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1922 Agatha Christie : Torquay, Muizenberg, and Waikiki.
When I was invited to go surf-bathing
at Muizenberg, I rubbed my eyes, for I had vague ideas that this pastime
was confined to South Sea Islanders.
Recollections of Ballantyne's books crowded in on me; of apparently harmless sandal-wood traders, who unblushingly doubled the part of bloodthirsty pirates with their peaceful avocations; of bevies of swarthy but merry maidens rolling in on their planks on the top of vast surges; of possibly some hideous banquet of taro roots and "long pig" (baked over hot stones under a cover of plantain leaves) to follow on these primitive pastimes; even perhaps of some coloured captive maiden, wreathed in hibiscus flowers, loudly proclaiming her distaste at the idea of being compulsorily converted into "long pig."
I should, of course, have had to rescue her after exhibiting prodigies of valour, to find this dumb but devoted damsel clinging to me like a leech, remaining a most embarrassing appendage until she had learned sufficient English to answer "I will," when I could have united her to a suitable mate, a copper-coloured yet contented bride.
When Capetown swelters in heat, Muizenberg is generally ten degrees cooler, though, most obligingly, the water of the Indian Ocean at Muizenberg is ten degrees warmer than that of the Atlantic at Capetown, owing to the Antarctic current setting in to the latter.
At Muizenberg we found half the population
of South Africa in the water in front of the biggest bathing-house I have
The handling of the surf-plank requires some care, for it is a short, heavy board, and in the back-wash is apt to fly back on the unwary, hitting them on their food-receptacle, and effectually (to use a schoolboy term) "bagging their wind."
You walk out in the shoal water up to your shoulders, and as a big sea comes in, you throw yourself chest foremost on to your plank, and are then carried along on the top of the roller at the pace of a leisurely train (an Isle of Wight train), to be deposited with a bang on the sandy beach.
It is really capital fun, but alas for my flower-wreathed South Sea Island maidens!
Excluding our own party I only saw many amply waisted ladies disporting themselves staidly in the water, and the surrounding cinemas and tea-shops might have been at Brighton, except that they were far smarter and much better kept.
Owing to the strongly marked facial characteristics of some of the customers in these places, who were mostly from Johannesburg, I at first imagined that I must have wandered inadvertently into Jerusalem, or that I had perhaps drifted to some fashionable health resort on the shores of the Dead Sea.
Valentine and Sons Publishing Ltd.
PO Box 1685, Cape Town.