This is a civil society initiative.
This year the Paddle took place on 15 September (World Plastic Cleanup Day) instead of June (World Environment Day) because of the drought the Western Cape has experienced. There was very little rain before in May and the water levels and the pollution in the canals and water ways would not have been safe for the participants.
So the 65 plus Paddlers assembled as usual at the Zandvlei estuary mouth at False Bay started off at about 07h30 under a dark clouded sky with a slight drizzle which had just started from the SE. The first time in 9 years we started when it was light, sun rise was at 07h45 as the group and their seconders started off in the direction of Milnerton lagoon where we planned to finish at about 16h00.
First stop is at the Sand River canal in the Marina da Game at Mullet Close where coffee teas and muffins are served by the Zandvlei Trust Exco members and helpers. It is the opportunity for Kevin Winter to welcome all and explain the agenda for the day also to thank all for their voluntary participation. Also to thank Laura Underhill who has co-ordinated the days event with the participants and the various volunteer groups and the various media people. Bruce Sutherland from the City of Cape Town also had his drone camera to get some overhead footage of the canoes in the canals, along with other footage for the City’s media. From here the paddlers set off at 08h30 up the Sand River canal through Retreat to the weir of the Princessvlei and Little Princessvlei.
At Princessvlei Tim Godfrey (City of Cape Town Parks and Recreation for the South) had his group of boys and girls from a local school paddling on Princessvlei as part of their experience of learning to be water safe and learn about the outdoors in a healthy natural environment. they paddled across the vlei to meet up with the paddlers who arrived at the slipway on the western side of Princessvlei about an 1 1/2 hours after leaving Zandvlei. They had to mostly pull their canoes through the concrete lined canal. Quite an eye opener for those tackling this for the first time. The canal goes through the oldest backyard settlement in Cape Town with most not having access to water supply, sewerage and refuse removal services, The consequence the canal is used for all night soil and refuse removal by being tossed over the fence into the canal. A few paddlers had used nappies almost land on them while passing by. All this eventually lands up in Zandvlei and has being doing so for 70 years when it rains heavily.
And still the City Service Depts argue amongst themselves who is responsible to change this social failure. The City Councilors totally ignore the problem and or issue as they are short term players (elected for a 3 year terms).
There was a huge mat of hyacinth blocking the small beach where the paddlers take their canoes out once they have paddled across to the eastern shore and near the car park just off the M5. The drone was flown across the vlei and the GPS readings indicated it was nearly 500 meters across. The drone was able to fly up and give us a view of the paddlers coming along in the canal in Retreat. Amazing technology! The drone followed the paddlers across at about 3 metres above the water surface.
Then it was time to load up the canoes on the trucks and cars and set off down the M5 to Sybrand Park. All this while a group of paddlers concerned with the outcome of the Springboks versus the All Blacks rugby game, which the Bokke won in the end and not before many oohs and aahs.
At Sybrand Park it was time for a quick lunch and an update from Glen Thompson about the sea conditions in Table Bay. The sea conditions and the tide were all good for the paddlers it was said. But first to tackle the filthy Black River which was lined with plastic of any and every description plus many other discarded man made items. When the canoes entered the Black River at the Mowbray Golf Course the many waterbird species were dispersed by this flotilla of colourful crafts. It is challenging for those not as fit as they could be and all made it to the mouth of the Black River at Table Bay. All were instructed on how to enter the waves and where to turn up behind the wave sets and follow the coast to the standup paddlers who were present to guide the paddlers in towards the outlet of the Milnerton lagoon which was flowing out quite powerfully. Nearly every one tipped over in the 30cm high waves the skilled and unskilled included. All had a good laugh too. Then it was time to do a group photo on the beach with Signal Hill in the background. With that done the finish was 500 metres further under the old woodbridge island bridge which is being restored.
Soup and rolls were provided by the Friends of Liesbeek River with a hot shower in the Milnerton Canoe Club for those who needed it. The weather was warm and sunny and the last paddler was in before 16h00. David Parry-Davies had a stand up with a number of The Enviropaedia available for the paddlers. A fun prize giving with no plastic items or packaging included were hand out to the registered paddlers who were present and their names drawn from a hat by David together with Laura Underhill. Kevin Winter thanked all the organisations and individuals who had helped make the day a success again as in all the previous years. Thank you to the staff on Zandvlei Nature Reserve who transported the canoes and provided the mobile toilet facility and any other help along the way.
The plight of the waterways will be highlighted to the City of Cape Town via the various media and the Paddle website and FB page.
photographs by Gavin Lawson.