Full moon picnic at the Taal Monument

A picnic table with a glorious view!

A picnic table with a glorious view!

A couple of weeks ago, on Saturday the 3rd of October 2009, two friends, Volker and Liezl, invited us for a full-moon picnic at the Taal Monument (Afrikaans Language Monument) on the outskirts of Paarl. We hadn’t visited the place for a few years, and this was the first time we’d be able to have access to it at night, so we were looking forward to it with much excitement.

Shortly before 6pm, we arrived at the monument, which is on the lower slopes of Paarl Mountain, also known as Paarl Rock, the hill that overlooks Paarl. Paarl Rock is the second largest granite outcrop in the world, formed by three huge rounded outcrops of intrusive igneous rock. Despite, or perhaps because of, its smooth, unfissured and steep faces, it is very popular among adrenaline-rush-seeking rock climbers – though it is definitely not for the inexperienced or for the faint-of-heart!

We quickly unpacked all our picnic paraphernalia – sleeping bags, picnic blankets, extra jerseys, cooler bags and a rucksack containing all the cutlery and crockery – from the car. It was a beautifully clear and sunny day, and the view was just breathtaking. We found ourselves a table overlooking the plains that stretched all the way to the high Drakenstein mountains.

The wind was gusting strongly here, though, and we didn’t feel like picnicking right next to the parking lot, so Liezl and I left the guys sipping a leisurely glass of wine, while we went for a stroll up the hill to find a more sheltered spot. At the end of the tarred road, we had this lovely view of the monument:

The Taal Monument from a distance

The Taal Monument from a distance

We walked back down and around the other side of the monument, where we found a sheltered lawn with a couple of still-unoccupied picnic tables. We quickly went down to fetch the lads and our luggage, and proceeded to unpack our long-awaited picnic. Soon, the table was full of all kinds of delicious and tempting yum-yums: a grilled chicken, soft buns, a large bowl of salad, small containers with feta cheese, olives and sugar-snap peas, a bottle of wine and packs of fruit juice.

I strolled around with my camera while there was still enough light to take some photos. Near our table was a large flowering Protea bush.

A beautiful flowering protea

A beautiful flowering protea

The monument was designed by architect Jan van Wijk and unveiled on 10 October 1975:

“Completed in 1975, [the monument] commemorates the semicentenary of Afrikaans being declared an official language of South Africa separate from Dutch. Also, it was erected on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (the Society of Real Afrikaners) in Paarl, the organization that helped strengthen Afrikaaners’ identity and pride in their language.” (Wikipedia)

On the official website, you can find a document explaining the symbolism of the monument. The central idea is that languages from three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa) influenced the development of Afrikaans:

Walking up the steps to the main path that leads to the monument, you pass four pillars on the left, decreasing in size and proportionately representing the four European languages (Dutch, German, French and Portuguese). Here is a shot of these four pillars from the other side:

The pillars representing the European languages

The pillars representing the European languages

More or less in the middle of the steps up ahead, there is another pillar, which represents the two Asian languages (Malay and Malay-Portuguese). You can’t see it, but in the middle of the path are inlaid the Afrikaans words “Dit is ons erns” (roughly translated as “We are earnest/serious about this”).

The imposing spires and curves of the Taal Monument

The imposing spires and curves of the Taal Monument

If you continue walking up the steps, you enter into a curving tunnel, that leads towards the tallest spire, and its shorter companion. The tunnel can also be seen as a bridge, referring to the words of NP van Wyk Louw, who said that Afrikaans acts as a bridge between the languages of Europe and Africa.

I like this shot of a little boy running up the sloping bridge between the group of four shorter pillars and the very tall one:

A little boy running up the slope

A little boy running up the slope

Just after sunset, I got this very odd shot of the tallest spire, which represents the rapidly ascending growth curve of Afrikaans. I honestly don’t know what happened in this shot, but I like it! 🙂

A strange effect

A strange effect

As you walk up the gentle slope inside the tunnel, you’ll notice that the large spire is hollowed out, so you can look all the way up to the top. There is a stone pool at the base of this spire that also embraces the base of its adjacent shorter companion. This represents the Republic of South Africa, as the birthplace and home of Afrikaans.

As you emerge from the tunnel into the light, you find yourself on a large curved open space, with a couple of steps at the far end, topped by three hemispheres. These symbolise the Khoi languages (isiXhosa, isiZulu and isiSotho), which also influenced Afrikaans.

The three hemispheres

The three hemispheres

As there was now very little light – and as I had forgotten to take along my tripod! – I went back down to finish eating my picnic and to join my friends in waiting for the moon to rise.

Suddenly, there it was! Be-eau-ti-ful!

The full moon rises above the eastern mountains

The full moon rises above the eastern mountains

What a wonderful evening this had been, and what a treat to share it with good friends!

The moon over the valley

The moon over the valley


Information from the website:

Diarise the full-moon picnic dates for the 2009/2010 summer season:

Sat. 3 Oct. 2009 moonrise 18:18, sunset 18:50
Sat. 31 Oct. 2009 moonrise 17:05, sunset 19:14
Wed. 2 Dec. 2009 moonrise 20:17, sunset 19:43
Sat. 30 Jan. 2010 moonrise 20:02, sunset 19:53
Sat. 27 Feb. 2010 moonrise 18:30, sunset 19:25
Sat. 27 Mar. 2010 moonrise 17:00, sunset 18:48

Time: Anytime from 17:00 – 22:00

You can bring your own picnic basket or prebook a basket by selecting products from the picnic menu at the VOLKSMOND restaurant. Call 021 863 2800 or send an e-mail to volksmond@taalmonument.co.za.

The cost: R12 adults | R5 students | R2 children

You aren’t allowed to bring any dogs, or to make a fire.

General enquiries: 021 872 3441.

23 thoughts on “Full moon picnic at the Taal Monument

    • Thanks for leaving a comment, Pretty. 🙂

      Well, if you ever come to sunny South Africa, I can definitely recommend a visit to Paarl and surroundings; it’s a very pretty town and the monument is very impressive. My photos didn’t do justice to its size and scale.

      You’ve got a very unusual project going on at your blog! Good luck with that!!

  1. Reggie, I am so excited for you that I’M jumping around hitting the ceiling again!! Congrats for making the home page of word press. I mean BIG CONGRATULATIONS!! Your blog is awesome and I hope your daily stats reach higher than high! Seriously, Reggie, I am SO excited for you. I hope you can get some sleep tonight. 🙂

    • I’m so delighted that you’re sharing my excitement. 😀

      My views last night peaked at 549, and at the moment, they’re at 318. I’m sure it’ll trail off now, but it really was a huge thrill! 😀

  2. Hey a fellow South African! Great to read about my backyard!
    Well done. Incidentally never been to Taal Monument although I am an Architect and I live in Cape Town. This gives me further incentive. Chuffed for you. Peace

    • Hey Yomotoso

      You’re welcome! 🙂 Thanks for leaving a comment – and the Taal Monument is definitely worth a visit.

      If you can, go this Saturday (24 Oct), when they have a special astronomy function called “Galilean Night at the Taalmonument”. You can read more about it here.

  3. Hi Reggie

    How are you? We went to the Taal Monument for the Perigee moon this year (2011). The moon was supposed to look a little bigger than usual — I’m not sure about that, but it was beautiful. I like your pics from 2009.

    Reggie, did you do the heritage walk in Pinelands on Sunday? I completely forgot and am looking for some feedback. Please let me know if you know of anyone who attended. Many thanks

    • Hi Glynnis, how wonderful that you timed your visit to the Taal Monument with the special moon! It must’ve been fabulous.

      No, I did not do the heritage walk, because I did not know about it. 😦 Oh dear…

I'd love to hear your views

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