Words by Camilla Howard
We’d been warned by just about everyone we lent an ear to for 5 minutes that we should not, under any circumstances, attempt the next stretch of coastline from Strandfontein eastwards on our own. As the saying goes: “Safety in numbers” we decided to take heed and arranged a group of people to walk with us from Mnandi Beach to Strand. Our wonderful vehicle sponsors ADT and AVIS fleet Services were very happy to oblige and sent staff members down to walk with us. We had been giving a new support team driver a trial for the previous 5 days and frustratingly he chose this particular day to let us down badly. A day when we needed support more than any other. When we arrived to collect him at the agreed meeting spot at 7am, he was nowhere to be found. His cell phone rang the first few tries and then it went off for the rest of the day. Instead of having him on standby to deliver refreshments to the group and pick up those who could not endure the whole 22 kilometers we suddenly had to jump into action formulating plan B’s, C’s and D’s all the while stressing that something awful had happened to our guy. Anyway, we met the vivacious team and had our feet in the sand by 9:30am making sure they were armed with multiple empty refuse bags to help us tackle the modern day apocalypse we’d encountered on the beach the previous day. We passed a couple of fishermen and noticing the rocky sections and steep cliffs ahead I quickly double checked with them that it was in fact possible to stick to the beach the whole way through without risking being pummeled by waves. They confirmed it was possible at which point the heavens opened and we were soaked through by summer rain long before any rogue waves got us. Unfortunately some of the crew had not received the memo and arrived in jeans and sandals. The pace was thus a lot slower than we anticipated and coupled with the late start the incoming tide eventually forced us up onto the fossilized sand dunes. I’ll admit, there were rather steep parts and certain sections were a little. We did what we could to keep morale high and motivation steady reminding them that they’d have a great story to tell their mates as opposed to another mundane Thursday at their desks in front of a computer.
Alas, we failed. Miserably. All but 3 guys bailed out as soon as they could but I was proud of them for clocking 14km’s. The three who continued on with us were Sarel Four, Quenton van Zyl and Gary d’Warte from ADT. Perhaps they weren’t fit enough to continue but pride prevented them from giving up. Their stamina was well rewarded when we came across R100 000 of counterfeit money washed up on the beach at Macassar! Before we could make too many plans about what to do with the money, we were met by 5 uniformed men a few hundred meters further down the beach. They told us that they were arresting us for trespassing on a National Key Point. No amount of begging or pleading would soften their stance and the 5 of us were loaded into their truck and driven to the chief of security’s office for questioning. They replayed us footage in a room full of screens which clearly showed us walking past the NO ENTRY sign but in our defense we were very far away from it at the low water mark. After they had called ADT’s head office to verify that our accomplices were in fact who they claimed to be and after looking up the CAN DO! Trekking for Trash credentials we were released but not without getting our filthy mugs shot! I wish there had been a hidden camera when we tried to explain the counterfeit cash and I must report that after a couple of newspapers and ETV had come to interview us about our find we did hand it all over to the Police!
Alex Bouwer and Klaus Hass from, Nampak Bevcan, walked with us from Strand to Crystal Pools. Again we collected 6 bags of trash and despite there being a whole team of municipal cleaners present on the beach, we could have filled another 60 bags if it weren’t for the considerable distance we needed to cover before sunset. We loved having them with us and really hope they will stick to their promise to walk with us again on the East Coast. From Crystal Pools we stuck to the road until Rooiels where Shelly Simonsz, a good family friend of the Baretta’s, kindly put us up at her seaside home. I’ll always remember my swim in the fresh water pool on the beach just below her house, looking up at the sun and clouds constantly racing each other creating a mosaic of ever-changing weather.
We kept our eyes peeled for leopard the next day past Pringle Bay en route to Hangklip but the only thing we saw was a massive puffy and an enormous tortoise labeled “Guy”. The kogelberg is too beautiful. Gazing up at the sandstone-mountains that folded out of the earth 300 million years ago, the stretch from Betty’s Bay to Kleinmond is home to 77 species of fynbos that grow in the unique micro-climate and soil. On the Palmiet River we saw Egyptian Geese skidding to a halt like a boeing lowering it’s landing gear. We found beautiful coves which we’d never have otherwise known existed en route to Kleinmond (some were rather smelly from the kelp though). We met a troop of baboons keeping guard of the houses close to Sea Farm and stopped to wave at another African Penguin Colony at Stony Point.
The beach walk from Kleinmond to Vermont was beautifully clean which was a surprise to us. As was the river crossing at Benguela Cove. I’d thought the mouth was closed and it was very much open when we got there. Eeek! On the plus side we found out that the bin backpack floats! At the end of the white sandy beach on the Hawston side you enter the Mudge Point Marine Protected Area. There is a path all the way around it to Vermont. We were warned that it was unsafe but our experience was quite contrary. From Vermont we got onto the VOC Boardwalk, which runs all the way along the coast from Vermont through Onrus and Sandbaai and we managed to walk all the way to the new harbour in Hermanus without having to move inland at all! We didn’t see a soul on the path around Zwelihle and I think it is quite safe to walk there provided there is more than one of you. On the western side of the Harbour House restaurant we had to do a loop inland around the Perlemoen factory and then got straight back onto the cliff path which took us all the way to Grotto beach and we called it a day at the mouth of the lagoon. That night Pete McGregor, the father in law of the our new (reliable) support driver, Heath, fed us perfectly braaied steak and the finest wines of the region at his holiday home in Voelklip.