|Raquel and Jaclyn--ranger extraordinare!|
I spent most of last week going out with the Ranger Patrol of Table Mountain National Park. I like to go out with the rangers because I get to do a bit of everything: hiking in the mountains, riding around in the ranger’s truck and seeing much more of the park, and patrolling the beach! Did I mention that I go along when they patrol the BEACH?
When I’ve worked for parks before, I’ve mostly worked with the visitors to provide information about park, staff the Visitor’s Center, or lead hikes. I’ve never actually seen the “law enforcement” side of park ranging.
But I’m seeing it now!
The rangers often patrol the beach to check permits for people fishing. Rock lobster is a favorite, and I was confused when the rangers referred to the lobsters as “crayfish” here. (Crayfish means something very different in KY!) Capetownians can purchase a rock lobster permit and take four lobsters per day. The rangers go about the various beaches and monitor fishermen’s permits and checking the size of their catch. I feel nervous being with the while they check permits, because the atmosphere is always tense. It feels like “good guys” versus “bad guys” to me, and, well, I dislike confrontations of any kind, so I’m feeling grateful that I don’t have a job in law enforcement. These guys have perks though: it sure is nice to be hiking in the mountains or walking along the beach.
It’s nice to walk along the beach until the rangers have to run as fast as they can across the beach to catch the “bad guys” poaching! This is exactly what we (Raquel and I) observed one day. We were along for the patrol when our ranger crew spotted to men carrying very large green plastic garbage bags thrown over their shoulder and full of something big and bulky. One ranger noted as she watched them through her binoculars: There are two men acting suspiciously on the beach. Sure enough, as the rangers headed toward them, the poachers took off running to disappear into the dunes. Since Table Mountain is a national park, there are strict rules about what can and what cannot leave the park. Poachers come in to harvest anything they can, but abalone is a valuable commodity and poachers can make good money harvesting it and selling it. This time, the thieves had come for sour figs---and had two large garbage bags full! (Sour fig is the fruit of the ice plant and their used for making jam and the thieves can sell them in the market.) Unfortunately, the thieves got away but not after a valiant chase that made me feel I had a front seat to “The Mod Squad.”
Our patrol that covers Noordhoek Beach, one of the more popular beaches on the Atlantic side (the cold side) of the peninsula. Other than the crook chase, we watched riders of horses splashing in the surf, gazed upon the remains of a shipwreck, appreciated lovely dunes, and admired lovely, cloud-capped mountains. Unfortunately, we also spotted several dead young seals that had been shot and their dead bodies had washed to shore. We’re told that the young seals make their ways into a fisherman’s net and the angry fishermen shoot the seals, seals they believe are stealing their catch. It was sad to see them.
We also get to walk the foothills in the mountains with the rangers. While I like walking with the rangers, I would like it more if I could take my time and study and take pictures of the plants. Alas, they are working and I’m only a tourist so I have to practically jog to keep up with them and feel very sad watching the lovely plants glide by as I pass quickly by. Oh well; these guys are working after all and I DO get to come along for the ride!
It is fun to go on ranger patrol and I get to see things in the park that I wouldn’t otherwise see. Here’s hoping I don’t witness a shark attack—before, during, or after!
|beautiful dunes on Noordhoek Beach|