Monday, January 25, 2010

Hikes in Cape Town: Noordhoek Ridge from Silvermine

It took us a week to get up off our rear ends and into the mountains. And then it was a drive of fifteen minutes and three traffic lights before we pulled into the busy Sunday parking area at Silvermine on the west side of Ou Kaapse Weg (the east side has a lot of other walks). I had never hiked high enough to look down onto Hout Bay, on the other side of the peninsula, and this route promised lots of flowers. You can see our hike here, thanks to Vince's GPS and Garmin Connect.

Checklist for hiking:

We told someone where we were going
Factor 50 sunscreen
Good shoes
Map (Silvermine)

We didn't take warm jackets, which was stupid as the weather changes very fast in the mountains. Warm temperatures below mean little. By the time we finished the path behind us was shrouded in cold cloud. Even stopping for lunch for 15 minutes chilled me, as we were facing the wind.

Above, on the dirt road leading away from the Silvermine Reservoir (packed with families in the water and picnicking), I saw Something New. Lyn McCallum and Marijke Honig have agreed that it is probably Aristea africana, but we await expert confirmation. Brilliantly blue, growing about 7" high in bone dry soil.

In amongst the green of varied fynbos we kept coming upon patches of colour and miniature gardens. Here a Helichrysum, possibly dasyanthum, but not growing where books say it should, which is near the sea.

Below, Pseudoselago serrata occured frequently, and looks as though it would be at home in a well-behaved perennial border.

Rounding a corner, we left the reservoir and the people behind and started to catch glimpses of the views to come.

Tall, puffy Hermas villosa.

Spectacular and impossible-to-miss Crassula coccinea. An easy and rewarding plant with which to test one's ID skills.

Everlastings, Helichrysum vestitum ( I think).

To our left, walking up towards Noordhoek Ridge, Long Beach at Noordhoek suddenly gleams white.

This richly pink little erica started to appear beside the road.

Pinecone-like Leucadendrons, but which kind? Their new foliage seems red. En masse, in the wind, these beautiful shrubs make the landscape undulate like a richly furred animal pelt

Vygies - Mesembryanthemum, another flower whose identification eludes me: there are so many. And so many are pink...

Below, (over exposed) Gnidia tomentosa - perhaps scented at night, like some of its kin.

I thought that identifying this white erica would be a cinch. It was everywhere. Erica mammosa is a candidate - it varies from red to pink to white.

Brunia alopecuroides, with its mini pinecones.

At our first lookout point we could see both sides of the long curved Cape Peninsula. To Vince's left, False Bay.

To his right, Noordhoek.

While he took pictures, I poked around the rocky outcrop. In one of the typical bowls formed in the porous rocks, I found some scat.

Was this a kitty litter tray al fresco? Fur and insect exoskeletons...

In the shade of another rock I found a thin film of cold, clear, clean water.

And on these, evidence of clean air. Lots of lichen.

Back on the path, a butterfly posed conveniently on the red crassula. It is Meneris tulbaghia, known as the Pride of Table Mountain.

"If it were to disappear, several plant species that depend exclusively on the mountain pride for pollination would face extinction. Other than Disa uniflora these include the cluster disa Disa ferruginea, the nerine or Guernsey lily Nerine sarniensis, and the red crassula, Crassula coccinea. All have one feature in common: red flowers."

Table Mountain - A Natural History, Anton Pauw and Steven Johnson. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, 1999

Our path branched left to the lookout point at Noordhoek Peak, where we wanted to stop for lunch.

Roella triflora grew between the stones.

And so did this mystery. Each tiny flower hung pendulously on a threadlike stem...

Behind the cairn on the peak, another Watsonia tabularis. They had been dotted about all the way here, so that it was possible to take their beauty for granted.

This one had a visitor. Click on the picture for a larger view and see what he had for lunch...

A few more steps, and the pay-off for the hike up. Straight down to Hout Bay.

The wind was quite cold here, but the rocks were warm.

After looking at it all for a long time we moved around to the sheltered side and ate our delicious beef pies from the Porter Estate Produce Market, cheese sandwiches, droewors, and Ceres fruit juice. And contemplated the route ahead.

The map warned of a difficult spot for those afraid of heights (moi moi moi) and said danger, but Vince thought the contours on the map didn't look too scary.

So far, so good.

I recognized Erica cerinthoides, which has distinctly hairy flowers.

Below, top left is where we'd come from, Noordhoek Peak.

Below us to the left lay the Hoerikwaggo Trail, a six day, five night hike from near Cape Point to Table Mountain. You can book for a one, two or three night stay on the trail at the moment. Food and overnight gear are transported to your overnight camps.

And ahead of us lay our path, straight up. I'd been nervous on a previous scrambling bit, and so Vince decided to head into the fynbos to follow a ridge and gradually join the next one. We stuck to the rocks as much as possible, to avoid squashing flora.

This detour found many gardens in the rocks. well as beautiful rock shelters and formations. I thought about snakes a bit.

Below, Corymbium africanum.

And at this elevation, we saw repeatedly an erica I'd never seen before. Its habit made it easy to identify: it was always wrapped over or around a rock. Erica nevillei.

Below and behind us, Chapman's Peak Drive. Protea cynaroides, or king protea, and South Africa's national flower, in bud in the foreground.

After a steep descent, with a steeper ascent to the Constantiaberg ahead of us, we (OK, I) called it quits and turned right, heading back towards the reservoir at Silvermine.

On this white, apparently erosion-prone track, I found a little pink erica growing in pure sand.

Pink jewels.

These fat lobelias on long, thin stems had also followed us all the way from the start: Lobelia coronopifolia.

My favourite, Pelargonium myrrhifolium.

And a last stand of watsonias.

Having walked the Skyline or Panorama Path, we'd not doubled back to do the slightly lower but almost parallel Amphitheatre Path. It is apparently very good for flowers, so we will return.

Two swimmers were doing laps in the 350 m long reservoir as we walked past. Today Marijke told me that she was the one doing backstroke.

She says, "The colour and feel of the water is difficult to describe - amber bubbles with each stroke, and after a while that lovely tanniny taste of fynbos water."

Books used for Id'ing:

Wild Flowers of the Table Mountain National Park, Terry Trinder-Smith (text), Mary Maytham Kidd and Fay Anderson (illustrations). Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town, 2006.
Cape Peninsula - South African Wild Flower Guide 3, Mary Maytham Kidd. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town, 1983.
Hottentots Holland to Hermanus, Lee Burman, Anne Bean, Jose Burman. Botanical Society of South Africa, Cape Town, 1985.
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