A ride on the wild side
“Look for them in the upsurge of the waves,” explains Deon “that’s how you spot them.” We all crane our necks and squint our eyes into the brilliant blue of sky and sea. After about five minutes someone gasps “There…there…” and points excitedly as a Dusky dolphin does a flip as if just for us. At least five or six dolphins are cavorting in the waves across the bay. We are mesmerized.
It’s early autumn and one of those perfectly temperate days in Paternoster. We are taking a Beach Buggy excursion with Deon van Schalkwyk, a local Paternosterian. Deon was born and bred on the West Coast and is also a THETA accredited tour guide. He also clearly remembers these dunes and beaches long before there were any holiday houses in the village, when he was a young boy crayfishing and camping on the beach.
Deon stops the Beach Buggy abruptly when he spots a tortoise peacefully going about his day, and waits for him to pass. We now know how to identify the sex of tortoises, since Deon explained this to us – along with an assortment of Strandveld plants growing in the sand dunes.
Back on the dirt road through the dunes that hug Langstrand (meaning long beach) to the east of the village, we crest the Groot Paternoster headland and the views across St Martins Bay are breathtaking. You definitely need a high-clearance four wheel-drive vehicle to traverse this terrain. A healthy respect for the many creatures and plants that survive in this harsh environment is also important.
We ramble along for 2 hours with Deon, enjoying the sea breeze and warm sunshine on our faces. All along the way we stop at lookouts and Deon points out landmarks and shares quirky anecdotes. We also spot the first ‘Maart blom’ flower (Brunsvigia bosmaniae) of the season in the middle of the barren beach road. Soon, in the spring flower Season of August and September, these same dunes and the fields will be ablaze with a profusion of colour – an ever changing canvas from one day to the next, as new blooms appear and others fade.
At Stompneus Bay we turn back towards Paternoster and Deon continues answering our questions as we admire the scenic vistas en route. The trip has been an experience of Paternoster from a different perspective; exploring a little beneath the surface with a knowledgeable and friendly guide. If you have a Paternoster Bucket List, pencil this Beach Buggy trip – you will be glad you did.
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