This will be a long read, but if you stay with me I will tell you a tale of great adventure and show you pictures of exquisite beauty.
We arrived in Plettenberg Bay late in the afternoon. The wind was howling and the rain hit the windows in waves, driven sideways by the wind. There was no sign of the famous white sand of Plettenberg Beach.
The history bit…
During the fifteenth century, Portugal embarked upon a conquest of the trade route to India, via the fabled passage around the southern tip of Africa. So, in 1488 Bartolomeus Diaz and his two ships came flying around the Cabo das Tormentas, aka the Cape of Storms, in another howling gale. By the time the storm cleared thirteen days after it started, the sailors realised that they were on the other side of Africa. They have found the passage and the trade route was open for business.
What does this have to do with Plettenberg Bay, you ask? Well, the Portuguese used this route for many years, stopping at a number of the bays around this coastline and leaving ample evidence of their visits. A group was even shipwrecked nearby in 1630 and they stayed around the bay, calling it Bahia Formosa, Beautiful Bay. However, they never colonised it. They left that to the Dutch who, a few decades later, settled in the Cape with the intention of providing fresh produce and water to their own ships making the passage to India.
In the 1700s, the then Dutch governor visited Bahia Formosa and found it to be a most pleasant place. He promptly renamed it. His name: Baron Joachim van Plettenberg.
In the 1800s a beacon was erected on a small island in the bay, which became known as Beacon Island and gave the hotel on the island its famous name. By the way, the man who built the first hotel there also had an interesting name, Hugh Grant…
We settled at our inn and the women immediately started doing what women always do, take care of the family. Yes, it was laundry day. But even laundry get done and we went off looking for something to eat and to scout the environment for things to do the next day.
Plettenberg bay has a most remarkable 5km long peninsula jutting out into the ocean. The Robberg National Park is situated on the rocky hills on this piece of land and that’s where we headed the next morning.
A trail winds around the rocky hill, giving walkers a jolly good workout. The water was brilliant turquoise and the early morning light reflected a thousand stars on the surface, which was now calm under a nice clear blue sky.
And we were off! On the way walkers can take side trails leading down to the water’s edge and beautiful sandy beaches. This is a national park, so no-one is allowed to camp there or use the beaches for any other purpose than walking and admiring.
We eventually found ourselves on a track leading around a rather steep rocky hill that demanded caution and paying attention to where to place the next step. That led us to another beautiful sandy beach. I fear the word beautiful is going to be worn out in this blog…
Once we had passed this rocky part of the trail, we arrived at the big challenge of the day. I will call it the dune of doom here. Going straight up and filled with loose sand, this dune nearly did me in. But being the oldest in the group and from a generation that doesn’t give up, I decided that I will show everyone that there is still life in me.
Halfway up the dune of doom I wondered by myself whose brilliant idea this was and why I got myself talked into conquering this massive pile of sand. Some way further up I started to hear voices in my head. By the time I reached the top of the dune, I had changed my blood type. This is also where we found out that we were walking the trail the wrong way around…
What a view once you get to the top though! It is worth every step, every moment you think your heart is going to stop with the effort. Because when you see the expanse of the ocean before you, your heart will leap within your chest and you know that you will come back here again. Here where sea meets land.