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False Bay Beach Retreat

Text Pippa de Bruyn Styling Kate Boswell Photographs Greg Cox WHO: Pippa de Bruyn WHERE: Smitswinkel Bay SIZE: 80sqm Timing is everything. On this occasion, a sweltering Sunday in January, a disparate group had gathered on the stoep of an old Wellington farmhouse, among them a couple whom we hadn’t seen for some time. ‘When last have you been to your Smits cottage?’ I asked casually, attempting to disguise the envy that set in ever since our halcyon weekend spent with them in that tiny isolated coastal enclave bordering Cape Point Nature Reserve. ‘Oh, we just had the most incredible New Year there; the best ever,’ was the reply. ‘Lucky bastards,’ I retorted, envy naked. ‘I’d sell one of the kids to get a house down there...’ ‘We-ell,’ the one looked at the other for confirmation, ‘I don’t think Gary’s looking for any more kids but he’s just put an offer on a cottage there.’ The other nodded. ‘You know Gary, don’t you? Well, I think he may be looking for one more shareholder.’ There you have it. Nick-of-time timing. I’d met Gary many years previously while serving my advertising apprenticeship, a period in life I had hitherto thought quite wasted. I stepped off that stoep and called him immediately. Gary’s response was promising. They weren’t looking for another partner but, if we wanted in, the others could probably be persuaded. The next day my husband and I took a few hours off work to head south, skirting the mountain spine that thrusts its way into the Atlantic Ocean to culminate in that finger tip curving around the warmer waters of False Bay. At a large lay-by carved into the mountain, 100m before the road folds back into Cape Point Nature Reserve, we stopped and looked down on the tiny crescent of sand edged with boulders, then headed down the zigzag path through milkwood and dense fynbos, before following a mountain stream that spills out onto the beach. I would have bought a share in any of the 18-odd ramshackle cottages there – all built from materials that have to be hauled down the mountain physically, keeping plans and proportions suitably humble, but the blue bungalow, which Gary had instructed us to look out for, not only has the most superb location – a front row bed on the beach – but by Smitswinkel Bay standards it is ultra luxurious. There’s a small, open-plan, multi-level bedroom and living space, surrounded by glass windows that allow the views to pour in. Off this main area is a small bathroom, a galley kitchen, a tiny room with a bunk bed, and a loft space just big enough to squeeze in a king-size mattress. Effectively it’s a 10Å~8m shed, with only two internal doors. It’s a place for the four of us to fall asleep within speaking distance of each other. With the possible exception of my husband, I had never wanted anything more. We needed to sell our beloved Bainskloof river plot, but the sea beats mountain stream like rock beats scissors. And what a sea it is that sucks and crashes on this beach. Sometimes wild and terrifying, tumbling and dragging you through its sandy bed; at other times, its waters are as translucent as the Mediterranean. At night, under the stars, we have encountered a porcupine shuffling past; the days bring seals and the occasional sea otter to play in the surf and, less amusing, the baboon troops that maraud and plague this otherwise peaceful hamlet. It’s almost palpable, the energy that courses from the combination of mountain, sea, stream and fynbos, but it’s thanks to the blue bungalow that ours is served up with additional pleasures such as hot showers, ice in your drink and the most spectacular dawns without leaving your duvet. ‘Died and gone to heaven’ is a cliché that often comes to mind and, yes, I hope that, when my day comes, my children will bring me here, to the tiny home that holds so many precious memories, then toss me into the ocean to ride those waves forever. This article was originally featured in the March 2013 issue of House and Leisure.