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THE HISTORY OF CAMPS BAY BAY
These pages are presented as a courtesy by Gwynne Schrire in association with Hillel Turok (authors) and Albert Louw of Citi Graphics (publisher)

The main attraction for living near the coast for both groups was theeasily available shellfish. They were skilled in making fish hooks as wellas in making fish traps and stone weirs for catching fish at high springtides, but from the small proportion of fish bones in the shell middens,they could not have managed to catch enough fish for it to be anythingbut an occasional treat on their menus.

They visited the caves seasonally and their staple diet when they werethere seemed to have been shellfish – mussels, limpets, whelks and theoccasional crayfish, probably collected by the women. Where oysterswere found, they were prised off the rocks with worked bone ribs. Sealsand marine birds were also collected from the beaches. Occasionally themen would bring back some buck, mole rat, porcupine or tortoise to addvariety to their diet.

Excavations by Poggenpoel and Robertshaw of a cave at SmitswinkelBay near Cape Point show that the people who had lived there between1 420 and 1 175 years ago kept sheep and caught seal, hottentot,poenskop, galjoen, white stumpneus and white steenbras. Theirneighbours who lived in a cave at Hout Bay (Buchanan 1977), caught inaddition to these many haarders and kob. They had sheep and pottery -these were introduced to the South Western Cape about two thousandyears ago. About a thousand years ago cattle appeared in the Cape insignificant numbers. Their possession of cattle, and the desire of thepassing sailors and the early colonists to acquire these, was later to have asignificant effect on their subsequent history.

Both the hunting and the herding societies seemed to have been able tocontinue their separate existences until well after the Europeansettlement. There were various patriarchal clans spread throughout theWest and South Western Cape each with an hereditary leader. The amplerainfall of the Western Cape with its rivers and pastures was ideal for theirherds of cattle. The Goringhaiqua camped between Table Bay ( Cape Town) and Muizenberg, the Goringhaikona or Strandlopers gathered seafood washedup on the shore, the Kochoqua or Saldanhamen lived betweenMalmesbury and Saldanha Bay and were the strongest of the local groupsand the Chainoqua, the most numerous clan, lived beyond the HottentotsHolland mountains with their large herds. Bartering between the tribeswas common, and included dagga, ostrich shells, pottery and Namaquacopper, and cattle raiding frequently occurred.

When the Portuguese and Dutch sailors first came across these people,they called the Khoikhoi (meaning men of men) herders ‘Hottentot’,because of the sound of their language, and the Khoisan hunters‘Bushmen’, and they sent home ignorant and uncomplimentarydescriptions of their behaviour and way of life. Van Riebeeck estimated in1652 that there were 300 Goringhaiqua and 600 – 700 Kochoqua menpossessing about 3 000 cattle and 2 000 sheep. Life started to change forthese indigenous inhabitants during the 16th and 17th Centuries andthere must have been between four to eight thousand Khoikhoi when the Dutch landed with their measles, TB and smallpox, and started to settleand farm across the Khoikhoi’s traditional pasturage, preventing theuncomprehending people from having access to the land in their seasonalmoves across the peninsula with their animals.

WRITTEN HISTORYSIXTEENTH ANDSEVENTEENTH CENTURIES

The availability of food influenced the lives of people in Europeas well. When the Crusaders returned to insular Europe freshwith reports of the exotic foods they had sampled in the MiddleEast, the recognition that food is good but spices are nicer brought newwants into the kitchen. The poor found that spices preserved the driedmeat that fed them through the winter, the rich found that spices madetheir dishes tastier and more palatable.

Prices for spices – pepper, cloves, nutmeg – ruled the market in theMiddle Ages and this market was controlled by the Venetians and the Arabmiddlemen. The Portuguese under Prince Henry the Navigatordetermined to break this monopoly by finding another route to the spiceislands. Their ships set out to explore the unknown world below the bulge of Africa. Bartholomew Dias was the first to sail past Camps Bay and onhis way home to Lisbon he and his men stopped off in Cape Town, andwere reputed to have climbed up Lion’s Hill ( in Camps Bay) and chipped a horizontal baracross a vertical fissure on the granite shoulder, turning it into anothercross. Whether this is true or not, that cross is still plainly visible abovethe end of Regent Road ( in Camps Bay). Dias brought back a chart of South Africashowing its bays and anchorage.

Vasco da Gama went right round Africa in 1497 and found the path tothe East Indies. The following year Rio D’Infante, the Portuguese Admirallanded at the Cape and recommended a settlement, but the expeditionfailed. In 1501 another expedition went around the Cape, followed in1503 by De Saldanha who put in at Table Bay, climbed Table Mountain ( Cape Town)and bought a cow and two sheep from the Hottentots he found there. DeAlmeida in 1509 tried to barter with the herders for cattle, got into a fight,launched a punitive expedition, was attacked on Woodstock beach andwas killed along with sixty-five of his men. After that the Portugueseavoided the Cape.

The Dutch had better luck. They visited the Cape in 1595 underHoutman and managed to trade successfully with the Khoisan, as didPaulus van Caerden in 1601, Joris van Spilbergen and the commanders ofmany other ships.In 1620 the British landed under Humphrey Fitzherbert and AndrewShillinge. Ignoring the fact that the Khoikhoi had been living here forcenturies, they took possession of the Cape in the name of King James andraised a flag on Signal Hill which they named St James’ Mount. Theyreported that a serviceable plantation could be formed in Table Bay ( Cape Town)requiring only a few men for its upkeep, that its soil was fruitful and itsclimate pleasant, that the natives were willing and likely to becomeservants of God, that whale-fishing would be a source of profit and lastly What did these early settlers or travellers think about Camps Bay?Their main interest was in Table Bay ( Cape Town) and its security or promise ofexploitation, not in Camps Bay. Few would have known of its existence,let alone had any interest in it. It had limited strategic value. Access wasdifficult. It was not suitable for a harbour. Windswept and riverless, it wasnot suitable for agriculture. It is unlikely that many of these earlytravellers would have risked confrontation with unknown savages byventuring too far over the Kloof ( Camps Bay).

We have an idea of what the environment of Camps Bay must havebeen like from the descriptions left by inquisitive travellers for whom aclimb up Table Mountain ( Cape Town) became an essential and exciting expedition foranyone with ambitions of publishing a subsequent best selling traveljournal, a climb rewarded by the sight of unusual flora, fauna and fabulousviews, with the added spice of a brush with wild animals.In 1654 Johan Nieuhof wrote that:“At the head of Lion’s Hill ( Camps Bay) there dwell very large baboons, which are sobold that they often chase away those inquisitive who climb this hillwith stones which they throw pretty well, as if they were half-men.”

Two years later Volquardt Iversen complained about the wind.“The worst and most dangerous thing here is that often heavy stormsand great tempests arise, with such a terrible roar that one must beastonished thereat and as suddenly as if a wind were shaken out of a bagso that one can scarcely guard against it. There is a tall hill here whichthey call the Table Mountain ( Cape Town) because it is quite flat and even on top, andon both sides goes steeply down, and thus looks like a table. Near thishill is another called the Lion Hill ( in Camps Bay), because from far off it well resemblesa lion lying down on its belly, with its head towards the Table Mountain ( Cape Town)and its tail towards the sea. When it is seen that the clouds approachover the Table Mountain ( Cape Town) one can be sure that a great storm is coming;and it is therefore a common saying ‘The Tablecloth is spread, we shallsoon be served with ill-cooked food”.

In 1658 Wouter Schouten had his pleasure in the abundant plants andanimals cut short by the sight of a lion on Lion Hill ( in Camps Bay).“I climbed up the Lion Hill (in Camps Bay). Along our way as also above on the hill, wefound it set with pleasant herbs, long grass and many sweet smellingflowers, but with few trees. After this in the green valley (Kloof Nek, Camps Bay))sloping down between the Lion ( Camps Bay) and Table-Hill we took great pleasure inwatching the agile leaping and clambering of the roebucks, littlesteenbok and such wild animals, which well knew how to make theirway upwards by leaping among the steep cliffs and rocks. But ourpleasure here did not last long, since in the middle of our closeexamination we saw a lion not far from us, which, coming into sightfrom behind the stones and rocks, at once hid itself again in theundergrowth and scrub. This we did not at all regret, since truly thesight scared us.”

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