Shipwrecks and shells

Heavy seas were pounding the Peninsula today, churning up the kelp and detritus of the seabed and dumping them along the shoreline between the two shipwrecks on the trail from Olifantsbos. Cloud cover and a good breeze were also side-effects of a passing low pressure, and this is always welcome on a hike, particularly to reduce the glare and sunburn potential of a beach walk. The natural sea wall formed by tumbled boulders would be difficult to hop over if it weren’t for the gargantuan efforts of previous guardians of our nature reserves in laying a path of flat stones over this stretch, and it didn’t take long for us to reach the soft white sands and low fynbos of the dunes.

Sea- and shorebirds are abundant in this marine reserve, and common terns, Hartlaub’s gulls, white-fronted plovers, ringed plovers, crested, white-breasted and Cape cormorants, as well as African black oystercatchers were ticked off the birding list in no time. Signs of the smaller animals who live a splendid life in the reserve soon made themselves apparent as we crossed tracks in the sand, either leaving or approaching the rocky shoreline. A strong set of caracal spoor was accompanied by two trails of smaller spoor, which hopefully indicates a good breeding season. Otter tracks may have included more than one individual heading for a fishing expedition, and we can only hope that the caracal was not the predator and the otter not the prey.

As the rocks gave way to stretches of beach, we found hundreds of sea urchins freshly washed ashore, not yet faded by the fierce summer sun and displaying myriad shades of green. Eager hands scooped them up and bags filled with these delicate treasures, to be displayed on a shelf somewhere as a reminder of carefree beach walks. It looked rather like a mass extinction, but hopefully only caused by the turmoil in the kelp forest offshore. I’m sure there are many more to replace those we collected.

A third wreck has made its appearance on the Shipwreck Trail and one can only hope that it will be removed soon. It lacks the charm and resilience of the old metal hulks rusting gently in the sands. It is a rubber duck and has no place as a relic in nature.

We took the track from the beach up onto the ridge, a favourite walk at any time of year, and even at the end of summer a place filled with beauty for those who care to look to left and right along this sometimes rocky path. A rest in the shade of an old protea tree is a wonderful place to observe and enjoy your surroundings and recharge the soul.

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