Most people have been to their local church or school bazaar where the old tannies man tables with vetkoek, curry and rice and pancakes and kids run around while their parents buy food and chat to their neighbours who they never get to see due to the 6 foot wall separating their homes. Last weekend I got to go to the Patensie Plaasbasaar, the NG Kerk Gamtoosvallei-Oos annual bazaar and I have to be honest here. It was the mother of all church bazaars and makes our little city church bazaars look like a Micky Mouse tea party.
The Gamtoos Valley is a major citrus and vegetable growing area and is often referred to as the food basket of the Eastern Cape. Knowing that the first question people asked me when I came back was if there was fruit and vegetables on sale. Seriously? Is the sea wet? There was lots of fruit and particularly vegetables on sale. So much so and at such low prices that people bought wheel barrows full with the farm workers assisting going flat out all day, wheeling people's purchases to their cars (or bakkies as is the case in most of the people from the valley who came). And making some seriously good tips along the way.
Coming into the Endulini Citrus packhouse where the bazaar was held the first thing you saw was the tea garden and all its cakes, and tarts, and cakes and... did I mention tarts?
I don't just mean any cakes and tarts, but cakes and tarts that would make most bakeries and coffee shops green with envy. Green I say. Lime green with some frog in a blender green thrown in for good measure. These cakes weren't just thrown together, they were made with exceptional skill and effort by people living in a farming community. For the sake of the tea garden the cakes were cut up and in plates already, selling at R15 a piece. The only problem was deciding which one to choose. Not quite a piece of cake.
One of my favourite things at the bazaar was watching these ladies making rooterkoek. Roosterkoek, for those who don't know it, is bread rolls made over the coals and normally prepared along with a braai. The roosterkoek table was where I bought my lunch of warm roosterkoek with farm butter melting and running over my fingers, topped off with whole fig jam and cheese.
It truly was a treat watching these experts at work. They were churning out dozens of roosterkoek and as fast as they were making them, people were buying them. During the auction later on they stopped making roosterkoek because they thought people were done buying and suddenly found themselves out of stock. Didn't take long for the next batch to be rolled, cut and made though.
Other tables at the bazaar was heavily laden with all kinds of traditional bazaar goods.
Bottled onions, bottled beetroot, jams, lemon syrup...
... pancakes (and what is a church bazaar without pancakes?), jaffles, salamis, cheeses and biltong.
The most popular part of the bazaar was their farm breakfast which was served all day, buffet style. Bacon, mince, sausage, patties, baked beans, egg, breads with farm butter, jams and cheese served with juice, all for just R40. This was well topped off with a dessert from the pudding table selling at R10 and R15 per container. Baked puddings, jellies, instant puddings, more baked puddings and custard. Like Oom Oubaas of 7de Laan on television would say. "I had to stop myself before I chewed my lips off."
During the day the stage was used for a proper farmers auction with sheep, goats and chickens, kudu hunts, wire cars and several other items up for grabs. I couldn't really compete with some of the farmers' wallets but did enjoy the banter going on between some of the guys on the floor. The auction was followed by a boere-orkes. Uhm, ja. Not sure how to translate that into English. Its a traditional Afrikaner band led by a concertina player. Not really something that is popular with the younger crowd these days, but still very special to hear live.
Outside the kids did the standard jumping castle thing with a sweets and kiddies table nearby to keep them all sugared up. One of the local farmers did tractor rides into the orchards which clearly was supported more by the city kids than the farm kids who get to ride on tractors whenever they want.
I wouldn't have know of the bazaar if it wasn't for Nichola Uys of Nikalandershoek. Nichola is the driving force behind the Gamtoos Tourism Association and invited us out to the valley for the weekend. While we were there we stayed in her cottage on the citrus farm Nikalandershoek. The cottage is self catering and the ideal spot to base yourself to explore the valley or just chill away from the city rush. Breakfast at Tolbos in town, lunch at Padlangs just outside of Patensie and late afternoon strolls through the orchards with outings to the Baviaanskloof, Kouga Dam, Queen Victoria profile and Hankey in between. Truly a plattelandse experience with a good farming flavour in the mix. Next year we'll definitively be returning for the Plaasbasaar with heaps of our friends in tow. They didn't want to believe me before hand that its going to be a great experience and now they have to wait a year for the next one.