Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cape Town winter hike

On a brisk day with clouds roiling around the mountain, lifting and clearing unpredictably, we drove up Old Kaapse Weg to go walking above Silvermine. At the top I stopped to snap this picture of Tokai and Constantia. 

The ridge where we would walk was still relatively cloud-free but we'd decided to cancel or turn back if the weather deteriorated. The sun was out at the very beginning...

Despite the difference in season - we usually hike in summer -  our backpacks weren't packed too differently for our proposed three-to-four hour walk: extra, warm layers, something waterproof, water to drink, some sandwiches and juice, and Vince with his entire photographic assemblage, which weighs about a ton.

I was curious about flowers, and hoping to see proteas, whose season is just beginning.

White Protea repens grew in adundance lower down, near the car park.

The reservoir was brimming, full of fynbos-stained fresh water, and its summer lap-swimmers long gone. The wind whipped so much water over the wall that we had to walk the long way around, rather than cross on top of it. We would have been soaked. A light misty drizzle had started, and we pulled our hoods over our ears.

The detour gave us this beautiful view of a stand of Kniphofia, below. Just beyond them we passed an elderly husband and wife pair, he botanizing in the bushes, she crouched in a rain poncho and smiling widely at us, fellow adventurers in the teeth of the northwester. Something about South Africa: Everyone greets each other when out walking. The only people who will not turn out to be European.

Higher up, Leucapsermum buds appeared on the slopes.

Erica lutea, also  known as rice heath. You can see why.

We stood aside to allow a large party of hikers by. The path was quite steep and rocky by this time, and half of them seemed to be on crutches or relying on walking sticks.  Later, when Vince and I had both been blown over by the wind, we wondered how on earth they had made it.

The most common erica on all our walks, Erica hirtiflora, I think. This was the only specimen we saw.

And right on the path, Erica plukenetii

By this time, right on the exposed ridge, we were taking a battering. Vince blew right over. With his heavy backpack he must have weighed over 200lbs. Then I did. I laced my hood under my chin, stuck my head down and ploughed on, holding the hood as close to my head as possible by pulling down on the laces. Where it got in, the wind howled between hood and scalp, buffeting me so that I felt like one of those little balls attached to a bat with an elastic string, boing-boing-boing. Or a ragdoll being shaken by an OCD pitbull with nice breath. Interesting, but nottawhollottafun.

Clouds dropped lower and far away Noordhoek beach was taking a beating from the Atlantic.

Gnidia tomentosa, in a brief lull. Night-scented. Good for gardens.

I couldn't get this pretty little thing growing under a rock on the path not to blow around. Cape snowdrop, Crassula capensis.

The weathered concavities in the Table Mountain sandstone were all brimming with rainwater.

We stopped near here, at a well known shelter used by every hiker on this Amphitheatre route, enclosed by tall rocks and featuring a lichen-festooned and ancient, wind stunted tree. We ate our sandwiches and slurped our fruit juice (our roadtrip favouite: Ceres' small boxes of Whispers of Summer. If only!), and took off our hoods, and could hear, again.

Back on track after our rest, the path often turned into a small stream, clear clean water running across the sand before seeping into the fynbos again.

We were quite relieved to start heading downhill, full circle. Rain chased us from behind.

And near the end, South Africa's national flower (despite Mohammed Moosa's assertion that our national flower is  - was? - a plastic bag), the king protea - Protea cynaroides. As big as your head, and holding more or less still for the picture.

The rain swept in as we drove away, and poured for the rest of the day and night. Four inches fell in 24 hours.

The next post will be about waterfalls.


  1. Just beautiful!

    Your writing and images have given me a new appreciation for this my least favourite season in Cape Town. Thank you!

  2. Protea, gorgeous protea. Can't get enough!

  3. wow, these outdoor shots are amazing, Marie. Looks like a windy but gorgeous walk.

  4. Those flowers - just wonderful. I am glad you braved the rough weather so we could see them.

  5. Amazing to see the reservoir like that, the last time we where there is was smooth as glass. Love seeing all the flowers, and so true about Europeans!

    Waiting for Waterfalls,

    Lisa, London


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