Having just returned from a wonderful 3-day photographic workshop at the Arniston Hotel in Waenhuiskrans, it prompted some thoughts and memories that I have about this wonderful seaside town. Arniston is in the Overberg region of the Western Cape about three hours drive from Cape Town and is also known as Waenhuiskrans, which is named after a sandstone cave which is a supposedly large enough to accommodate a wagon and a team of oxen.
It was on this dramatic coastline, which lies close to Africa’s southern tip at Agulhas, that the Arniston, a British East Indiaman, was wrecked in May 1815. It lacked a chronometer (an expensive device in those days essential for accurate navigation) and relied on dead reckoning. Apparently the ship was separated from the rest of the fleet in stormy weather and the captain, thinking that he had already rounded Cape Point, steered northwards to St Helena and hit the rocks. Only 6 of the 378 people on board survived.
While working as a photojournalist for Getaway magazine I visited Arniston while researching an article called Locals are Lekker (it was a fun picture story where I asked selected salty characters from Cape Town to Kosi Bay to tell me their story in words and pictures. Jock Dichmont of Arniston told me how he gave up his life as a Cape Town lawyer to seek his fortune from the sea. He had dived for diamonds in Namibia and then settled in Arniston. He had collected a treasure of gold coins, brass fittings and Dutch East India memorabilia and had taken great risks with very primitive equipment. He got the benz one on dive when he surfaced too quickly and had a hobble which stayed with him until his death.
Jock Dichmond owned the Arniston Hotel for a time and when he retired he manned the Strandloper Bar. One of his favourite tall tales was about the bokvis, which had pride of place in the bar. The mussel cracker to which he had affixed a pair of small antelope horns and had a cigarette hanging from its mouth was a real talking point.
Today the Arniston Hotel has a spa and two restaurants and is a great place for weekends away and for photographic outings It has a view of the blues of blue seas (this is thanks to the shallow sandstone and limestone shelf) and is a short walk from a small harbour of brightly painted fishing boats and the picturesque whitewashed houses of the 160 year old Kassiesbaai fishing village.
We were in Arniston at full moon and the fishermen of Kassiesbaai were out in force with gaffs aready to capture the octopus caught on the rocks. We engaged in conversation with one particularly interesting character called Johnny Appels and he was very happy for us to take pictures … in fact he was something of a celebrity already having starred in the 2006 documentary called the Last Strandloper. “Just Google me and you will find it,” he said. And I did.
Arniston is one of the most photographic little towns you can imagine and a great place to take pictures. I will return with another groups in late September 2014. Let me know if you would like to join.
5 things you must photograph in and around the Arniston area
- Waenhuiskrans at Low tide
- The Arniston cliffs at dawn
- The wreck at Agulhas near Africa’s southern tip
- The characterfull houses at Kassiesbaai Village
- The rolling canola fields and flowers of the Overberg in Springtime.
Some photographic essentials
- Wide angle lens
- Early wake-ups before dawn
- Graduated filters and ND filters – I can recommend Lee Filters
- Plenty of lens cloths for sea spray removal from lenses.