Sitting pretty

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Aurora, West Coast
Aurora, daughter of the dawn, shows her comely face.

Almost unheard-of, Aurora, 43 km north-west of Piketberg, is a village where simplicity and tranquility prevail. Named after the Roman goddess of dawn in 1906, the first Dutch Reformed minister, Reverend C R Ferreira, was so taken with the village and his safe return as a Boer prisoner of war in Ceylon that he baptised his daughter Ceylonia Aurora two years later.

Interestingly, it was here that the French astronomer, Abbé Nicolas Louis de La Caille set up an observatory in 1751 from where his geodetic findings suggested that the earth was more flattened towards the south pole than towards the north, ie pear-shaped. This had the astronomical world in a flap for quite some time while they tried to prove otherwise. A National Monument memorial to him and Sir Thomas Maclear appears on an outbuilding at the farm Klipfontein, a few hundred meters outside Aurora.

Set against a striking mountain backdrop, the shady trees around the charming town square are the Friday afternoon meeting place for observing the local comings and goings. The town itself is dotted throughout with oldish houses, as well as a few newer structures, while a number of historic farms in the area still have the original Sandveld houses.

Aurora’s residents exude character and none more so than the late Helmut Wokalek, the Austrian who came, saw and never left. For years he’d been running a guest house, pub and restaurant single-handedly and it was whispered that his culinary fare was one of the West Coast’s best-kept secrets.

From the top of the western flank of the Piketberg mountain range to the north of the town one has breathtaking views in all directions: Table Mountain to the south, St Helena Bay to the west, Het Kruis to the north and the Swartland to the east.

And as dawn breaks, Aurora is truly poetry in the raw.