Paternoster, Heart of the West Coast
Barely and hour’s drive from Cape Town on the rugged West Coast, in a tranquil bay embroidered with scattered rocks, is the beautiful fishing village of Paternoster.
With it’s picturesque white washed houses, green-grey veld and turquoise water, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve ended up in a remote hamlet somewhere on the Mediterranean coast. Then again, you won’t get anything more authentically South African than the local delicacy of bokkoms (salted, dried fish) – the seafood version of that other very South African treat, biltong.
Being close to Cape Town, this predominantly Afrikaans-speaking village is a popular weekend getaway destination for affluent Capetonians who prefer the unspoilt West Coast to the tourist friendlier South Coast. In summer the nearby camping site at Tietiesbaai in the Cape Columbine nature reserve, is frequented by hardy fisherman and snorkel divers.
Although the water is generally too cold for bathing, colourful boats baking in the sun is a typical sight on the town’s unspoilt stretch of beach. On a good day up to thirty boats can be seen across the bay – almost all of Paternoster’s humble permanent inhabitants are still solely at mercy of the sea to provide them with food and a means of income.
Legend has it that the town’s name, which is Latin for “Our Father’s prayer”, was given by Portuguese seafarers who had trouble in rough seas. Grateful for having safely reached shore, they vowed to build a church and christened the village Paternoster.
A visit to the Paternoster hotel will give you a bit of insight into the town’s colourful culture. The hotel’s infamous “panty bar” – with it’s walls and ceiling covered in women’s underwear and dirty jokes – is where you’ll find sturdy fishermen watching sport on television while consuming copious amounts of Brandy and coke. Across the road from the hotel’s terrace, locals sell their catch of the day – whether Snoek legally or Crayfish underhandedly (it is illegal to buy or sell Crayfish or West Coast Rock Lobster with a recreational Crayfish permit).
Down the road is the Paternoster farm stall, where merchandise includes a delicious variety of homemade seafood pickles like mussels with coriander and chili or curried calamari. Diagonally opposite is the charming Oep ve Koep (the name directly translates from an Afrikaans expression in typical West Coast slang as “open for buying”) where typical kitschy tourist memorabilia sit between a large collection of antique enamelware, glass containers and vintage signage.
At the beach front market indulge in the freshest fish and chips from the Seemeeu Kiosk or brave the pungent smell and buy a bunch of bokkoms – truly a delectable substitute for anchovy.
For the perfect ending to a typical West-Coast visit, make dinner reservations at the quaint Die Voorstrandt restaurant. Situated right on the beach in one of the oldest buildings in the village, Die Voorstrandt offers a taste of the freshest local seafood and unsurpassed views of the most beautiful West Coast sunset.
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