We woke to exciting news on the 6th of September when we were advised the pass would be open by midday! Fantastic news for our little village. The pass being closed for 2 months really showed us the value it has for us and our businesses.
As locals, we love sitting in our main drag, Huguenot Rd, with our friends, glass of wine in hand, and people watch! I know lots of folks who enjoy people watching and it is all the more fun in our tourist village as we have so many different nations visiting us. My favourite is guessing where they are from. It is fairly easy sometimes, sometimes not at all. I wonder if you are aware that most nations have very distinctive features, dress codes or habits that make them easy to recognise, for instance, being tall and having very white hair is an indication that the person is from the Scandinavian countries. Wearing socks with sandles is a very British thing to do. Being covered with a large hat, scarf keeping it on, holding a parasol or wearing a face mask usually indicates the guests are from the Far East somewhere.
While we are people-watching, one of the most annoying things we complain about constantly are the big, noisy trucks that roar through our town every day. Our main road is very narrow and has cars parked on both sides, which we need for the amount of visitors we get. These large trucks, sometimes even these abnormals or 18-wheeler’s push their way through the village, causing traffic jams, noise and exhaust pollution and destroying the road surface. They then start slowly climbing the pass, keeping a long stream of traffic behind them, and very often they are too long to negotiate our very tight hairpin bends, and they fall over! This causes all sorts of drama. Their goods get spilled all over the road, and we have had some serious chemical spills in the past. They cause major traffic hold-ups and of course they could cause injury to other drivers. But mostly they then require OUR emergency services to go and assist them. This takes time and resources. While all of this inconvenience is being experienced, the trucks do not contribute to our economy at all. They don’t pay road taxes to repair the roads their heavy bodies destroy. They don’t stop and buy food or drinks in the village. The trucks are not registered in our district so we don’t even benefit from their licence fees. But they use our main road and pass as a means to avoid paying the very high toll fee on the N1 just past Paarl. So we lose all round on this deal.
With the pass being closed, we all breathed a sigh of relief knowing that these trucks would not be disturbing our peace for a while and I for one was really looking forward to it.
However, little did I realise how much the closure of the pass would affect business here in Franschhoek. I was quit taken aback. Our village has been decidedly quiet since the pass closed. Businesses have all reported very low sales, even though it is winter, when our village is very quiet anyway.
I can understand why. I had to be in Gaansbaai the day after the pass closed and had to leave home at 6:30am to be there at 9:00am. Usually that would have taken just over an hour but his was a very long journey and of course another 2 1/2 hours to get home again. It was annoying and unpleasant and put me off going down that side of the world again until the pass opened. And I am sure our guests feel exactly the same. The pass is a great short cut through our stunning winelands and guests love stopping here on the way to Hermanus and the Garden route. There are so many things to do in Franschhoek. Besides the wine and food, we are active and outdoors and busy. The number of guided tours is amazing and our many festivals keep visitors returning year after year. Sundays see our village inundated with bikers who do the breakfast run from Cape Town and finish here for breakfast, and then tackling the pass which is a very popular biking route. Not being able to make use of the pass definitely put many people off coming this side, much to our detriment.
So now, the pass is open! And we are celebrating. Bring back the guests, the tourists, the bikers, even those darn trucks! Now I understand the value of having the pass and I feel more patient with the noisy beasts who disturb my conversations. As long as they are in town, we know the visitors will be too!