Walking from Pringle Bay to Betty’s Bay involved a lot of rock scrambling, boulder hopping, peering into pools and cove exploring – definitely one of my favourite days so far. A stark contrast to the preceding days. Between Gordon’s Bay and Rooi Els I was confined to the narrow R44. Wedged between the winding yellow line on my left and the steep cliffs tumbling into the ocean on my right. I was anxious as cars came whizzing by, it takes nerves of steel to cycle there.
But then I had my first run-in with an irate land-owner. Whilst walking along a dirt road just off the coast at the tip of Danger Bay, just beyond the abalone farm, a bakkie came skidding to halt leaving me choking in a cloud of dust. After being accused of trespassing, I realised I had accidentally walked on to a private road. I apologised and explained my mission to him. Immediately he softened somewhat and explained to me that just last night they caught 31 poachers in possession of abalone. They’re on high alert at the moment.
The presence of poachers has become increasingly evident along the Whale Coast. It’s easy to spot one. I was walking through Buffeljags, a small fishing community, when a very cheerful chap came walking the other way. In his arms: fins, a mask, a snorkel and a chisel. Tell-tale signs. As we chatted his crew arrived in a vehicle. He loaded his equipment into the car and told them what I was up to. They laughed at my shoes and at my ludicrous ambition. The driver even said he was sorry that he didn’t have his wallet with him to make a donation. It seems a viable vocation for youngsters too. I was told kids in school tell their teachers, “Ag Juffrou, ek word sommer ‘n poacher.”
One of the noticeable differences between the Southern Cape and the West Coast is water. Rivers, and rather large ones have become a frequent occurrence. Some are walkable and some wadeable. Some require swimming. Others, well, boats are preferable. And it’s only going to get wetter as I move further east. On the plus side, I won’t be as thirsty.
I have also begun to encounter some unbelievable rock formations, caves and cliffs. Spelunking at De Kelders was a firm highlight. There’s also more than just kelp and blue mussel shells washed up on the beach. Coral, fans, weird prehistoric looking fish, and all sorts of funky shells line the beaches.
I was very grateful to be able to share my arrival at the Southern-most tip of Africa with a SANParks welcoming party. Granted they were strangers when I came walking across the rocks. But on this journey people don’t stay strangers for very long.
Day 86 to 99 summary: 351 393 steps, 243.4 km
Total: 1 976 081 steps, 1 378.7 km