Chelsea is the GM. She is assisted by manager Peter Nyirenda, who took looking after me very seriously. He made me laugh when I confessed I had not finished the bottle of wine the previous night. “Why not? You are a lazy drinker,” he admonished me. Peter, I promise to try to fix that.
We were beset by load shedding but being a small establishment without generators, the use of rechargeable light bulbs solved the problem of being plunged into the dark. The kitchen cooks with gas so hot breakfasts were still available, and jolly delicious they were too. I had French toast with bacon, cheese and syrup on the first day; and an English muffin with beautifully soft poached eggs, bacon, and creamy sauce on the second. Dinner is only available for groups and can be booked in advance. If you’re not in a group, I recommend Gavin’s Trattoria for pizza. The Eisbein served at the next table looked so good I wanted to go ask the guy if I could take a pic of his dinner but then I decided that might be a touch too crazy for a small town.
For your drinks at the lodge there is an honesty bar, and a cigar lounge adjoins this area. Both have fireplaces for cosy and stormy winter days and nights, and lots of big comfy chairs and sofas to snuggle up in. If you go to Gavin’s, remember to pop in at the bottle store first, because it’s unlicensed.
My stay was relaxing, and I appreciated the intimacy and friendliness that come with a small establishment, where you feel more like a friend than a guest. Agulhas Country Lodge is a member of Cape Country Routes. For more information, click here.
PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©