How fortunate that our visitors from Melbourne, Australia are nature lovers. So, instead of turning south towards the city, we drive in a northerly direction along the West Coast on a 20 minute drive. Soon we enter the West Coast National Park, pass the well-known ostrich treesome on the way and stop at Geelbek Restaurant on the Langebaan lagoon.
As with most National Monuments in the Cape, the homestead stands out sharply white and symmetrical. This building was the original homestead of the farm Geelbekkenfontein, named for the yellow-billed duck. In the Van Riebeeck days a lot of food was needed for the population as well as the hundreds of passing sea-going vessels. Several plots formed an outpost called Oude Post. Farmers had to plant wheat, farm cattle and catch fish. There was also a lookout post from where both Table Bay and Saldanha Bay could be guarded (against the French ). This was during the English rule of the Cape!
Geelbek has a rich history. It was once gutted by fire but now fully restored. It was also the scene of lavish entertainment in the early nineteen-twenties as Governor-General Henry de Villiers Steytler stocked vast amounts of wine in what was known as the biggest cellar in the country. He dredged the lagoon to allow ships to enter right up to the house. You can see the gate to the lagoon in the white wall in my painting! Parties could last for weeks and Cecil John Rhodes was also once a guest there.
Today the restaurant offers fresh line fish, and many favourite local dishes are also on the menu. Be sure to read the plaque that warns visitors that we do not hurry our food on the West Coast! This means that you may leave the table and explore a little to get an idea of the lie of the land. Next time I am here, I want to go through the gate and visit the ruins of the old castle and also go on the bird hideout overlooking the lagoon.