Eyewitness South Africa: Tetraplegic Blogger Whilma Liedeman from the West Coast

The West Coast in the Western Cape province of South Africa stretches for over 400 kilometres along the Atlantic Ocean. It is not only that stunning coastal strip with the West Coast National Park at its heart but also beautiful small towns like Paternoster, Darling and Yzerfontein that make the West Coast the best coast.

Whilma Liedeman, who lives on the West Coast has been paralyzed ever since a car accident in 1997. She is a tetraplegic who tries to live life to the fullest and she wants disabled people to be able to be independent. Whilma once challenged the council of Cape Town in a tweet when she asked whether the town is disability-friendly. Her action resulted in an accessibility audit.

The world is sadly still full of unmarked disabled parking bays, no wheelchair accessible toilets, events held on grass, for wheelchair users too low tables at restaurants and cafes and the list goes on. Whilma speaks up to raise awareness. When I once talked to her I wondered why she doesn’t start a website that tells about all these things and points out all the places that are wheelchair accessible. On her blog Roll with Whilma she writes about all these little things able-bodied people would probably never even think about.

I'm so happy that Whilma found the time to tell us about the West Coast of South Africa.

The Touristin: Three words that characterise the West Coast?

Whilma Liedeman: Pristine. Serene. Rugged.

The Touristin: How do you get around the West Coast?

Whilma Liedeman: In my wheelchair, hahaha… Seriously, the best way for me to get around is by car. Sometimes we will go in our 4x4 bakkie*, but it is just not that comfortable. Being a quadriplegic makes travelling a bit awkward. (*bakkie is a pick-up truck/ute).

The Touristin: What is the best kept secret about the West Coast?

Whilma Liedeman: Sea Shack in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, near Paternoster. It is not the most wheelchair accessible area, but if I have to sit around and wait for every establishment to become universal accessible, I will wait a very long time and miss out on what my country has to offer.

The Touristin: What is your favourite borough/suburb/area on the West Coast and why?

Whilma Liedeman: Yzerfontein - We have been going there for the last 25 years. This little holiday destination started out as just that with one corner shop. People would buy/build a holiday house and stay in them over weekends and school breaks. Then the older people started to retire in their houses. Now there is a convenient store, petrol station, a few speciality shops with an eclectic mix of young and old living in the quaint little town. Let's not forget about the beauty salons and the restaurants. There is a harbour, so fishermen use it to launch their boats and see what the sea as to offer.

Yzerfontein has this relaxed ambience, with hiking and 4x4 trails, during the flower season you get to see wildflower in abundance. It is also easy to explore the West Coast from there, whether you go on a game drive to one of the many private game farms, visit the West Coast National Park, or visit the Casino and try your luck. Not to mention the open-air seafood restaurants on a few of the beaches*. (Note, I recommend for example Muisbosskerm)

The Touristin: The best place for a hot chocolate or coffee on the West Coast?

Whilma Liedeman: Any Wimpy on the West Coast - their Ripple Bar Hot Chocolate is to die for.

The Touristin: What is one restaurant we must try out while on West Coast?

Whilma Liedeman: Lulas Food in Yzerfontein.

The Touristin: Where would we meet you on weekends?

Whilma Liedeman: Saturday mornings you will most likely catch me in Yzerfontein or St Helena Bay (depending where the fish bite) at the harbour, watching our fishing boat launch. I will stay and watch the sun rise.

If in Yzerfontein, breakfast at Droograk, followed by a manicure at Megz Beauty Salon, then a late lunch at Lulas Food, before returning to our self-catering accommodation where a fish braai will be a sure thing for dinner.

Sunday - lunch at Thali Thali Game Lodge, after which you will be more than welcome to take a game drive, while I enjoy the view with a cocktail in hand. I have yet to undertake a game drive - the vehicles just seem to be too high for me to be lifted up to get in. On a few occasions, I was lucky enough to see some of the game from the passenger seat in the comfort of our own vehicle.

The Touristin: Do you have a favourite museum/gallery we all have to visit when on the West Coast?

Whilma Liedeman: It is not a museum nor an art gallery, but you cannot leave the West Coast without visiting The West Coast Fossil Park near Langebaan.

I recommend Stone Fish Studio and Gallery in Paternoster, where you will find work from both local and overseas artists.

The Touristin: What are some of your favourite places to shop for A) groceries and B) clothes on the West Coast?

Whilma Liedeman: The West Coast Mall in Vredenburg.

B) The West Coast has such a lot of little boutiques where you can find from local designer clothes to handmade items. If you looking for retail clothing, there is always MILADYS.

The Touristin: What souvenir shall we bring back from the West Coast?

Whilma Liedeman: You will have to have an extra bag for all your souvenirs, believe me; you will not stop at just one. The "bokkom" is a dried fish that you will find on the West Coast. I don't think the airlines will let you keep bokkoms on you since they rather have a rather strong fish smell. The best will be to sample them in Velddrift* rather than to take them home as a souvenir. (*aka Velddrif).

I strongly suggest that you fine comb the beaches on your early morning walks; you might just find a unique shell that you can take with you as a souvenir. One will have to do since you need a permit to scoop up shells on our beaches. If you don't find any, you will sure find an art piece made with shells and driftwood.

The Touristin: Thank you so much Whilma, the very best of luck with Roll with Whilma. I hope to talk to you soon again.

Meet Whilma on Twitter and Instagram and read her blog Roll With Whilma.