Saturday, July 11, 2015

40. Storm Surf at Samas



Alan awoke to a gray sky. The sun was reddish as he crawled out of his tent, and the place seemed eerily quiet - no birdsong to speak of, but a faint, low roar drew his attention to the distant ocean. From his hillside vantage point he could barely make out a band of white beyond the barrier beach protecting Sandy Bay. It was the spray of great crashing waves! Even from this distance, Alan could see that the ocean was churning!

The surf reminded him of Amelia's prediction that storm surf will likely predate a storm - so Alan ate a quick bowl of Muesli cereal with canned milk, then packed up his gear and set off for Capetown, which he figured he could get to before the weather turned nasty. 

The air was cooler today, and the path was well-maintained so Alan felt he could make good time. The Southwest Path was busy here...many travelers pushed narrow handcarts, a local design with two large wheels, called a felix-hauler. Others rode fat-tire bicycles or trikes, and a few of them rode a kind of recumbent-style bike with a solar-panel roof that powered a tiny motor to assist on the hills. The roof provided the added benefit of shading the rider - ingenious! In contrast, others rode small shaggy ponies or crept along in narrow carts behind ponies, llamas, or pairs of goats! 

There was a liveliness here - a lot of chatting among the walkers and travelers. Everyone seemed friendly enough, and Alan could now spot the young trekkers and other wanderers from those hauling goods or on other business. All this without the sound of a single engine!

Alan had been rounding Sandy Bay since yesterday, and near Samas he noticed great flocks of gulls, terns, pelicans and other birds he couldn't recognize milling around in the channels and on the mud flats, presumably to sit out the storm. Smaller birds flitted out of the salt grasses and then landed again nearby, not sure where to rest. Their nervousness gave Alan a dose of anxiety - he didn't like being caught out in bad weather!

The path slowly edged onto higher ground as it approached Samas, and Alan noticed a low bluff to his left, and he could also hear the ocean over the low dunes ahead. He passed a few acres of raised-bed herb gardens, which he later learned were the "business" of the Samas tribe - dried herbs that they sold to a packager in Pendleton. A few inns, a grocery-and-variety store and a surf shop also supported the settlement.

In town, Alan found the Poppy Blossom Inn and was able to get one of the last rooms, about the size of a closet. He felt lucky he checked in early - apparently a lot of other walkers didn't want to camp out tonight.

It wasn't quite suppertime yet, so Alan followed a few other people out to the beach, about a half mile from town. The path ended at a long wooden bench and the view was breathtaking. Huge breakers thundered offshore, crashing in long white lines before surging up onto the sand. The sun peeked out among gathering banks of cumulus clouds, lighting up the waves here and there, leaving others threateningly dark! He overheard a couple of onlookers talking about riding these...Think we could get out there? ... Naw, it's too closed out - we would only get pounded!


The sky was changing and the surf was building...

Far beyond the breakers Alan spotted a sturdy-looking gaff-rigged sailboat beating over the swells, and a bystander near him said, Hey, I think that might be the Westenders' boat heading out to Vanessa Island...Gawd I wish I were on there. I only surfed out there once and it was a dream! Indeed, it looked like it could be the boat Amelia talked about, plowing and tacking into a freshening wind. Alan figured they knew what they were doing.