The Bay, where time stand still
Legend has it that once when lots of wooden paraffin boxes washed up on the beach on the Cape Agulhus coast, local fishermen and their families built homes from them. Plastered with clay and with thatch roofs they gave name to Kassiesbaai (box bay). As the community developed so local materials were used to extend the village: sandstone for the walls and massive chimney breasts; gumpoles for roof trusses. Fishing remained the livelihood of the village folk on this desolate but beautiful part of the South African coast. It was a hard and dangerous life – the cold sea and unmarked reefs and rocks around here have claimed the lives of hundreds of sailors and dozens of ships. Many of these simple structures face north, away from the strong southeasterly winds that howl across the land for much of the year. Most are separated from each other by low-walled rock gardens and the tough coastal fynbos, the only vegetation that thrives in these conditions. Nothing much has changed in Kassiesbaai. The beautiful little whitewashed, thatched roofed cottages still cling to the coast, a reminder of long-gone times and the pace of life remains pretty much the same as in the Victorian era. Fishing remains an integral part of this close, tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone else. Kassiesbaai is unique in several ways. Not only is it perfectly preserved but it is the only village in the country that is an entire national monument (every building is protected by law). You also have to have been born here to live here – no “outsiders” are allowed to own land or property. This keeps the unique sense of community intact. This is a setting just perfect for a quiet walk and exploring – stroll between the cottages and chat to the locals or watch the little fishing boats coming in with a fresh catch. There is a crafts centre where handmade products are sold, many with a seafaring theme.
Something about the name:
Right next door to Kassiesbaai is Arniston, also known as Waenhuiskrans (wagon house cliff). It is the only place in South Africa that has two names. The first derived from a massive cave so big that legend has it a full team of oxen and a wagon could turn around in it. It takes a bit of walk along the coast to get to it and it can only be accessed at low tide but it is well worth the effort. Be careful to leave before the tide comes in again, though. Arniston, the cadastral name (or name on a survey map), is from a British ship, The Arniston Transport, which sank off the coast nearby in 1815 with a huge loss of life (there were only six survivors out of the nearly 380 people aboard). The hamlet offers several restaurants and good accommodation from which to explore the area.
Things to do in the area:
The Arniston Spa Hotel makes a great base to explore the area – plus you can pamper body and soul. Arniston Seaside Cottages also offer good value when it comes to accommodation. Why not follow farm roads to reach L’ Agulhas, the southern-most tip of the African continent. It is here that the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and not, as popularly thought, at Cape Point near Cape Town.
For more information on this region contact:
Cape Agulhas Tourism
Tel: 028 424 2584
By Confetti Studio
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