Seafood and sea life - this is Paternoster
Iam halted by a road worker waving a red flag just a few kilometres from my final destination. It’s in this moment, on a dusty road in front of a stop-and-go boom, waiting for the one-directional traffic to pass, that I begin to ponder if this might be how the magic dies for this whitewashed coastal town.
There has always been something mystical about navigating the final dirt roads before entering the fishing village of Paternoster but, with its new-found fame and tarred roads, are its secrets out the bag?
I putter on through the roadworks and reach the renowned T-junction, where a left takes you through the village of Paternoster and the sights and smells confirm your arrival. However, today is different. I turn right, filtering through some of the newer developments until I reach the Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel. It is situated at the quiet end of the beach – far enough away from everything to know this is a place for ultimate relaxation.
The largest heated pool in Paternoster flanks my left as I make my way to reception and am greeted by majestic views which stretch out over the dry river bed, across the deserted beaches and flow into the gentle blues of the ocean. It’s a stunning place to enjoy welcome drinks and a Mediterranean snack platter as I contemplate the very purpose of my visit: relax, refresh and recharge.
The Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel offers its guests bicycles on which to explore and it is not long before I adopt a new steed and ride off along the coastline. There are a couple of gravel roads to explore. The last manned lighthouse to be built on the South African coast stands proud in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, which makes for a great turnaround point.
It is about a 15km cycle to the fishing village and back on undulating gravel roads and is a great way to see what Paternoster has to offer.
A quick swim to freshen up, followed by sunset drinks on the deck and a leisurely dinner at Leeto, is a great way to cap off a superb day. The aromas that waft out of the Leeto kitchen promise a great meal, whatever your menu choice, but the West Coast linguine filled with my favourites from the sea really is out of this world. I am happily satisfied when I return to my cosy firelit room for the night.
It is an early start, with a scrumptious breakfast on the deck of Leeto. Head chef Garth Almazan has cooked for princes, princesses and even the birthday of Nelson Mandela. The presentation of each plate certainly made me feel like a celebrity. Garth blends seasonal ingredients with local flavour and regional influence and the eggs benedict and berry flapjacks certainly set the tone for another great day.
At 7:30am, I make my way down to the Crayfish Wharf, ready for an adventure with Kayak Paternoster. Excitement turns to disappointment as a thick mist has filled the bay and for obvious reasons, we need to delay our trip. But this is not a bad place to wait; with coffee in hand, the foghorn from the lighthouse is the only reminder of how treacherous this coastline can be.
All of a sudden, the sun pierces through the mist, glistens on the ocean and illuminates a pod of dolphins that has made its way close to shore. We spring into action, eager to get out and explore the sea by kayak. It’s a feeling like no other when we realise the pod is actually a super pod of dolphins, unfazed by our sudden entrance as they breach and dive all around us. In awe, we paddle with them for the next hour, exploring channels through the rocks and passing penguins and seals on the journey. Our casual morning kayak quickly turns into an ocean safari.
After a morning like that, I am not ready to leave the ocean but hunger has begun to set in. Just a short walk away is the ultimate setting for lunch, Gaaitjie restaurant. The look and feel of this family-run restaurant is ideal as I reminisce about my morning adventure, which unfolded just a few hundred metres from where I am seated. Freshly baked bread and seafood treats are immaculately presented, but it is the cosy family vibe which leads to long, lazy conversations. Soon, strangers become friends as I indulge in the tastiest home-baked desserts, leaving me in a food coma for the rest of the afternoon.
A seal plays in the breakers and the orange glimmer of sunset illuminates my path as I stroll along this golden stretch of coastline one last time. It dawns on me that neither modern roads nor an influx of tourists will destroy Paternoster. There is a gentle culture which has been built up over the years and the local, family and community atmosphere is what makes it special. I hope you, too, will one day enjoy the magic of Paternoster.