Up the West Coast humour gets you everywhere. Especially in Velddrif at the Ek en Djy Vissery. Anita headed out for a spot of breakfast in Bokkom Laan…
Words and Pictures: Anita de Villiers
Starting off in Langebaan on the West Coast, I was joined by two friends for a post-photography-workshop sojourn of the flower-carpeted West Coast. But alas, the sun was curtained behind an insistent drizzle, no flowers were to be seen and the ATM hungrily gulped down my card, refusing to regurgitate either card or cash.
“The system is down,” the bank lady said and suggested that I return later that day, blank-faced about the prospects of a day at the mercy of friends with money. ‘Closed on Mondays’, the signs read at each and every eatery in Langebaan.
Well, then we’ll drive to Velddrif and have our breakfast at a darling coffee shop in the nursery: Alas. ‘Closed on Mondays’. Onwards then to Bokkom Laan for a morning shoot on hungry stomachs. Maybe we’d find some bokkoms to chew on.
Bokkoms are mullet fish that are salted, strung into bunches and hung to dry, like biltong. Velddrif’s signature savoury that has a robust West Coast aroma. A few bokkom fisheries can be found on a short dirt road running alongside the Berg River – this is Bokkom Laan.
The Monday hush had also descended on Bokkom Laan, with only the fisheries open. But then we came to a sign that read ‘Ek en Djy Vissery’ and, lo and behold, on a blackboard was written ‘Closed on Tuesdays’. Even better, their opening hours were from ‘09:00 tot Gatvol’.
Ek en Djy Vissery has a narrow stoep, a tiny kitchen-cum-eatery called Magdel’s Kitchen, and a bizarre shop that would make Salvador Dali salivate, every wacky sign and every item for sale smacking of a deliciously risqué sense of humour.
We joined a lone man sitting on the stoep overlooking the river and I wondered if he would be the one to implement the Gatvol rule when guests had overstayed their welcome. He looked suspiciously like the man in the framed newspaper clipping inside the shop, with the heading ‘Gevaarlikste man in die Wes-Kaap?’ (‘Most dangerous man in the Western Cape?’)
“Did you see the Black Swan?” the lone man asked and we said yes, we had photographed it. Some locals stopped by and the speculation was all about the strange appearance of this swan, its colour in stark contrast to all the white water birds. It was as if Odile had entered the stage, creating yet another dramatic interlude to this laid-back scene.
Wiping her hands on her oversized apron, a lovely lady came out of the tiny kitchen right behind us, affirming that it was not too late for breakfast. She introduced herself as Magdel Aggenbach and returned to the kitchen to prepare the feast.
Every now and then she’d step back onto the stoep to join in the conversation, telling us that we were lucky to be there on this quiet Monday, as the weekends were very busy. And invited us to taste her special calamari dish when next we visited Velddrif.
Breakfast was served and fried eggs, bacon, baked beans, toast, chilli, marmalade and coffee had never tasted better. Satisfied, we continued stoep-sitting. It was just the vibe.
The lone man said he would open up the art gallery right next door for us. Marina Clunie’s River Studio is filled with beautiful paintings of Velddrif landscapes, especially the boats and water that are so typical of Bokkom Laan. Inspired by the art and the weather that had lifted, we took to the street and got lost for a few hours, photographing this quaint place.
When we came back, the man was still perched on his bar stool, enjoying some fresh mussels for lunch and inviting us to join him. He introduced himself as Desmond, owner of Ek en Djy Vissery and husband of the artist Marina Clunie. “You mean you are not the most dangerous man around?” I asked. “No,” he said with a chuckle. “That’s just a joke.”
Mmmm, humour gets you everywhere, especially in Bokkom Laan. And only on a Monday.