Messing about on the river

Peet se Plek

I don’t want you to go there. I just want you to be jealous.

The Beautiful Creature and I were enticed to Peet se Plek, a cottage on the Breede River, by a Richard Holmes article (with great scenic photograph) that appeared in the 9 Nov 2008 edition of the Sunday Times Travel&Food supplement. Richard took the Kenneth Grahame classic, Wind in the Willows, with him and found good reason to quote lyrical excerpts from the book to help him describe what he experienced.

I took fishing tackle and VS Naipaul’s A Bend the River

The simple shepherd’s cottage (slightly modernised) is situated on a broad, quiet stretch of the river. And when we 100_0681opened the patio doors and looked west across reflections of large trees lining the river to the vineyards and hills beyond, we had to agree with Mole’s musings when he and the Water Rat came to what seemed to be a little land-locked lake: “It was so very beautiful that the Mole could only hold up both fore-paws and gasp, ‘O my! O my! O my!’ ”

That evening, and every evening, we cooked more meat than we could eat on a wood fire in the portable “braai” on the deck. Nothing could be better than to tend the fire to the sounds of birds and the breeze, and the plopping of the fish, while obscenely bright stars twinkled above. The next morning we took the double canoe for a paddle up the river to the rapids about 1½ km away. Was it nice?   

“Is it so nice as all that?” asked the mole, shyly… 

“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leaned forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

“Simply messing…about in boats – or with boats… In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”

“Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together and have a long day of it.?”

Many people often quote one small portion of a lovely, almost poetic ode to boats. Above (thanks to the internet and my 91st edition dated 1948), with the distractions of the action removed and substituted with dots, is the entire ode to boats from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.100_0687

For lunch each day we had leftover meat from the braai, rolls and salad. And for tea we had fruit and decadent white bread and polony sandwiches. Most of the time we did nothing but laze around, work on our suntans, read and listen to music (bring your own). I dreamed of leading the life revealed in the tranquil parts of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) – two of my favourite boyhood books.

On the third day we took the canoe and my bass rod 1½ km downstream to another set of rapids. I knew from a two-day Breede River canoe trip I’d done with my sons, some 20 years beforehand, trailing a bass lure behind the boat, that the only times I’d hooked a bass was as we went over rapids. So I cast my spinner towards the rapids, and promptly got hooked up. We paddled down to the snagged lure, freed it and got wedged in the rocks. This incident turned the Beautiful Creature into the Creature from the Swamp as she got out of the boat and turned the air blue when I remained in the boat and expected her to tow us to deeper water. This didn’t work. I was forced to get my feet wet and help her tow.

A little later, once we were in calmer water, all was sweetness and light again as we drifted and I cast and retrieved. Directly opposite us an elderly coloured woman came down to the water, wrapped her head almost completely in a type of turban as protection against the midges, and dipped her line attached to a stout eight-foot length of reed into the water. Almost immediately she staggered back and swung an enormous bass onto the bank. Her secret seemed to be getting as close to the rapids as possible, and her bait of “wurms”.


Further up the river we passed a couple more, younger, women fishing and told them what we had seen. They knew the older woman and said she always had lots of luck. Typical fisherman’s response. Back at our landing I tried my hand at fishing with special bait from a tackle shop for carp, and for bass with lures and flycasting. No fish deigned to show the slightest interest in any of my offerings. I didn’t mind too much. But, I’m warning them: I’ll be back. Met wurms, ja; met wurms.

In case you are thinking of going there, the front bedrooms are nice, but small; with limited cupboard space. I used one as my dressing and storage room. The cottage is comfortable, but not luxurious, and costs at least R400 per night during the week and more over weekends. “Linen are provided”, but you have to bring your own bathtowels.

You really don’t want to go there. It’s almost fully booked for the next year. Leave it alone. I saw it first.

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2 Responses to Messing about on the river

  1. Sonya ten Velthuis says:

    Hi Wineou

    Ag man- loved the description and beautiful photos as much as the appropriate quotes. We will of course go there. We just want you to think that we won’t. But where is the photo of the famous huge bass- or is that just a fishing story? And where is the photo of The Beuatiful One- or is that just another fishing story too? 😉

    • wineou says:

      Dear Sonya
      Unfortunately I’ve ruined more than one camera on fishing expeditions, so I took no camera with me when the bass was seen. Regarding the Beautiful One, I am not a good enough photographer to properly capture the full extent of her inner and outer beauty. And I have no desire to re-awaken the wrath of the Creature from the Swamp by posting an inferior depiction of her charms . . .

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