Wednesday 21 September 1836

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SEPTEMBER 21.-This day, Wednesday, about noon, we anchored in Simon’s Bay. A gentleman and lady in the cabin of the name of Hallett, with their family of three children and a servant, joined us in a boat, as they preferred going on shore with us rather than with the cabin party, on account of their family. Some black natives came alongside, and we engaged one of their boats. When we reached shallow water, there being no jetty, we were carried on shore in the arms of the men, to our no small amusement, and my daughter Mary was the first of our party to set foot on Africa.

There is a small town here, as they call it, which consisted entirely of one street, or, rather, of one row of houses at the base of tremendous hills and facing the water. The whole much resembled a newly-founded watering-place in England. The inhabitants were chiefly English, with some Dutch, but we saw a great many of the native Africans, quite black, with woolly hair. They took much notice of us, and seemed to be well a ware that we had just arrived from England.

We went to the Anchor Inn, kept by an Englishman; others to different inns and lodgings, of which there were several in the town. We partook of lunch as soon as we arrived, of bread and cheese and butter, with bottled ale, all of which were excellent. Never did I relish anything so much, after being so long confined to ship diet, and this seemed to be the case with everyone. We then took a walk, as the weather was very fine, and returned to dinner at 4 o’clock. This consisted of a boiled leg of mutton and rump steaks, with potatoes and cabbage, followed by a bread pudding and excellent pastry. Four bottles of Cape wine were also placed on the table, and everything seemed to be in a style which we did not expect from the appearance of the place, especially as the Anchor was not the principal inn, which was called the Clarence, and where we first went. Some of the cabin party having taken possession of the latter house, the landlady turned us out rather unceremoniously, at which we were not a little surprised, considering our number – fourteen in all. However, we immediately went to the Anchor, and there remained till Friday afternoon, and most likely were the better customers, as all the cabin party set off the same night for Cape Town, about twenty miles distant. I must here add that our landlord sat at the head of the table at dinner, assisting us and doing all in his power to make us comfortable, at the same time amusing us with many anecdotes respecting the Cape and its inhabitants. Fifteen years before, he said, when he first came there, the monkeys used to chase each other on the tops of the hills behind the houses, but now a wild animal of any kind was rarely seen.

There was not much to he had at Simon’s Bay besides fruit as the shops, or stores, as they were called, contained but little stock. The poultry were very fine, as also the sheep. The tails of the latter sometimes weigh as much as twelve or fourteen pounds, and are nearly all fat, which is often used as butter, being soft and mellow. The carcass, however, is generally lean in comparison with that of English sheep. Cattle, too, were abundant, and much used for draught; horses likewise seemed to be plentiful.

A sort of caravan, resembling a London omnibus, drawn by six horses and driven by a Malay with a tremendously long whip, brought the captain and party from Cape Town. I heard one gentleman say that he rode in one drawn by fourteen horses, but they are invariably small, and would bear no comparison with those of England. We likewise saw a light wagon, to which were attached eighteen bullocks.

The oranges are very fine. I bought a hundred for three-and-sixpence, also a hundred of a smaller sort, called snatches, for a shilling. Mr. Thomas purchased a box of raisins, containing twenty-eight pounds, for four shillings. They were very sweet and without stalks. There was also a great quantity of dried fruit, such as apples, pears, and apricots, but we were too early for grapes and melons, as we arrived in the spring.

Mr. Thomas and Mr. Hallett went some miles up the country to a farm which was recommended to the latter, who wished to purchase a milch goat for his children, as they were all young. He bought two, with kids by their sides, for thirty-five shillings. We bought some fowls from our landlady for one-and-ninepence each.

The captain purchased a great many sheep and a cow and a calf. Live stock of every kind was much cheaper than in England, but bread at a higher price. Fuel was also scarce and dear.

Mr. Thomas purchased some potatoes for seed, and a roll of canvas for a tent to supplement a large one which we had on board, bought from a man at Chalton, in Hampshire, recommended to us by Mr. Martin while we were staying at his house before we left England; also a box of candles at sixpence per pound. I bought a quart bottle of genuine cayenne pepper for seven-and-sixpence, some of which I have to this day.

I mention these things to apprise those who may have forgotten to provide themselves with some such necessary articles, and are fortunate enough to put in at the Cape of Good Hope, that they may be obtained at Simon’s Bay on reasonable terms, and I believe still cheaper at Cape Town. No doubt, in the lapse of time since we were there (nearly twenty-eight years) everything has been greatly improved and the stores are supplied with a greater variety.

On the day we left we requested to have a roasted leg of mutton, as they call it, but which is always baked. As the bakers had consumed all the fuel in the morning to make a larger quantity of bread than usual for their customers (there being a ship of war also in the bay), and consequently could not bake for dinner, the mutton had to be boiled. Their only supply of fuel seems to be small wood, which is brought daily by the natives, and bushes, which bear the most beautiful flowers imaginable, are cut down and burnt.

We saw whole hedges of myrtle in full blossom; the Cape lily, too, which is so highly prized in England, grows there on the hills and by the roadside in great abundance and very large. We also saw some running water of the colour of vinegar, but very clear and not bad tasting. What made it of such a singular appearance I could not learn.

On the whole we enjoyed ourselves very much, and so well satisfied was our landlord that before we parted he insisted upon our partaking of a bottle of champagne, and wished us a good voyage and prosperity in our new settlement. We had some difficulty in making him understand where it was to be, for at first he imagined that we were bound for Van Diemen’s Land, South Australia being then a new name for the colony, and I believe not till we arrived at the Cape had the inhabitants heard of such an intended settlement.

I must here mention the wine called Constantia, which, as our landlord told us, can only be produced in two or three vineyards within a small district where the soil is favourable to the growth of a particular grape from which it is made. It is very rich in flavour, and was indeed a treat to us. It sold at two shillings per bottle. The ordinary Cape wine was sold at a penny per glass. Mr. Hallett’s and our men were on shore drinking it as they did beer in England. It got the better of them, and they continued drinking and smoking nearly all night, making such an intolerable noise that we could not sleep. However, they seemed to enjoy themselves, like their masters, and the next day we treated them to a good breakfast and dinner, with sufficient wine to make them comfortable without being tipsy. They returned to the ship highly gratified.

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