Looking south from the promontory above Black Rock Cave
by Nick Shepherd, 30 November 2014
“The first day of the hike takes us through the Cape Point Reserve, starting at the tip of Cape Point and exiting in the afternoon at the northern gate, where the rest camp is located. The Reserve has to be one of my favorite places on earth, and the hike allowed me to experience it in a new way.
When you visit a place by car you have “destinations”: this beach, that mountain, that view. The point of the hike is to cross territory, to thread together destinations. It feels calmer, more integral, somehow more honest. Right in the middle of the image we see the reconstructed Dias cross, used as a navigation beacon. It puts us in mind of the Portuguese mariner Bartolemeu Dias (c. 1451 – 29 May 1500) who rounded the Cape in 1488. This is part of the official history of South Africa that every school child has drummed into them. So this photograph turns out to stage colonial history for us.
We have Black Rock Cave in the foreground, site of hunter/ gatherer habitation, and then we have the sign of an assertive European presence in the mid-ground. So much for macro-history; I’ll tell you a story. Two weeks before the hike my friend Mary took me diving in the little bay that you see to the left of the frame. This is known as a spot where gully sharks gather, and where occasionally you will see eagle rays. You swim out into the bay. When you find a likely spot, you hang onto the kelp and watch the seabed below.
The sharks swim into your field of vision, sometimes two or three at a time. Gully sharks are small, maybe a meter-and-a-half in length. Still, there is something sinuous about their movement that freaks out a very ancient part of the human brain (it is the same sinuous motion that snakes have). You get over your fear, you hang in the clear water, the sharks do their thing beneath your feet. I think of the words “bottom feeder”. I think of the Neil Young song “Cortez”. Maybe Bartolemeu Dias moved with a sinuous motion? Or maybe, diving, I am in the position of the historian, observing life, overcoming my fear.”