Our last morning at Fynbos is too overcast for coffee on the patio. Instead, I spend the morning packing and we say goodbye to Liz and the pigs. Our next stop is also in Plett at another B&B called Sea Breeze, owned by Erika and her husband, which is only about 15 minutes away.
Just across the street from their property is a path that leads down to the beach. It’s a series of wooden walkways that slice through the tall bushes and trees. When you emerge at the end, there’s a spectacular view of Robberg in the distance.
We only visit the beach briefly that night because the clouds are fairly ominous. We head out to a local restaurant called Off the Hook. It’s a perfect night for creamy mussel soup and coffee.
When we leave the restaurant, it’s dark out but still light enough to see around us thanks to the lights from the surrounding businesses. As we walk, I can see a shadow off to my left. I’m aware there’s a person walking not far behind us but just assume it’s another patron heading to their car. Soon after, I realize it’s not, it’s someone following us. Nick seems calm but me, not so much. I ask him to hurry up and open the door, but the man has already arrived at our car. Without saying a word, Nick reaches into his pocket and gives him some money. The man takes it and walks away. It’s a pretty tense moment for me, but one that Nick’s gotten used to over the years.
He tells me it’s very common for people to expect “tips” even if they’re doing nothing to earn them. One place you’ll always see these beggars (for lack of a better word) are parking lots. Some wear special vests to make themselves stand out, while others wear street clothes, and they’ll help direct you to your spot. It seems pretty silly because in most lots you don’t need any help parking, but here it’s common knowledge that the guy who helps you park will also keep an eye on your car. The tip you give him/her is a thank you in return for being your security guard while you’re off doing whatever you came to do.
I’m not sure it’s common knowledge, at least not in America, that the unemployment rate in South Africa is reported as 25%. In actuality, according to most locals, it’s higher than that. So one can certainly understand and be somewhat sympathetic to people asking for hand-outs. The fact that some are at least trying to do some type of work in return is respectable. The problem is [and this is not unique to South Africa], you don’t know what you’re gonna get when a stranger approaches you. Will they simply take a hand-out or will they take all of your money, your car, or worse, maybe even take you, or kill you? Nick tells me that sadly it’s not unusual for any combination of those things to happen here. It’s a scary reality which reinforces the need to not be walking around too often in the open, especially not at night. For the most part, I feel somewhat safe here. I’m not in a panic every moment of the day. But I am extra careful and extra aware that every house is surrounded by razor wire and has panic buttons for a reason. It’s South African way of life now and in that respect, it’s very different than the States.
When we get back to Sea Breeze we spend some time out on the covered patio. Even though the weather is miserable the lounge area is toasty from the fire. Meanwhile, the rain comes down in buckets.