I stared out deep in thought looking towards the cityscape before me while we motored along the coast on the boat from the Waterfront past Mouille Point, Sea Point, Bantry Bay… towards our final destination of Llandudno. Cape Town looked like a completely different city from this perspective and somehow even more beautiful. I was in awe that I was able to call this city my home.
Suddenly, we came across a pod of about 100 dolphins and Arend (our skipper) steered the boat towards them for a closer look. Then the dolphins were all around us. Popping up just in front of the bow, prancing and dancing in the boat’s wake and dazzling us with jumps on the side. Instant joy! Such magical creatures and surely a good omen for the swim.
But then as we made our way through the kelp at Oudekraal, we saw them, a swarm of white box jellyfish with long dangling tentacles waiting to ensnare me in their sting. I have been stung by jellyfish and blue bottles many times before and react badly. It has gotten so bad that other swimmers now call me the “jellyfish whisperer.” Each time the reaction gets worse and we had made an agreement that I would have to bail from my swim after a few stings. I had already been stung badly by a jellyfish on my lips two days before the swim. My lips were still painful and swollen and I was worried that they would burn in the water during my swim. I gulped my nervous energy down and began to shiver as we rounded the corner to Llandudno which was still in morning shade.
Ann, Felicity and I swam to the Llandudno beach, waved at the boat, and started the swim. We slowly made it out of Llandudno, around the coast and on our way to Oudekraal. Within the first 30 minutes I had already been stung twice by jellyfish and began to swim behind Ann to avoid being stung further. It was desperate times. But it was another 30 minutes until we stumbled across that swarm that we had spotted earlier from the boat. I slowed right down. I dipped, dived, dashed, twisted and literally jumped out of the water. It was like the Matrix in Slow Motion. Twice I saw two massive box jellyfish brush past within centremeters of my left arm but by some miracle I avoided their sting. And then the swarm of jellies dissipated. I had made it out with only those initial two stings down, and I could continue my swim. We waved goodbye to Felicity as she ended her swim at Oudekraal and continued on. As we past the Twelve Apostles Hostel, a freezing cold Ann got out and into the boat.
Then I was alone on the water with only the boat for company. The water was smooth and spread out flat like glass before me. I stretched out my stroke and I felt like I was flying on top of the surface. I smiled a secret smile to myself. This was my heaven on earth. The warm sun on my back. The views of the twelve apostles’ mountain range as I swam past. And I felt completely free and at peace with myself and the ocean. Just a small insignificant being in the midst of a vast and mighty ocean. Maybe how a bird feels when it is flying with only the bright blue sky for company. And before I knew it, my swim was almost finished, and I could not believe how much I had loved it.
But in the last kilometre I just got tired. Louisa got in the water to swim me slowly into Camps Bay, through the kelp and onto the beach. I always say that that’s actually where a long-distance endurance swim begins. Not before. Before it’s fun and you feel your fitness kicking in to easily cover the distance. The real swim begins in the last patch when you have to push your body further than it has gone before. It’s uncomfortable and the body resists being pushed becoming a battle between the tired body and the determined mind. So, I dug deep into my reserves, because I was absolutely resolved to finish this swim. I kept on swimming, stroke for stroke, slowly and painfully until my feet touched the sand of Camps Bay. No-one else was swimming in Camps Bay because the water was too cold. The tourists sat nonchalantly on the crowded beach under their umbrellas barely glancing as I hugged Louisa and we threw up our hands in victory waving to the boat.
The swim route is officially listed as 9km but my fancy GPS watch recorded it as 8.3km. I am still claiming the 9km. A big thank you to my skipper, Arend, and my swim supporters, Ann, Felicity and Louisa for helping me achieve my goal. There is nothing more powerful or more dangerous for a person than achieving a long-awaited goal (in my case about three years) because then all bets are off…