The ap­peal of soli­tude

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Just a short drive west of St Francis Bay along the windswept coast­line you’ll find the small, iso­lated Oys­ter Bay. Dairy farms around the town stretch­ing to Hu­mans­dorp act as a buf­fer against the out­side world, and the pic­ture is com­pleted by the snow-white dunes against which the houses nes­tle. There are only a few dwellings, and they stand empty for most of the year – Oys­ter Bay has only 90 per­ma­nent res­i­dents, most of whom are re­tired. There is a small café and restau­rant, but that’s it.

This lack of worldly com­forts, along with the seclu­sion, re­sults in a sense of ro­man­tic soli­tude. It’s not all sun­shine and roses, how­ever. You have to get into your car to find al­most ev­ery­thing you need, and the only way to reach the shops in Hu­mans­dorp and St Francis Bay is via a 30km stretch of wind­ing, eroded, rock-hard gravel road.

“The road dam­ages our cars,” com­plains re­tired mag­is­trate Jan Steenkamp, who has lived here for 17 years. “You won’t be­lieve how many tyres I have lost over the years.”

The milk lor­ries that travel be­tween the farms and Wood­lands Dairy in Hu­mans­dorp ev­ery day erode the sur­face. “Wa­ter re­stric­tions mean the road is sel­dom graded these days,” Jan says with a sigh. “The au­thor­i­ties have been mak­ing prom­ises since 2001 about hav­ing the road tarred, but zilch has come of it.”

Yet peo­ple still love liv­ing here, out of the way and se­cluded. It’s a rugged, pic­ture-per­fect world, and the hand­ful of res­i­dents are en­twined in each other’s lives. There’s an ac­tive Klet­sklub where town mat­ters are dis­cussed), and a church ser­vice is held in the com­mu­nity hall once a month.

The bumpy ride to civil­i­sa­tion is a headache, but ev­ery­one un­der­stands it has its ad­van­tages. >

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