So, wrapping up the tortuous trilogy that constitutes my vacation. The Land Rover broke down again. This time in J-Bay. I think the mechanic said something about a shattered cone in the shock. I couldn’t be sure. Very few people speak coherent English in Jeffreys van der Bay these days. Which is not to say they’re unfriendly. They do, however, have some explaining to do. Like why, above a sign saying “dune restoration project”, they are allowed to build embolism-inducing concrete monstrosities on top of the dunes and utterly desecrate the aesthetic value of one of the world’s most famous surfing spots. Insensitive philistines. How very dare they.
Hightailing it for home, we pulled in to Mossel Bay so that I could write this week’s column.
Veering off the N2, I penetrated the defences of what appeared to be a city designed by the Four Architects of the Apocalypse. Reluctant to venture deeper into this congealed soup of signs and stop streets, I took a turnoff that said Diaz Beach. If there were a shred of honesty left in this filthy world, it would have said Ugly Apartment Blocks Obscuring Diaz Beach.
Back in J-Bay I had asked Brenda to book us into a glittering love palace for the last night of our holiday. Instead, she took me to some kind of backpackers’ penitentiary where we were shown a room which made Andimba Toivo ya Toivo’s cell on Robben Island seem like the penthouse suite at the Hilton. We didn’t hang around because, in Brenda’s words, it wasn’t good enough for His Worship. I reminded her that since the president had begun stacking the judiciary with fawning lickspittles, judges no longer have the cachet they once had and that it would be more appropriate to say that it wasn’t good enough for His Tenderpreneurship.
At first glance, I thought I might like Mossel Bay. There is an air of lawlessness to it. But after watching the passing trade I realised it was the kind of lawlessness that descends on a town moments after the zombies have taken to the streets. It all feels like a set from the Andromeda Strain 20 years after the director shouted “cut!” and went home without realising nobody had heard him.
It’s too quiet. And, as the best criminal profilers tell us, it’s always the quiet ones. I’ve been here for five hours and haven’t heard a single siren. It’s just not natural.
There’s something I have to say, so if you are sensitive about your Afrikaner heritage, you might want to look away now. Mossel Bay makes J-Bay seem like Stratford-upon-Avon. I went to an outdoor restaurant that wouldn’t allow my dogs to sit quietly at my feet but allowed gargantuan mullet-haired teenagers to squat troll-like at their tables, barking in a harsh guttural tongue and stabbing at mounds of dead animal while showing no signs of having worked out the benefits of an opposable thumb.
Our guesthouse is equipped with a chiming clock that reminds inmates every 15 minutes that they are not immortal. It also has one of those weird unattended honour bars that cry out to be abused by the less honourable. “Help yourself to whatever you want,” said the lady. “Just write it down in the book.” I gave her the lazy eye. “You’ll be needing a bigger book,” I said. I was wrong. What they needed was a bigger fridge. Preferably one that didn’t have the skin of a small wildcat draped over it. And one that wasn’t stocked solely with the toxins that SABMiller passes off as beer.
Our guesthouse rides high on the hill overlooking the wind-ravaged sea. Small boats dart across the bay to the bigger boats, where they exchange used Cambodian whores for sacks of heroin. The lawn is trimmed and the pool is blue. Shouty birds hang about in a suspiciously verdant garden. We are the only guests here. There is something very wrong with this picture and I expect we will find out what it is around 3am. My only weapon is a machete but I fear nothing will be sharp enough to cut out the heart of whatever jaded beast feeds off the arcane soul of Mossel Bay.