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Mossel Bay
26th Sep 2023
Community & LivingExercises and physical activitiesGeneral knowledgeHikingNature & NurtureTourism & Travel

THE PATH TO THE BEACH                    

I wake up and listen. It is too quiet to be normal. I hardly hear the sea. There is a muffled sound, as if it has taken its waves underground and only a few low rumblings escape to test my straining ears. This is usually the case on bergwind nights and days when the off-shore breeze, coming over the Outeniqua Pass, scurries down and crosses the coastal plain, where the city of George sprawls across the once afforested hills.

 Sparkie, my dog, and I set off on our morning walk. At the steep corner of the road there’s a bench and the first view, for the visitor, of the beach. Herolds Bay houses cluster shoulder to shoulder along the fringes of the beach. The tide is out and the wide, yellow stretch of sand breaks my nostalgic heart. It is where we played as children, on winter school holiday mornings … and a generation later I played with my two long-limbed girls with blue eyes and Irish spirits like their father. I feast on these memories, as I automatically descend into the “Kort Paadjie”, a path through the bushy kloof.

“I’ve heard – it’s just a rumour – that this route will be shut off”, I think aloud to Sparkie, “such a shame after being a public path for so many years.” I’m convinced this was the path used by pre-historic people who lived in the caves, down at the beach. Then thousands of years later the Khoi-San and the Khoi-Khoi nomad tribes, who wandered down from their nearby kraals, came along this path, small folk, to check their fish-traps at full moon and to gather mussels and oysters. Family groups, strandlopers, they came and camped under the milkwoods. Women nursed babies from wrinkled dark breasts or gathered dry twigs for a fire and swept up the remains of fish bones and shells into piles of rubbish heaps which, years later, archaeologists  called “middens” which leaked secrets of human endeavor and survival.

My path leads ever downward, a green dark tunnel ending with a bright framed circle of light. Many of our Herolds Bay paths have disappeared, like friends gone ahead on a virtual path leading beyond the horizon – lost forever. This original path will soon be closed off to the public. Folk around here call “closing off property” progress. Progress, I have learnt, cannot be stopped like a child you hold back, in case he falls. Progress runs on like a rock rolling down the hill, gathering other rocks along its route. But progress also means, to advance, to proceed, to never stop, to never stand still and smell the roses, and in Herolds Bay’s case – smell the ocean.

The beach beckons but I want to turn back into the Milkwood forest, away from the concrete steep steps leading down between beach-houses. Then as we pass the forlorn ice-cream and pizza caravans, Sparkie gives a joyous bark and scrambles down the last flight of steps onto the golden sand. I follow, my lips shaping slowly into a secret smile. We have reached the prize at the end of the path – the cool, clear water of the Indian Ocean. A wave of its energy breaks over me, spilling into the corners of my soul. It makes me whole again and I’m grateful for each day that I still have a path to the beach.

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