On Saturday we went out to a small fishing village on the Overberg coast, eventually located the talkative Namaqualand breeder and fetched our new Great Dane puppy. His name is either Satchmo or Sakkie or Sylvester. He answers to Satchmo. The housemate has bonded joyfully and he follows her around everywhere. When she is not here, the puppy follows me and I am undergoing that myserious bonding of humans and animal companions. The two small dogs are appalled and disgusted but ignore him, are waiting for him to leave.
Got up at dawn to mop up puppy widdles and the smelly brown stuff. Not something I could have done in the drinking years and not exactly something I dreamt of doing in sobriety! Satchmo/Sylvester is teething his way through chewed-up table legs. House training may take a little time.
He is a kind of dusty charcoal with a white blaze or diamond on his chest and one grey and white back paw and handfuls of rumpled velvety skin around his neck that he will grow into. Paws like soup plates and a huge appetite, very friendly and eager to drool on you. My neighbour said he is the ugliest dog she has ever seen, small squinty eyes and a broad shark-like snout. I assured her that he will make up for his lack of handsomeness by having a winning personality. Great Danes are sweet-natured and gentle but their size and deep bark scares off intruders. (Not to mention a truly killer fart.) They defend people not property because they get so attached to their owners. And vice versa.
Wonderful day travelling down to the coast — I can’t give the name of the village because the tourist search engines will pick up the post and display it in all kinds of places. We started out in dense white fog which fortunately cleared a little before we reached the national highway, sheep wandering across the roads, blue cranes flying low – then we cut down through back roads amongst hills like a green wave breaking, driving down past winding and overflowing streams, farm dams and patches of roadside yellow-flowering Bitter Bessie bushes, to S__ on the river and then to the coast. Drove slowly through the Grootbos reserve looking at milkwood trees. The Platbos indigenous forest is the largest fragment of the original Swartkransberg forests, deep and dark with wild olive, white pear and stinkwood trees, many more than a thousand years old. In the heart of the forest there is a pathway labyrinth outlined in mother-of-pearl shells that shine in the moonlight and are often rearranged by the Chacma baboons.
The village, named after colonies of Egyptian geese, lies at the foot of the Duynefontein mountains. Old fishermen’s cottages from stone, daub and reeds, numerous jerry-built holiday homes, a messy clutter, together with shark cage diving ventures (not eco-friendly), fishing tackle shops and a wonderful scruffy ungentrified harbour. Just next to the jetty there is a small shop that sells fresh fish, fish biltong, dried bokkoms (winddried southern mullet) hanging from hooks, jars of homemade kerrievis and sousboontjies (curried fish in turmeric and vinegar, bottled beans in a vinegar sauce) together with tall jars of pickled perlemoen or periwinkles. The day’s catch of mackerel, haarders, maasbanker, red stompneus, geelbek and sole on ice, cleaned and gutted. on the walls, red and white liferings strung up in a row next to photographs of drowned fishermen and a monster 6,2-metre Great White Shark.
It was humid and warm down beside the sea, salty air like rough flannel. A lone Southern Right whale lobbing out beyond the harbour, colonies of African jackass penguins on the needle-sharp rocks. Bottlenose dolphins leaping in the surf across the bay. We ate lunch looking out over red spires of cliffside aloes down to the needle rocks and beyond that the great blue bay. Empty dunes in the distance, deserted beaches, the indigo scribble of mountains.
The bay is known for its population of Great White Sharks and the Danger Point Lighthouse, looking out to where the HMS Birkenhead was wrecked in 1852. The horses on the ship swam ashore and became a pied-coloured feral herd that ran wild — I saw the last wild horses there in the 1980s, running free in the dunes, their manes streaming grey and white.
Humans have lived in Klipgat (Stonehole) cave for more than 70 000 years and there are many archaeological digs around this area. The indigenous Chainouqua tribe of Khoisan people are no longer here, but fishing communities have always lived on the edge of the bay and there is an old disused whaling station. On the small islamds out in the bay there are threatened colonies of African jackass penguins and Cape fur seals, so the islands are official nature reserves or sanctuaries.
The new puppy slept on my lap as we sat looking at the sea and talking, grunting in his sleep like a small walrus.