Friday, February 20, 2009

Olifantsbos Cape Point

Cape Point is not the southern tip of Africa.

It is a tip and it is south, but Cape Agulhas, further east and further south is the true tip, albeit snub-nosed, of Africa. Cape Point, the tapering hook of the peninsula that curls around False Bay, in a series of mountains, bays and moors, is spectacularly beautiful and I think that many if not most of the tourists trucked in there to rush to the Point to say they've done it, think they've been to the end of Africa.

The first two photos are taken from Cape Point over False Bay, north. Smoke from a bad fire above the Helderberg, across the bay, is just beginning to gather.

The nature reserve is more than that Euro-tourist-congested endzone. I had heard about the house at Olifantsbos, and had wanted to stay there for some time. So when my dad suggested we all spend a night there, two days before we left Cape Town, I jumped.

Ignoring the buses that charge straight to the end, missing so much beauty and detail along the way, you branch off early on a small, quiet tar road that leads to empty beaches and another, private road, to whose gate you are given a key if you have booked the house for the night.

We had been here a few weeks before, in December, but had not seen the house - picnicking instead on the white boulders of an earlier bay, not too far from a peaceful baboon troop eating sour fig flowers on the beach.

This time we passed bontebok on the way, as we had last time, and saw the same foal; and saw, too, our first eland, the largest antelope in Africa. Vince got some very good pictures of him and he galloped across the road right in front of our car, bucking as he reached the other side. He was in the company of a hartebeest and a single bontebok, and they seemed to want to stay together.

The modest house is very well equipped and looked after, and very comfortable. Not cheap by SAfrican standards: R2,000 for a night. That's about $200 at the moment. But it and its cottage sleep a total of 12. There are three bedrooms in the main house and a dorm style arrangement in the cottage. So divvy that up and it's quite acceptable.

We packed enough food for a week and arrived on the afternoon of an extremely windy south-easter day. The wind whined and tugged and sand on the beach stung and blasted.

The beach, right on the doorstep, is deserted - very few people ever come to this part of the reserve, and when the gates of the main reserve are locked at night you are all, all alone under the stars. Except for the three ostriches we saw grazing on the low dunes...

This bed had to be the most comfortable bed I have slept in since, forever...

There were warnings posted about baboons, everywhere. Lock everything while you are out, or the baboons will break in.

Soon after arriving, and before getting going on the dinner fire, Marijke, Vince and I went for a walk. She remembered the house from university days when it was used as accommodation for botanists and known as the Skaife House.

She led us to Tylecodon grandiflorus. And it was everywhere, close to the house in the sand at the foot of the hill at our backs. Long slender, strong stems, beautiful flower trumpets, and rough, warty, succulent origins. Taking close-ups in the wind was impossible. Below are pictures I took the following morning.

On top of the hill above us - Erica cerinthoides - rooihaartjie/fire heath. Vince went to look at the old block house in the rocks and Marijke and I went on down the path. Lesson: never leave your husband behind or he'll worry that you have been frightened by baboons and fallen and broken your neck. We never saw the baboons, but he did, following us about ten minutes behind.

Tritoniopsis triticea - rooibergpypie ("little red mountain pipe"). Beautiful, about 16"tall and shaking in the crazy wind.

Lovely view from the top...

Back at the beach, spray flying back from the waves.

We saw my dad setting off alone up the beach, bent double into the wind, and wondered if we'd see him again.

We did, about an hour later, carrying an interesting stinky thing that we think might have been a baby whale's final vertebrae.

Supper - a braai of course, and then to bed with the wind pounding the solid walls of our solid house.

The next day, not a breath...

Transparent turquoise waves on the quiet white beach.

Vince went for a run, my dad biked, Marijke walked, my mother birdwatched. I slept.

We drove back slowly looking at the bokkies, and me at the flowers; when the others stopped to study a raptor I got out and walked to see better the flora best appreciated up close.

Below - Diastella divaricata - silky puff! - it is like a miniature pink protea, no more than fingernail-sized.

A small white erica, no ID.

Below: Roella squarrosa - I think! Miniature, baby's breath-like flowers in mats a few inches high, tangled with deep blue lobelia.

Below, a small restio - but which one? Growing in a small dry, white-sand stream bed.

Yellow vygie?

Below...Lachnaea densiflora, I think; pristinely perfect. Known as mountain carnations.

Definitely worth a return visit, and for longer.

Olifantsbos is owned by San Parks, as part of the Table Mountain National Park. To make a booking, telephoning is recommended.

Call the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre on + 27 21 780 9204 (International) or 021 - 780 9204 (within South Africa) between 09:00 to 16:00, Monday to Thursday and 09:00 to 15:00 on Fridays.

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  1. Its as if everywhere your feet go, so goes beauty.

    S.A., here we come...

  2. Nou verlang ek. Na lig en wit sand en die reuk van die see.

    Jare gelede, voor die bestaan van die Euro, netjiese chalets en dies meer, het ons familie 'n paar keer van Olifantsbos na die wrak van die Thomas T. Tucker gestap. Dit was nie juis ver nie, maar steeds 'n reuse avontuur vir die kinders - die strand was vol seegras, gebreekte mosselskulpe, kreefdoppe en stukkies skeepsrommel.

    Die wrak self was niks meer as 'n geroesde geraamte oor die rotse versprei, maar steeds genoeg om die verbeelding aan te wakker...

  3. Lovely shots, they really convey the incredible contrast between the 2 days...

    And I still think I have been to the end of Africa... ;-)

  4. Sigh, and regret for times past yet such gratitude for the changes, time was when Cape Point was the playground of baboons and Sondag uitsigkykers, Tourists? coach busses? shudder, but yay for the foreign currency..thank you for the wonderful memories..


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