On a recent mission up to Langebaan (to ponder life, take detours, be paid to photograph a home, and be grateful in general) I decided to venture into the West Coast National Park. Mainly because there are road works on the main route, but also because it’s prettier and more fun this way. You see ostriches, you stop to swim, you drive slowly, you realise you’re in eden, you skip traffic.
Anyway, the trip to Langebaan is a familiar one to me; I learnt to kitesurf up here many years ago. A group of us would venture up (instead of going to lectures, being students), stop at the Spar for food and drinks, and basically kitesurf from noon until sunset. It was an impossibly perfect time for us all. Learning to kitesurf has few rivals, and back then there were even fewer people in the water to compete for space with. We’d get brown in winter (August/September), bond in the car, and petrol was so cheap it was worth it. Of course, in time we all improved and so didn’t need to venture up anymore (also, we started preferring waves to the flat, warm water of the lagoon) but this trip back made me realise how simple and happy life was back then. And cheap!
Today we are all richer, busier, and more manic in the cities we live in (mostly Cape Town) but that West Coast Park has not changed. Little changes in nature – despite the tumultuous seas and continuous wind of the west coast that daily assaults Langebaan – and it’s strange that us humans need so much change to keep us “happy” in a world that goes on and on almost unaware of us. To stare at an old tree (you get trees that are 5,000 years old) and realise it has witnessed so much history and remained rooted is so humbling for me. And it is in that mindset that I entered Langebaan and found it almost sickening to see the pseudo progress in the town.
Thousands of new homes (mostly ugly and evidently quickly built) have warped the town, and it is a far cry from that small, cosy corner of the early West Coast journey that it used to be. I headed home quite sad at what I had witnessed… nothing seems to progress in this world today. Either things go from bad to worse, or things that were perfectly fine and ideal have to be done away with. Why can’t we make modern buildings better than those of 500 hundred years ago? Why are modern roads worse than hand-laid cobblestone ones of yesteryear? Why are we so short-sighted and impatient and stingy and careless with our architecture, town planning, and general decision-making?
I don’t know, but I do know this: preserving that West Coast National Park was a great exception to all of that, and it’s still a beautiful gem of a place to behold.