18 May 2010

Yzerfontein: 16 Mile Beach

Date: 17 May 2010

Location: Yzerfontein

Walkers: Michele and Helen

*** Route plotted here ***

Yzerfontein is a seaside town on the West Coast just over an hour's drive from Cape Town.

After a delicious light lunch in one of the local restaurants we set off on our walk up 16 Mile Beach. The stretch of sand extends unbroken all the way into the West Coast National Park north of the town and is apparently 19 miles long. Not that we had any intention of walking quite that far!

This beach has blue flag status; however, it was in a less than pristine condition when we visited. The sea was brown and the waves were bringing in a foam that covered the sand. I remember seeing something similar, although not nearly as bad, at Muizenberg a few years ago. If memory serves: although it looks like pollution, it is actually not... instead it's a natural occurrence, caused by an algae or something.

The foam was fascinating: really light and fluffy as it came in on the waves and then collapsing and getting tacky and darker in colour over time. And it covered everything, even the poor crabs.

There were a few spots where the foam wasn't so bad, and here we got a sense of how lovely the beach must be in normal circumstances. It is wide and flat, very nice for walking. The first landmark is a small rocky outcrop, from which one gets a lovely view back to the town.

Out to sea we could see a small rocky island. To our left was low dune.

As we walked further we were astonished at the state of the beach. Not only was it covered in the strange foam, it was also strewn with a vast amount of kelp. We presume recent storms had washed it all up.

And not only kelp... lots and lots of flotsam and jetsam. Mostly jetsam... litter of all kinds and types.

There were hundreds (literally, hundreds!) of plastic bottles. Mostly water and soft drink bottles. And their lids.

And also plastic containers of all shapes and sizes. So much damn plastic!

There was also a lot of rope, netting and other fishing paraphernalia. I know this stuff is a disaster for fish and sea birds, but I do find something about the faded colours appealing. I also like the weathered wooden planks and boards, which were strewn far and wide.

There were also a surprising number of stray shoes. And also this single fin. Bit worrying... one can only wonder what happened to the person who was wearing it!

We saw three dead sea baby seals in various stages of decay.

Sections of the beach were also strewn with bluebottles.

A little way up the beach we passed the Strandkombuis. They were preparing for a wedding which was in full progress when we passed this spot on the way back.

We stopped to look at a rusty old buoy that has washed up. What a relic!

Beyond the buoy we saw no one else on the beach.

Every so often we climbed the sand dune to have a look at the other side.... lots more dune-scape and coastal bush.

I liked the colours and textures of the coastal flora.

There were gangs of gulls and oystercatchers on the shore.

As we walked on the beach got narrower.

The foam here was even soupier. The tide was coming in too, so we walked along the top of the dune for a bit to get away from it.

On the way back we gave up trying to avoid the foam and just waded through it. Our shoes were caked in the stuff and the sand was sticking to it making our feet feel strangely heavy.

I made a point of looking up on the walk back, enjoying the winter skies.

(Photos by Helen)

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