Point Taken – a Kayaker’s Perspective
Yachties do it, skiboats do it. Even dedicated surfskiers do it. We had to do it – kayak all the way around Cape Point from Simon’s Town to Kommetjie. Interest was high, and the availability of two cottages in the Cape of Good Hope Reserve for an overnight stop determined the dates. The rest was up to the weather, which as it turned out, was magnificent.
13 Kayakers launched from Seaforth Beach on the 13 February for the first leg to Buffelsbay. We were on the water before the wind woke up. The remnants of a passing cold front screened the rising sun so that False Bay was washed in a pearly glow. The sea was unusually calm, allowing us to keep close to the coast and to thread our way between the boulders of both Millers and Partridge Point, saluted, or so it seemed by waving kelp fronds. So far so good, the first 19km section was a gentle warm up with a short stop at Smitswinkelbay and then on to an early lunch at Buffelsbay.
After lunch the group split and the kayakers who had come for the first leg returned to Simon’s Town by car while the rest of the group kayaked to the Point. We followed the base of towering cliffs, a group of red, white and yellow paddlers in a landscape that dwarfs human achievement. It soon became evident that the conditions on the Atlantic were much more energetic than in False Bay. From a distance we could see foam and huge swells breaking at the Point. Here the vast expanse of the African continent tapers to a knife edge – awesome! At the point where it enters the sea stands a tower of rock, a column with an animal head on top, sometimes lion, sometimes sheep. Does the head mirror the mood of the viewer or the state of the sea? On that afternoon the head catching the light was that of a lion. And the sea below was roaring. But so were the 5 of us who rounded Cape Point to complete the second leg to Oliphantsbos. Our escort turned back toward Buffelsbay shouting “Don’t take any chances” into the rising wind.
On the Atlantic side, we were forced to keep well out to sea to avoid huge swells which suddenly toppled and foamed over hidden reefs. Albatross Rock about a kilometer from Oliphantsbos gave us a blast of pure adrenalin. We had been riding the swells complacently, or maybe after 43km of paddling we were tired. A particularly big set almost caught us off guard. The top of the first swell collapsed in threatening white water and sucked a huge hole in the sea exposing reef directly in our path. Basil and Silke were already committed and scooted over the breaking wave with the alacrity of road-runner-at-sea. After that experience, Mark headed for the horizon and had to be summonsed back with loud whistle blasts. Good to know that the whistle on my lifejacket is not a toy!!
Still pumped full of fright, maybe I should speak for myself, it was time to negotiate the approach to Oliphantsbos. The swells obscured sight of our landing and it looked as if waves were breaking across the bay. We had done two reccies previously and had a GPS course and landmarks of the safe route to shore. Now it was just a matter of trusting these systems. Margaret and Derek of Paddlers were on the beach waiting for us. Their phone call “Keep to the channel guys, its open” was hugely reassuring. Bracketed by breaking waves, but safe in the channel we got in without any drama. (PS Don’t try this unless the conditions are very calm, you know the route or alternatively don’t mind being turned into seafood soup.)
Was it the champagne, the camaraderie or the relief of having made it, but that evening around the campfire was great? And knowing that the swell was dropping and that kayaking into `The Komm’ was easy made for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Sunday 14th dawned sunny and windless – a gift from St Valentine. Liz sent us off with a skottel breakfast fit for champions and Viv joined us to show us the route into `The Komm’. Paddling out of Oliphantsbos was a cinch, the swell had dropped dramatically and a flock of Malgas kept us company at sea. A gentle south wind nudged us toward Kommetjie and before long we were passing the assortment of craft that venture out to catch crayfish in season. Chris phoned a friend as we approached Slangkop Lighthouse who advised us to come in through The Komm rather than the slipway route. The tide was very low and a skiboat had just flipped in the channel to the slipway. We were met on the shore by the friends and family whose logistic support had made our trip possible.
60km later around the Fairest Cape in all the world and a wonderful experience of kayaking, adventure and companionship.
That’s the Point.