Cape Point, as many of you already know, is right on my doorstep. It’s situated at the very end of the Cape Peninsula, which pokes out into the Atlantic like a crone’s arthritic forefinger and boasts a wild and rugged coastline prone to raging storms, spectacular scenery and equally spectacular hikes. And a troop of Chacma baboons.
I don’t get out to Cape Point anywhere near as often as I should, so when the opportunity to hike with a local group came up in mid April, I set my alarm to go off before sunrise and packed a backpack. And that’s where the trouble started.
We had stopped for lunch after a fairly strenuous decent from the car park to Platboom beach and I was sitting on a rock surrounded by waves contemplating life as one does, when I was distracted by shouting. The wind was whipping around me so I didn’t pay much attention, but the shouting persisted. I turned towards the source of the noise just in time to see a young woman on the beach below waving her arms and a lone baboon heading straight for me. Rheumatoid arthritis aside, I was on my feet in a seconds.
What happened next was surreal. The baboon weighed me up momentarily, then grabbed my backpack as if it was his. I could tell by his size that he wasn’t an Alpha male, so I grabbed it back. A tug of war ensued before I lost my nerve and rationalised: although he was a young adult, he was a wild animal after all and he was after food, so I reluctantly let go. As calm and brazen as a thief in daylight, he ran across the rocks a few feet away, unzipped the main flap, rummaged around for food (I’d eaten it all) then tossed the bag aside as two men in our group chased him off.
Bizarrely to some I suppose, my first instinct was to photograph him rather than fight for what was mine but I had the wrong lens on the camera. Instead I yelled at him, trying to shoo him away with items of clothing. The baboon didn’t bat an eyelid, he just surveyed me as if I was quite mad and then ambled off up the dunes.
Out of my line of vision another woman was sitting on her own on a rock meditating, her backpack strapped to her back. She was disturbed by the zip on her backpack opening and in a flash the baboon rifled through the contents and made off with the rest of her lunch. He was out of range by the time I gathered my wits, backpack and scattered belongings and ran after him to photograph him. Interactions like these are why I love living where I do and it’s vital to mention that at no time did I fear for my life. Not even when the rest of the troop arrived (see below) and we watched their antics from mere metres away. Perhaps that’s because I have been up close and personal with the Da Gama Park troop near the Naval Stables in Glencairn before, an encounter that led me to write about the battle for land between these wild creatures and man.
When you visit Cape Point spend quality time there instead of racing to the restaurant and the signboards for the “we were here” photos as most tourists do. There is so much more to this amazing landmark than you’ll get from a quick look at the brochure.