I paddled back out after the third wave I took as Marri called out from the white wash and pointed to the dolphin that dropped in on Anrigch’s wave. We were the only three at the secret spot that no one really surfs just outside Mossel Bay’s harbour.
Seal Island (also known as ‘Shark’s Kitchen) was further out than when we surf at Dias Beach. From Dias, you can actually see the seals, all 4,000 of them. It’s also the highest concentration of Great White Sharks in the world and where shark cage-diving tours occur.
“Have you done it yet?” guests would ask me.
“No,” I answer. “I have no need to see teeth that close and have that image in my head every time I go out for a surf.”
That and they bait the sharks, depriving them of the much needed energy the animal uses to actually hunt its prey.
I had reached the sleepy town of Mossel Bay, a former whaling town, almost a month ago, responding to an email from the Mossel Bay Backpackers and Garden Route Adventure Centre. I was accepted into their internship program and got a job in exchange for a bed and some food allowance (which really goes to beer).
My job description? Socialise and be merry with the guests. Tend the bar, sell activities like the world’s highest commercial bungee jump from a bridge (216 meters) at Bloukrans, sky dive from 10,000 feet with the Mossel Bay Sky Diving Centre, walk with lions at Botlierskop Game Lodge or ride the longest sand dune in South Africa (320 meters) known as the Dragon Dune.
I also play guitar around the fire I build in the evenings or play pool with the guests or show them around town, down to the point where the Khoi San Cave is located underneath the lighthouse. It was here that archaeologists reckon man first started fishing from the sea about 200,000 years ago.
If they really feel up to it, I can also escort guests on the 13km St Blaize trail along the cliffhugging coast, through the Pinnacle Golf Resort (where the sign reads, ‘watch out for flying golf balls’. I had to duck on my hike), passing the Pinnacle Caves on the way to Dana Bay (where I hitched a ride back to Mossel Bay with a lovely elderly woman).
Mossel Bay is the beginning of the famous Garden Route which ends (or begins, depending which side you start from) at Jeffery’s Bay (home to the longest right wave).
It reminds me of Lorne in Victoria, Australia, one of the few places I’ve really felt I can call home (almost sold my soul to the devil for a mortgage there).
The two major surf spots that provide consistent swell are called the Inner Pool (where I pulled a groin muscle my first week) and the Outer Pool (where you really gotta know what you’re doing to not land on the rocks). Both spots are rock and reef but pump out some barrels heading right. Both spots are a short walk from the Mossel Bay Backpackers (a family establishment that’s been around for 21 years).
For beginners, there’s Dias Beach, named after Bartholomew Dias, the Portuguese explorer who landed here some five hundred years ago in 1488 (he drowned in a huge storm shortly after the discovery).
Mossel Bay became a thriving whaling town where whales would be hunted right in the bay. South Africa was the first country to pass a law that protected whales somewhere back in 1935 as the killing spree of the marine mammals was in the tens of thousands over a decade. By the 60s whale hunting was banned and the town’s whaling factories were shut down. Now it’s a thriving resort town in summer and a quiet ghost town in winter.
The three main places to go out are Café Havanna [that do an awesome Mexican lunch for R45 ($4.50 AUD)], Patricks and The Windmill (in that order). My first weekend in Mossel Bay is a blur thanks to a local product called Stroh Rum which is 80% proof (I believe it is used to kill the Anthrax virus and initiate new-comers). It only takes one shot to wipe out your memory (which is why this is all I have on that night).
The Dias Museum complex will give you the full history of the town. It also contains the aquatic and shell exhibitions and a life-size replica of Bartholomew’s boat (and a smaller model made entirely of icing sugar. Don’t ask).
Without sounding bias, Mossel Bay Backpackers is the place to stay while in Mossel Bay. The family vibe, chilled atmosphere, the pool, the huge kitchen, Miloo the Border Collie pup, Roxy the 15-year-old Golden Retriever, the drunk Jenga games, the drunk pool games (as in billiards).
The coast line is breath taking, full of Dassies (a rock beaver-type mammal that lives in colonies) on the rocky coast line, the huge waves that break on the huge rocks and the people, well they’re just fucking awesome.
Mossel Bay claims to have the most moderate climate in the world, second only to Hawaii. Sure the days are warm but with winter coming along, the temperature drops as soon as the pink sunset disappears behind the Outeniqua mountain range.
But with consistent surf and awesome vibe, what’s a little ball-freezing temperature?