The near death experience

Having moved to Plettenberg Bay, we had decided to spend one of our two days doing a full day hike at the Robberg Nature Reserve.

Weather wasn’t on our side. It was raining, gale force winds, we weren’t hopeful. But by midday the rain has stopped, and the sun was really making an effort, so we decided to brave the wind and head out for our hike – at the worst we’d cut it short.

We arrived at the nature reserve, signed in, and parked our car. Stepping out of the car, we were buffeted by the crisp wind – we’d have to really wrap up for this, so we donned our hoodies, coats, gloves, and set off on the trail.

We took heed of the big sign at the trail start, telling us under no circumstances to attempt to walk to the Point if we were setting off after 2pm. It was 2, so we noted our walk would be cut short – we didn’t want to tempt fate toying with this gale.

So we set off to walk the short 6km circuit, following the trail cut into the red rock of the cliffside, high above the sea where the waves were crashing into the shore.

The trail followed a winding path round the cliff, through tunnels carved in the rock, and before long, brought us out on a narrow little rock pass over the water, the rising tide lapping unnervingly close to the path. “Beware freak waves”, a sign warned.

We hurried on, thankful to successfully balance our way along the ridge above the water, and quickly making it to a big white sandy beach – sand flying in the wind, painfully whipping our faces.

This was where we needed to turn back on ourselves, finding the return path to the carpark. Following the map, we crossed the beach and identified a path snaking off to the other side of the mountain.

Off we set, scrambling over boulders, climbing higher onto the cliff, marvelling at the sea view below us and the beach view behind us.

Before long, the going was getting much tougher. Rope emerged on the cliffside, with which we were supposed to haul ourselves up sheer rock faces. Rock faces scaled, it was a steep path down to sea level – we nervously approached, the waves crashing much too close for comfort.

We double checked the map – we had been going for 5kms now, but there was no sign of the carpark, in fact, we were hundreds of metres below the cliff top where we started, scrabbling over rocks quickly being flooded by the rising tide.

But there were sign posts, clearly numbered. According to the numbers on the posts, and the numbers on the map, we were in the right place. We just needed to keep walking ahead, less than a km to go.

So, we ventured on, nervously walking along the wet rocks, the tide visibly rising. The waves angered by the galing winds, rising high and crashing frighteningly over the rocks only metres away from us.

Enough was enough, we took in the view ahead. There was clearly no path upwards, we were walking along the bottom of the cliff, and the tide was almost upon us. The 10 foot waves were crashing only metres away. But the map and markers said we were in the right place.

We took out our phones, waving them in the air, desperately trying to get a signal. Tom’s phone obliged, and showed us our GPS location.

We were at the Point. The very Point we had been warned to absolutely not attempt this late in the afternoon.  Sheer terror, as we realised the extent our precarious situation – we were on the rocks at the bottom of a cliff jutting 10kms out to see, in a gale, with the tide rising almost upon us.

With renewed strength we retraced our footsteps at an incredible pace, stumbling and falling, desperate to get to higher ground before the water caught us.

Having clambered up somewhat, we stopped next to a marker post and checked again – against the map, and with the GPS in front of us, the markers were simply wrong. We had been led in completely the wrong direction.

I felt helpless, as I considered our position. We were stuck out on the Point, the tide might already have separated us from the main land. Were we going to end up being those idiots, having to be emergency air rescued?

We had to get back, and we essentially fell-ran back to the point where we had turned off the beach, onto the wrong path.  Would the beach still be traversable? Could we get back to the main trail?

Luckily, yes. Running through the waves beginning to lap the beach – we had made it back in the nick of time. We ran back across the beach to the point where we had left the main track, and quickly set off on the route we had came.

Feeling a little better, we strode around a corner, and I bumped into Tom’s back as he stopped suddenly, with a shout. “What is it?” I panicked.  And there, running into the distance was a lynx.

Edging closer to where it had been stood, we found the cat footprints leading off into the bushes on the mountainside.

Slightly nervous at the big cat nearby, we rushed onwards – at least we hadn’t had to confront it. We were too exhausted to even consider what we would have done had it stood its ground.

Edging along the water-lapped ridge on the cliff again, and back up the trail, before long we were at the carpark again. I have never been so pleased to get in a car, and drive off to a hot bath.