Sunday, December 5, 2010

Surviving the Cape Flats

We woke up on Sunday morning to much better weather than the first weekend of the beach challenge.  There was also the added excitement of risking one’s life when taking on the beaches of the Cape Flats Coast. It took being flipped the bird and being given a “Jou ma se ….” from an irate driver while making our way down the M5 and past Grassy Park for us to feel like we were in a Challenge…we were beginning to think that the knives we had packed in our beach bags were going to come in handy!
We drove along Baden Powell Drive, full of anticipation and a little anxiety, towards our first stop, Macassar Beach.  The security guard didn’t take too kindly to us asking him to pose for a photo with us…he was only interested in whether or not we had any alcohol in our car.  After a thorough search of the boot, he discovered that we didn’t and so we were let through.
Macassar Beach was deserted but for a lonely lifeguard, sitting outside his weather-beaten hut, reading a book. It turns out that it was a text book and he was actually studying for his exams. We interrupted him to pose for a  few Baywatch photos. The water wasn’t too bad, but to say that the facilities were rundown would be an understatement – we weren’t going to make use of the clubhouse at Macassar Beach!
The second beach was Monwabisi, a coastal resort that caters mainly for the residents of nearby Khayelitsha.  On the way to Monwabisi, we decided to capture the moment as the five of us stood at the entrance to that is living on the edge! We felt a little uncomfortable when driving into the area as it was packed with people, many who looked like rather unsavoury characters. But after driving past 3 police cars, we felt a little better. We drove to the bottom end and after seeing families walking on the beach in their Sunday best, a handful of lifeguards and plenty of beach cleaners hauling black bags along the sand, we were feeling even more at ease about swimming at the second beach of the day. We had a few photos with the lifeguards (who didn’t look much older than 15), and then we made our way into the sea amongst all the locals from Khayelitsha. We frolicked and splashed in the beautiful turquoise water while everyone else on the beach stopped what they were doing and stared…probably wondering what had possessed these crazy whities to venture onto their beach. But they all seemed friendly enough, and after joining the beach cleaners to pick up 101 pieces of litter, we were on our way.
The next beach was one that wasn’t actually on our list. We were merely driving through the Wolfgat Nature Reserve area, saw a parking lot and a beach and decided to check it out. We drove up to the signboard to see where we were. It said: “Welcome to Beach”. If it told us we were at a beach, even if it was just ‘Beach’, we had to swim. So we were out the car and in the water which was also a beautiful colour and rather warm. There was quite a strong current and so it was a quick in and out. We picked up our litter count on the way back to the car, took a couple of photos and then we were off. We discovered later that the beach, though unnamed, was in fact on our another one down!
Our fourth destination was the beautiful Mnandi beach. Mnandi was reserved for blacks during the apartheid era. Its name can be translated as “lovely, just right”. The resort was granted Blue Flag pilot status for the 2003 summer season, and awarded full status a year later. It has maintained Blue Flag status ever since. We were impressed to see yet more lifeguards, dressed in their Baywatch reds, and there was even a jet ski at the ready in case of an emergency. The sea was warmer than "Beach" so we had a lovely dip in the waves before heading to the Mnandi Beach Kiosk for a snack and a drink. We had worked up quite an appetite with all the swimming and beach cleaning!
The fifth and final beach was Strandfontein. It is a large day resort with an enormous tidal pool backed by a pavilion and flanked with sandy beaches. Matt was the first to strip down to his boardies and rush into the ocean, only to alarm the lifeguard who blew who her whistle rather desperately and raced down to the water’s edge, yellow safety buoy in hand. The lifeguard, all 5ft of her, insisted that we swim in the tidal pool as the sea was too dangerous. She told us that it was low tide and very rocky and impossible to swim deep enough to get our entire body wet under the waves. She was obviously unaware of the nature of the beach challenge and the stringent rules that had to be followed in order to qualify for a legitimate beach swim. Matt and Andrew quickly gave her the low-down and we were given a one minute window in which to submerge ourselves in the shallow waters. It was all we needed. We raced into the water and then continued with litter duty.

Five beaches was enough for the day...8 down, 93 to go.  Check out our photos by clicking on the 'photos' tab.