Saturday, May 18, 2024

Eye on Life

Broad interest online magazine


Past the wrecks again

The Shipwreck Trail from Olifantsbos in the Cape Point Nature Reserve is one we have done many times over the years, but every time it is different. The weather, the wind, the sea, the wildlife and the people change with each visit, and this time it was the shifting of the sands that was most evident. The incessant gale force southeaster we endured over the last few weeks has altered the beaches, mainly through exposing long-hidden rocks, dried piles of kelp and fragments of various shipwrecks that litter this shoreline.

Fog fingers crept across the mountains on the False Bay side, but clear skies and windless conditions greeted us at Olifantsbos, once more proving that weather forecasts are only that, and not cast in stone. With everyone prepared for a chilly hike, it wasn’t long before jackets and jerseys were tucked into rucksacks among the coffee flasks and tasty treats for the eagerly anticipated halfway refreshment stop. Years of deviations from the once clearly marked path down to the beach from the carpark have caused hikers to follow the tracks made by the bontebok that love this lawn so much and a little bundu-bashing was needed to get back on target early on. Once on the shoreline, we could spread out of the anti-social single file and stroll in little groups, stopping to identify tracks of Cape Clawless Otter, baboon, bontebok and eland along the beach. The calm conditions of the last few days meant that the usual heavy seas had flattened to an almost glassy surface, with the occasional breaker dumping on the shore with a thunderous crack. African Black Oystercatchers were plentiful and White-fronted Plovers entertained with their incredible speed as they raced away among the piles of kelp.

It came as a surprise once again (somehow I always think these wrecks are very old) to be reminded by our trusty leader that the Thomas T. Tucker ran aground in 1942 and the Nolloth in 1964. Somehow it doesn’t seem right that these things should happen in ‘modern’ times! Apart from the largest segments of the ship, visibility of smaller chunks of wreckage depends on the shift of sand, and quite a number of large tubes and other fancy shapes were poking out of the sand, with hand-sized chunks of rusted metal littered around, waiting to be picked up by a desperate souvenir hunter, of which there were none today. Shells were plentiful and found their way into pockets.

The trudge up to the plateau was tiring, as expected, and frequent stops were made to admire the expansive views and wispy clouds overhead that promise a pink sky this evening. Our refreshment break was the carrot to get the donkeys to the top of the hill (sorry, fellow donkeys) and a welcome, pleasant rest was had, in the company of a Cape Girdled Lizard and his brothers and sisters sunning themselves atop almost each rock. The homeward trail along the edge of the plateau is always a favourite – views across the fynbos, ducking past fantastic rock formations, a small ‘forest’ of the pincushion bushes that give Olifantsbos its name – early seafarers thought the rounded, dense bushes were herds of elephants.

We made it back to the cars in three hours, not bad for almost 8km. A magnificent morning in one of the world’s wild places.

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