Time stands still on a walk along Bokkomlaan, once the heart of Velddrif’s bustling fishing industry. The Great Berg River limits future growth in the Velddrif area ensuring that it remains restful and exclusive. Join West Coast Way as we go exploring.
Velddrif is the heart of the fishing industry on the West Coast. Many visitors go there and miss this undiscovered gem. Until now. Cross the Carinus Bridge and take a right along Voortrekker Road. At the Heritage Site sign (on your left) turn right. This takes you to the gravel road of Bokkomlaan.
It’s where bokkoms started, the first road in Velddrif and the heart of the town,” says artist Marina Clunie from River Studio.
Fringed by the Great Berg River the dirt road is scattered with a cluster of historic buildings and private jetties. Bokkomlaan is named after the salted, silvery, savoury mullet strung into bunches and hung to dry, like biltong. It’s the signature local delicacy in this area and part of the West Coast Way self- drive Berg Route. Bokkomlaan is a great place to chill and watch the tide come in while sipping freshly roasted coffee. Or sit on a jetty with a cocktail as seagulls bob between children splashing and playing. The birdlife is amongst the best on the coastline. From flamingos and spoonbills to pelicans and pied kingfishers, you might be lucky to spy a black swan.
Go Slow With Cracklin’ Rosie
A good way to see birdlife up close is by boat offering a memorable trip up the river. And this is where we discover Cracklin‘ Rosie River Tours by Wendy and Nico. Birding enthusiasts will relish the knowledge they share on the various birds.
“The river is navigable for shallow-drought boats for over 40 km,” Wendy says. Leaving the jetty she promises the best birding in the area. And she is right. “Seeing pelicans here is the equivalent of seeing lions at Kruger,” says Wendy and Nico. From the upper deck, we watch these large birds take off and land appearing like small aircraft. Nearby, flamingos, both lesser and greater appear here, wading with bill upside down in the water, foraging and filtering out small organisms.
Preparing The Bokkoms
Linda Voges was almost born in Dagreek Visserye, one of the bokkom fisheries. Now aged 58 years she employs many casual fishermen from the local community and north to Walvisbaai. Spend time watching fishermen prepare the bokkoms. It’s a summer process. After rinsing Jonathan Klaasen skins the fish with deft concentration. The fish are then tied together with string and stacked in layers in crates, salted and weighted. They are then left for 14 to 21 days. Nearby Charles Pieters cuts the dried salty fish and fills packets for sale. They make a delicious snack with a local artisan beer from Charlie’s Brewhouse at Port Owen.
Impressionism In Bokkomlaan
From the outside, all buildings look like they are used as bokkom fisheries. However, some have been carefully converted and are now used as coffee shops, restaurants and art galleries. Due to their heritage status, no structural changes can be made thereby still keeping the sense of place and their past – but thankfully without the smell. One of them is River Studio owned by artist Marina Clunie since 2003. She says the original owners made the buildings with gum trees and homemade bricks.
The roof is lined with fluitjies riet – whistling reed. The building came with a jetty but a storm took it away. A freezer room dominates the centre of her gallery. Every conceivable space is covered with beautiful paintings of Velddrif landscapes typical of Bokkomlaan’s boats, sky and water. And so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that water is her favourite subject and blue her favourite colour.
Marina shares her art journey with us: “In May 2009, I visited Paris. My trip included a visit to the Louvre and Claude Monet’s house, studio and lily pond. The highlight for me was visiting the pond – a most awesome experience and a dream come true. The play of light, water and sky here on the Berg River take me right back to Monet’s lily pond series.”
And by now your tastebuds should be craving bokkoms, beer and big boasting!
“Ek en Djy Vissery”
Next door is ‘Ek en Djy Vissery’, a play on I & J, and open from ‘9 am tot gatvol’. At one end of the narrow stoep is a tiny kitchen. “We serve good food, not fast food,” says Gert Aggenbach. He and wife Magdel specialise in fish dishes and all-day breakfasts which they call Africa Burn. Go inside and get lost among risqué signs and a bizarre collection of memorabilia for sale. Gert says they opened the shop one year ago and the restaurant five years before.
‘Ek en Djy Visserye’ is the place to find grey Herons, geese (that come when called), Mossies, bokkoms, Velddrif souvenirs and the Afrikaans language, which is used to tell stories with the famous and distinctive West Coast burr. (rolling rrrrr)
Bikers and dogs (in no particular order) are welcome! And in season they are only closed on a Tuesday.
Ek en Djy Visserye is a recipient of the coveted Sluurpy Certificate of Excellence.
Find Bokkomlaan on the West Coast Way Berg Route
Cracklin’ Rosie River Tours: 071 897 9611 (whatsup preferable) Email tr[email protected]
Please contact Wendy (Tour guide) or Nico (skipper) for bookings and more information. This river cruiser is perfect for Small Functions, Birding Tours, Bird Watching and Environmental Education.
River Studio: 083 415 9524, [email protected]
Give Marina Clunie a call to make sure she is at her gallery, if you`re coming through especially to see her.
Ek & Djy Vissery: 082 781 3878 or 082 600 1889
Closed on Tuesdays during high season (and depending on weather in winter/low season). Serving breakfasts and lunches only.