The lurking Raggie
Sunday, 14 September 2008
It’s been 3 incredible days of running on our beach freeway; the massive storm waters have cleared the beach of all the parallel dunes. The local fishermen have told us a week ago we would not have been able to run the beach as it was one massive soft dune field. Our euphoria has been intermittently jarred with little injections of adrenaline, river crossings.
Our first encounter was the mighty Fish River, flowing strongly and with the added strength of the tidal surge. Arriving on the bank we stripped down, wrapping all our gear into a black bag and gingerly entered the river. As we waded into the water, the current began to swirl around my feet, I could feel the sand disappearing under me as the water dug it away, the deeper we got the lighter the pressure was on our feet. I felt that at any second my feet would loose their hold and I was going to be swept out to sea. But that was the least of our worries, every local fisherman had warned us about the river mouths and the sharks, especially the Ragged tooth, who lie in the deep river channels, opportunist hunters, waiting for something to float past with the current, and on top of this, they are the fastest known side striking fish.
The odds against us making it across we adding up,we had a quick midstream discussion as well as a look at the distance to the far bank, then the thought of what might lie lurking deep in the channel seemed to sway the decision , without saying anything we both turned and headed back the way we came, picking up speed as we seemed to sprint to the finish with the odd glance over my shoulder, imagining this massive fin chasing us. On reaching the bank again, out of breath and pretending it was a little fun jog, we opted for the 4km run to the bridge and over the Mighty Fish River.
It was not long down the beach, and the next river appeared, now with running along the Ciskei coast, rivers were a plenty. Again we waded into the river, dark,deep water lay ahead, again the jaws theme song seemed to play in the back of my head. Just as we were about to opt for the long run to the bridge, up the river came a speed boat loaded with fishermen, kindly offering to escorted us across the river I think these guys could see the relief on our faces.
On we ran, 10 km later we bumped into someone really interesting, a daggered tooth shark researcher who caught and tagged sharks in the rivers, just what we needed. Spending a while with him, we gathered all the info we could with regards to the eating habits of our new found friends, as well as to be proudly informed that the biggest one that he had tagged was a few hundred Kg – Great! On we ran, our minds playing havoc with us, digesting all this, let’s say very comforting information.
Round the headland lay our next river. Sitting on the bank, stripping we had mountains of information to plan this crossing, remote, deep and fast flowing. Summing up or newly acquired info, the answer was quite simple, swim like mad and keep your feet off the bottom. Off we set, doing the cool casual wade in, but it wasn’t long, our legs without any encouragement ended firmly pulled up around our necks our arms flapping at the water, like 2 Cormorants trying to take off with wet wings. In seconds we shot the river mouth, bouncing as we beached hitting the opposite bank, but believe it or not in my haste I left my camera on the other side. Back I went with a plastic bag, the pace some what quicker on the second run, shooting up the bank I lay there re gaining my breath trying to delete the thoughts that I had conjured up as I crossed. Looking back at Braam shouting and laughing about how big he thought the sharks might be in this estuary, but wait buddy your river will come.
Camera tightly packed, I was now ready for the final crossing, in my mind the odds were seriously against me, the 3rd crossing. Standing on the bank, my heart pounding as if I were about to launch into the pool for the 100m Olympic final. I lunged forward, before hitting the water I had already done my first 2 strokes, then I hit it with my chest and lurched forward as my windmill arm motion dug in and basically bounced across, reaching the other bank I scrambled out and lay there, quickly checking if I had managed the feat to keep all my limbs in tact. I then looked down to see if there were any crimson red telltale signs in the water, with a feeling of relief I just lay there and quietly laughed at how ones mind can play games with you.