On Tuesday morning, the sun rose cheerily in the sky so we headed off to the sea. Picturesque Struisbaai harbour was our first stop as the guide book said to look out for stingrays.
Seagulls there were aplenty especially since the nearby restaurant was dumping fish offal into the sea. The gulls squawked and fought for their fair share of an easy meal.
Just when we were about to give up on the rays, a large shadow appeared in the water some distance off. As it loomed closer, there was no mistaking the shape of a stingray. A dog ran to the water’s edge barking loudly which confirmed that the shadow was indeed alive.
“Never expected it to be that huge,” said SB. “Must be a metre by a metre - excluding the tail bit.”
“At least,” I replied as I watched fascinated.
The ray drifted over to the quayside and snuffled around in the shallow, clear water right below us. Later it was joined by a second ray, gliding menacingly through the water. “Wouldn’t like to encounter one of those unexpectedly in a dark sea,” I exclaimed.
“Right, time for some exercise now,” said SB as we drove to the lighthouse in L’Agulhas. It’s apparently the second oldest one in the country, constructed from stone from the adjacent limestone quarry.
Seventy-one steep steps later we were standing, puffing, at the top. For those with a fear of heights, be warned, the last climb is up a narrow ladder and through a smallish round hole. The bird’s eye view from the top is worth the effort though.
Jokingly, I said to SB, “Shall I pop down the stairs and take a piccie of you from the bottom.”
“That would be great,” he replied. “Would be nice to have a pic to send to my daughter in the UK.”
So, off I went, scuttling down the stairs - backwards. Luckily, I was halfway up again when I met SB coming down so I didn’t have to climb the scary ladder at the top again.
About a kilometer from the lighthouse is the southernmost tip of the African continent. A plaque demarcating the spot can be reached along a boardwalk. I must say, it felt rather special standing right on the very edge of Africa. Not far from that spot is the official boundary between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans which is not at Cape Point as may people think. Apparently a cairn marks the exact location but we couldn’t locate it.
Interestingly, the name Agulhas comes from the Portuguese word for ‘needles’ because early sea-farers rounding Agulhas found that the compass needle pointed due north, without deviation, at that point.
Driving from L’Agulhas towards Suiderstrand we couldn’t miss the remains of the Meishu Maru jutting from the sea. This Japanese vessel foundered in stormy seas during November 1982 and is the latest casualty along this coastline. Only part of the vessel is visible and it would be interesting to know where the other bits lie.
We were cruising around the seaside settlement of Suiderstrand, ever on the lookout for potential retirement properties, when I suddenly yelled, “Stop! Go back.”
SB duly hit the brakes and exclaimed, “What for?”
“A snake,” I replied. “You just drove over it.”
“Don’t worry, you didn’t squash it. Luckily it was between our wheels.”
SB swung the car around and a gorgeous golden snake slithered across the road and up a pavement. Not wanting to miss the opportunity of a photograph, I hopped out and followed it until it disappeared into the bushes.
“Do you want to give me a premature heart attack?” cried SB. “And do you know how far away the nearest decent hospital is? And who’s to say they have the right snakebite serum! ”
I slinked back into the car with apologies but at least I got my shot and we could later identify the snake as a puff adder.
On the drive back though Struisbaai I was bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t seen any black oyster catchers when we came across some rock pools covered in birds. Not only were there various cormorants, terns, egrets and gulls but I finally found my oyster catchers, those courageous birds that brave crashing waves, timing their reactions down to the millisecond in pursuit of tasty oysters. Sadly, we didn’t see them in action that afternoon. They merely hopped lethargically from rock to rock.
Our last night at Rhenosterkop was marred by some unpleasantness.