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Whale trail - October 2005

The Whale Trail [De Hoop Nature Reserve], Friday October 21 – Wednesday October 26, 2005

(More about the Whale Trail.) 


There were 11 of us –

Bev our leader [knowledgeable about almost any place in the Cape; great organiser]

Veni [infectiously effervescent]

Guilia [a runner; knows about things like anti-oxidants which can stop us from rusting]

Veronique [petite and Belgian, but not insulted to be mistaken as French]

Rogair [as pronounced by Veronique; debonair, able to light fires]

Wendy [great listener and communicator]

Michelle 1 [works for ‘my bank’ and an encouraging person – ‘everyone snores; don’t worry about it’]

Michelle 2 [articulate, president of the SA Johnny Depp fan club; not looking for new members]

Sandra [an extraordinarily cheerful person; an absolute asset to the party]

Denise [Michelle Pfeiffer look-alike, believes in the goodness of people; takes a frog to bed]

Geoff [Australian from Durban nog’al; believes in tea tree oil]


We started indifferently on the Friday, with the 1Time flights to Snoektown delayed by an hour or two. We collected vehicles where relevant and set off through the Cape countryside past Somerset West, Caledon and eventually to Potberg Environmental Education Centre in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, under the control of Cape Nature


In a pathetic attempt to defer walking, Michelle 2, Sandra and Denise had two flat tyres but the rest of us were having none of that. However, we discovered a small problem of double booking which prevented us from starting the first section of the walk on the Saturday. No problem, we said, and did a beach walk instead, at Koppie Alleen. This involved staying two nights at Potberg.


This gave us some chance to check out the food situation. Experienced walkers will know that there are really only two types of people – those who bring only Provita biscuits, peanut butter, marmite and tea and those who bring a crate which requires at least three front rowers to carry containing 137 varieties of foodstuffs, all of which [except the wine] is either fresh or sun-dried. Readers can guess which walkers fitted into which category but you may bear the two flat tyres in mind.


There were plenty of whales. The Southern Right Whale grows to an average length of 13.9 m and is interested in human-watching. They have grown tired of crowds over the years and therefore prefer this bit of coast where they can watch small numbers of humans in a more natural habitat. September-October is their preferred time for human-watching.


The walking was pretty easy, given that our packs and crates were transported to the relevant hut each day while we sauntered along with daypacks only. The huts are only a few years old and architect designed. Our schedule was as follows:


Saturday: beach and cliff walking; whales plentiful

Sunday: Potberg to Cupidoskraal – 15 km through fynbos-covered hills via the radio repeater at 611 metres

Monday: Cupidoskraal to Noetsie – 14.7 km down off the hills through coastal vegetation to a small wild bay

Tuesday: 7.8 km along the cliffs [with plenty of places for secret U boat bases] to Hamerkop

Wednesday: missed out on the last day because of missile testing [no kidding: the Reserve lies in the midst of the Overberg Missile Range which is owned by Denel [the government-owned arms producer which has just announced a R1600 million loss – and guess who pays for that?]. As a way of contributing to this loss, Denel allows foreign governments [in this case the Germans] to test their air to surface missiles in the area. When this happens, walkers are evacuated to Potberg so that they won’t be hit by some bit of a missile with a mind of its own and given a PR talk on missile efficiency and the like. While it was touching that our safety was of concern to Denel, the fact that these missiles they are helping to perfect are designed to kill large numbers of other people didn’t seem to register.

Wednesday midday: motored off in various directions.


This was a first class walk. Thank you Bev for all your organising efforts.


Geoff Harris