A long drive and a short walk

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Copy of cz Seaguls in Bay w tim INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Space and solitude: Gulls rest on rocks out in False Bay. Picture: tim rolston

It seems that the lumbar region of my spine isn’t as enthusiastic as the rest of me when it comes to adventurous rambles up steep inclines, so I was seeking out something a little more sedate but at the same time scenic.

Years ago I entertained an American client who dedicated part of his holidays to photographing lighthouses. He was a retired photographer and lighthouses were something of a passion. At the time it struck me as rather odd, on the same page as train and pylon spotters.

However, some time later it dawned on me that lighthouses tend to be put in rather rugged, scenic spots. Windswept headlands with sharp rocks sticking out into the ocean are the realm of the lighthouse, and with that in mind I decided on the long drive and short walk around Cape Hangklip.

In case you don’t know, Hangklip is that massive lump of rock apparently leaning over at an impossible angle on the far northern end of False Bay. My timing was perfect – after days of near unbearable heat the day dawned cloudy with a hint of rain. When I awoke there was that emotive scent of light drizzle on hot tar, an olfactory reminder of childhood thunderstorms. The day was grey but warm – perfect.

I took Baden-Powell Drive along the coast, spotting a lot of anglers along the beach – I suspect the elf were running. The trek netters were also launching a bright blue boat into the small surf, a colourful scene of antiquated labour.

The really enjoyable part of the drive starts past Gordon’s Bay where you’re warned of dangerous rock falls and that you use the road at your own risk.

Hang on, isn’t that why Chapman’s Peak Drive was converted to a toll road? It’s a little odd as this coastal highway, Clarence Drive, is at least as scenic as Chapman’s Peak Drive, a good deal longer, suffers rock falls and has tar as smooth as the average billiard table. I took an inordinate amount of pleasure in driving over it for free.

It is tricky to keep an eye on the curves and snatch the odd glance across False Bay. I saw the occasional seal frolicking in the smooth waters, and a glance back revealed the high-rise blocks of Strand apparently floating miraculously on the ripples. It was in this exact spot some time back that I watched the team from the Two Oceans Aquarium release a pair of ragged-tooth sharks and my mind was filled with memories of that wonderful occasion.

Past Kogel Bay and up to Rooi Els the coast was a picture; a light breeze just grazed the surface of the water and in the more exposed spots ocean swells reared up and pounded the rocks and sandbars. I passed the start of the Crystal Pools hike, a wonderful and easy day trip to swimming spots on the Steenbras River, and wound my way around the bends to Pringle Bay.

This is a quaint village – or would be but for the hotchpotch of architectural styles, everything from Nordic A-frames to Hobbit-like rabbit warrens. But you can’t knock the views: lovely sandy beaches towered over by massive rock faces plunging into the sea; simply gorgeous scenery with bright blue water and lush vegetation stretching all along the coastal dunes. I walked along a sandy track past the Hangklip light, an unmanned beacon punching out a beam 25 nautical miles into the night skies.

On the beach were red-billed oystercatchers and small mullet flashed in the surf zone seeking tidbits stirred up by the wave action. How lovely just to feel the sand underfoot and the warm lapping of the waves over my toes. The entire coastline here provides a sense of space and solitude – just the thing if you have been spending too much time in crowded urban environments and want to get away from it all.

The coastal drive and the short walk were all a pleasure and, if like me you are mildly incapacitated or perhaps just not feeling that energetic, it makes a great escape for the day. - Sunday Argus

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