I have never considered myself an endurance athlete. Endurance sport was never my kind of thing, having focussed on things like javelin and discus during my school days which only required a short burst of effort followed by standing in a queue. I would look in amusement at those kids running around the track 7,000 times while I was slurping down a Coke on some bench under a tree. Earlier this year, I partook in the Cape Town version of the Impi Challenge which consists of a 12km run with 18 obstacles in between, ranging from crawling under barbed wire to wading through mud and rivers which was my introduction to endurance sport. Little did I know that another endurance sport lurked in our midst, and what better way to experience it than in a Sunday morning Surprise Triathlon!
I should start by saying that I never take my snorkel with me. On any dive. It’s one of those pieces of kit that I bought for my Open Water and never used since. When it was mentioned that Sunday’s dive would be an “advanced” one, I didn’t think much of it since I knew that the entry at Justin’s was a bit challenging and not everyone was comfortable with lobbing many kilos of kit up and down the treacherous path. Alas, that was but the first leg of the event…
We assembled at the side of the road opposite the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa around noon, and seeing as surface conditions were quickly deteriorating, we decided to rather head towards the Sandy Cove side since the surge would have made Justin’s Caves a little unpleasant. Being around noon, the sun was at it’s highest and brightest with surface temps scratching at the 30’s, so after kitting up we hastily made our way to the water to alleviate the quickly building temperatures in our wetsuits. The water’s cool embrace was super comfortable, and where I usually despise the trickle running down my back, it was most welcome at this point. We quickly made our way out of the breakers and into the open, at which point it dawned on me that we would be doing a surface swim all the way to the coast of Mexico… without a snorkel. About 30 minutes later, having exhausted any and all possible swim styles to the point of cramping, I found myself floating on my back and trying to alternate my fins poking from underneath the surface to serve as a sail of sorts, lips chapped, dehydrated, calling to Richard Parker with no luck, and incessantly singing “row row row your boat, gently down the stream…” . I looked up and we were almost halfway. At some point I think I wrote a SOS letter on some passing kelp hoping that someone would come to my rescue.
Three days later, we arrived at Geldkis and finally descended for the first time. There was only a slight surge, but not enough to stir up any sand and we were greeted by 14 degree water (What? In the Atlantic? Yes!) , 5-7 m viz and schools of Hottentot. The immense rounded boulders formed countless swim-through’s and were covered by a fringe of marine life the likes of which I did not expect in water that was usually fairly cold and miserable half of the year. Down there, it felt like we were back in False bay, probably best described as “Fat Atlantis”; the pinnacles replaced by boulders also going all the way to the surface and out with equal amounts of fans, sponges, etc. These rocks are also inhabited by seals who took some time to say hello every now and then, and we were graced by the song of a Southern Right whale passing through. The boulders creaked eerily in the ebb and flow of the slow surge, and we did an incredible swim through a little cave structure formed at the base of the main boulder. Somewhere among these rocks also lay the West Coast Rock Lobster factory, as there was at least one lobster per square meter of the surface of those rocks…
All too soon we made our way around the rocks and slowly started heading back along the sandy shore… Our peaceful swim was however short lived as myself and David lost our mutual dive buddy and after a brief search we surfaced as per the standard lost buddy procedure. It turned out that he had run out of air… which meant, you guessed it, a 320 m surface swim all the way back to the shore!
Good thing I’m on standby this week since I’ll most likely be wheelchair bound for the next few days 😀 As a boat dive however, this site would be the ultimate alternative to Justin’s Caves. Big thanks to David for showing me some new sites. Had it not been for him, this all would have gone down at Long Beach!