Woody Cape

19 Feb

It all started three years ago when John and I were brand new. He was over here for the summer, me freezing in the UK, and flying long bits of the coastline while I followed his progress on Google Earth from Hobo. As he flew over this beautiful beach he spotted a giant staircase over the dune fields – which stretched for miles and miles – and surmised this was probably the only access point. This vision stuck with him and he has wanted to go there ever since.

Last summer (our winter 2010/11) we took a ride out there with John’s Dad to see what we could see land-side. It’s only a couple of hours, tops, from PE and throw in a lunch and you have a marvellous day out. Which we did. We drove through the Woody Cape National Park which is gorgeous green grassland and very much cow country.  You can see Bird Island on a clear day as you climb up through the hills. We saw a sign for the Ocean View camp site and made a mental note to give it a whirl at some point.

Which brings us to this year’s PE trip. We’d chilled around the house while the wind howled and rain did stair rods for a couple of days and then John spotted a weather window. One really good day coming up – Wednesday. On the spur of the moment we decided to drive out there on Tuesday, camp for the night and explore the next day.

It worked well. We arrived in time to find the place proper, for the wind to die, pay for the night and pitch the tent before dark. Just. A super place with only three spots, all sheltered and shady with braai area and facilities and a shower and loo just a short walk away through the trees. It was a great find and someone had put in a lot of hard work but had also had lots of fun creating it.

Braai area

View down to the sea

We woke to a perfect morning and before I was properly conscious, John had done the first recce and was back making my morning cuppa, excitedly showing me his fossil finds. He’s a bit of a closet archaeologist I reckon. The thought of  That Wonderful Beach spurred me on and we were soon descending the giant wooden steps over the dunes.

Top of the steps

Perfect and Pristine

What a fabulous sight. The beach was perfect and pristine, unmarred by detritus of any sort and totally deserted. As we left our footprints in the sand we were flanked by the warm Indian Ocean on one side and massive dune fields the other.

Footprints in the sand

You cannot see the end of it, let alone walk it all. We dipped our toes and splashed along the shoreline until we came to the site of what John thought was evidence of pre-historic life. There were indeed early stone tools, hand axes and hammer stones, loads of fossilised bones (we thought human) literally appearing out of the rocks as well as giant land snails and shell midden. It was everywhere you looked.

Giant Land Snail

Some of John's find

He collected up more specimens, intending to take them to the museum at PE, while I chose a few prime shells, which I thought would adorn Hobo’s bathroom quite nicely.  We spent a lovely time down there, taking advantage of the wonderful weather that we were so fortunate to have. It wasn’t blisteringly hot, thank goodness as no shade whatsoever and we’d have been in for a right sand-blasting if the wind was up to it’s usual tricks. But there wasn’t a puff.

Turns out the museum at PE is no more,  so John spoke with the ranger at the WC National Park re his finds. Much interest was shown and we were invited back to show and discuss, so trip 2 was planned for the following Monday; another reason for our elongated stay in the Eastern Cape.

Apparently they are aware of the existence of these relics – indeed the whole area is quite a hotspot – but this site was new to them and they wanted to be shown the exact location. After giving us a bit of a ticking off for removing anything in the first place and then a thank you for taking it back, off we all went in the back of their 4×4. All consisted of the ranger, his assistant, a worker to unlock gates and suchlike and a professional photographer and writer. Check out www.yearinthewild.com where you will see more info and pics (including one of us).

We drove through private bits of the park until we came to a steep sandy road which led us on to the dunes. The driver, who was very competent, gunned the Toyota but didn’t quite make it over the top. We all jumped out, he rolled back and, after getting stuck and being dug out, tried again without the load and  a good run up. This time he made it no bother. Everybody back on the bus for the ride of your life; through the dune fields then fast along the shore till we reached the right place, then into dune city once more. Exciting doesn’t cover it.

Digging out the 4x4

It was surprisingly hard to spot. The wind was blowing and the sands had shifted (and were still on the move) but we got there eventually after the one bum steer from me. John pointed out all his other finds, neatly laid out on the rocks, official pictures were taken and, after a good look round the area, it was pronounced indeed another new site of interest to be logged and properly looked into. Result. The ranger took us to another midden on the way back to his office and invited John for a further visit when he could be taken to other sites of interest. Quite a privilege as they don’t promote these areas for fear of folk removing the artefacts and, needless to say, John is very keen. A very interesting visit and the people were super. I wish there was time for me to go back there again – I could shuffle around that place till the cows come home.

It’s funny, on my last trip to SA we did very little coast but travelled huge swathes of the interior, which was mind-blowing. This time we have done beach upon beach and they have all been marvellous. You really can’t do it all, even in three months, and there’s still much I’ve not yet seen.

Next time eh…

3 Responses to “Woody Cape”

  1. José February 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    What a wonderful experience.

  2. José February 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    Me again. On the blog ‘yearinthewild’ which numbered national park/beach area is this?

    • Boatbird February 21, 2012 at 11:06 am #

      Yes, I twigged my omission – hence the e mail. For anyone else who is puzzled, it is Addo National Park and the post I refer to is “Airborne over Addo” though they all look interesting…

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