Thursday, January 27, 2011

Walking above Muizenberg

The wind blew us up the mountain.

Hard to reproduce the wind in pictures. 

The path was straight up, through Peck's Valley, which is really just a shallow dent between two peaks. Muizenberg - the beach and suburb - lay below us, and to our right sheer cliffs played host both to blanket-wrapped bergies sleeping at their feet and rock climbers clinging to their face. We trudged up the sandy steps to a saddle that promised more wind. It blew from behind and made the climb much easier. My hair blew straight forward past my ears, which were cooling off, rapidly.

Midsummer. Cape Town. Welcome to the party...

Fortunately, there were flowers, right on the path. Crouching down in front of them I could take pictures in the little wind pocket. Above, Gnidia juniperifolia. Tiny and precise and new to me. Below, easily identifiable Lobelia coronopifolia.

Another lobelia, but which?

Beneath a stone step, Erica cerinthoides, somehow always reminding me of the scary pink furry un-spider of dry places called a rooiman (redman)...

The ever present, delicate and orchid-like (but not even close) Polygola garcinii. I had to hold them to keep them still.

Struthiola, perhaps ciliata. I had never seen this pink and yellow one, and it appeared again and again. It promises night-scent.

Cape snow, Synocarpha vestita, little bushes of it everywhere, as Marijke had described in her post that inspired this walk, between the reedy restios, at the wind-gut-busting top. My ears were now cold, with the slight nausea that this brings. My never-used hoodie was brought into action.

It had been summer-warm when we left home. Really.

Still, I noticed the perfect blue, violet-sized and prolific Aristea africana (I think). From now on they accompanied our walk until we descended again.

We turned left at the top, and were blown sideways.

 Right past a Protea speciosa

The top was unexpected. Restios everywhere. Flat, blown sideways like a soft animal's pelt. Have I mentioned the wind?

We managed to get a bit lost, more paths criss-crossed the restios than we had anticipated and we landed up on an obscure one. But we knew in which direction we were headed and soon found our track again. Sudden voices behind a tree made me jump but they belonged to a woman and girl picnicking in a sheltered dip beside a dry stream.

That is where we passed the kusmalva (Pelargonium capitatum), above, that started my search for the origin of Malva pudding. Now that we were behind a ridge that separated us from the sea, the wind had stopped. It blew high above us, and it was beautifully silent. My ears warmed up in their hoodie.

Another pelargonium, P. longifolium. It blooms above invisible, dried up leaves, on long slender stalks.

Old faithful, Pelargonium cucullatum with its cupped leaves and bright flowers.

And the always-startling Pelargonium myhrrifolium var. coriandrifoilium, whose small frilled leaves retreat beneath the statuesque, pale flowers.

Nellie's Pool. Countless years in Cape Town and I had never walked here. The water was startling after the dry streams and fine sandy soil we had walked on. The quiet was broken only by the plops of frogs springing beneath the surface as we approached. I couldn't believe it, but here we found two oyster mushrooms growing on one of the windbent and lichenbearded trees leaning towards the water.

Getting hungry now, we walked on and branched off to the right to visit the Muizenberg Cave. The Frenchie went in, armed with his flashlight. I stayed above, a bit nervously. I didn't like the place and felt cornered. Then again, my own shadow makes me jump, sometimes.

Leaving the cave I managed to drop my sunglasses and we traipsed back up, missing them twice before Vincent scooped them up from the path. Wickering voices made me jump again, but they belonged to the same woman and child, now on their way to the cave.

I see this flower skeleton often and would like to see it in bloom, unless this is in bloom. Is it Dilatris pilansii?

We had now turned back towards the sea and False Bay sprang blue into view as we walked down Mimetes Valley.

Mimetes fimbriifolius, also called tree pagoda. Almost tree-like amongst the low fynbos, these beautiful plants were scattered all the way down the valley, and populated by Cape sugarbirds, who feed on the flowers' nectar.

Our tummies were growling and we looked for somewhere to eat. The wind had returned.

We sat on a natural rock bench at the foot of a large mimetes, with this gorgeous view ahead of us and quickly ate our sandwiches and drank our juice. 

I was now wrapped in a kikoi scarf and frustrated the Frenchie's gallant attempts to clothe me in his Canadian windbreaker. He would have frozen without it.

Petite and endemic Serruria villosa.

The size of a small fingernail, Diastella divaricata, like a doll's flower.

The big blue.

Small blue. Heliophila africana, maybe.

The Mountie and matching watsonia. It was very orange for the endemic W. tabularis, which is a pale salmon, which I am used to seeing on Table Mountain, but it might be a darker variation.

The view was spectacular. We were now high above Boyes Drive with Kalk Bay to the right and Muizenberg to the left. The arrow points the Main Road, right beside the sea.

As we descended it got warmer, and I shed my scarf and hoodie.

Back in the car, a ten minute drive home, and we were sitting on the patio sipping drinks.


  1. Wow seems a rather anemic reaction but it keep popping into my head as I scrolled down.

    Fantastic pictures and beautiful if chilly walk.

    xo Jane

  2. Was this on Saturday? We also hiked there, would have been fun to bump into you! We did Echo valley, though, so not your specific route. Also, we were with the MCSA, and a very big group (26) so you probably would have hid behind a bush if you heard us coming. Did you see the line in the sea (apparently made by algae). I have never seen that before. Was dying to take photos of all the flowers, but we forgot our cameras, can you believe one can be so stupid.

  3. Well!! you certainly chose a seriously windy day to do this walk. But its such a great walk and your pics are wonderful, how DO you get such good pics in a gale?
    Some comments:
    The "Oyster Mushrooms" - were they really oyster mushrooms and not some other bracket fungus? I wouldn't eat them if I were you.

    The flower skeleton is indeed Dilatrus pilansii - sorry they were over, they are beautiful.

    The Heliophila could be H. linearis. The leaves are diagnostic - H. linearis has linear/lance-shaped leaves and H. africana has lobed leaves. Did you notice?

    According to MMK Watsonia tabularis is coloured orange-red in the South. (One wonders why the picture of W. coccinea is shown in MMK as pink?)

  4. Gorgeous. Utterly gorgeous. What a wonderful photo essay. You've made me want to go to Brooklyn, now you've made me want to visit Muizenberg.

  5. Hi Jane - it is wow, and next time I'll take sheepskin coat :-)

    Kari - yes! We thought it was a current, as it was such pale blue beside the dark...

    Lyn - well, lots of flower pictures didn't make it. I do think it was an oyster, and looked in the book later to check that they are found here. The soft texture is so very distinctive, also the gills beneath. But no, I left it there.

    The Heliophila, rats. I am so silly about leaves and keep forgetting to get them into the picture.

    Hi Bruce - excellent. The good thing about Brooklyn (choose later April or May) is that it is part of New York, and Muizenberg is part of Cape Town (maybe September, spring here?), so both have lots of extra appeal.

  6. Wow, that scenery is magnificent!

  7. Stunned by the beauty.

  8. South Africa seems to be becoming THE place to go to see intriguing flora. It's getting hot in the garden world. Thanks for showing us some of it.

  9. Have I mentioned that I want to go/come there? With you as my tour guide, of course.

  10. Have I mentioned that I want to go/come there? With you as my tour guide, of course.

  11. we are in awe of your gorgeous experiences in the bonbon house! so happy to live vicariously through these incredible days and adventures. But tell me more about these Cape sugarbirds and their curlycue tails? Are they prolific in S.A.?

  12. It was great to see your photo on UBC; the associated pictures are wonderful. I'd somehow lost track of your blog.I'm back!

  13. awesome photos - I recognise many of the species because they grow here in Western Australia as invasive weeds (Pelargonium, Erhartia, Eragrostis, Cenchrus, Watsonia, Gladiolus, Freesia, Babsiana, Actotheca, . And we sent some of our Hakea, Leptospermum, Eucalyptus, Acacia and Corymbia to SA as some sort of botanical/silvicultural exchange.

    Ah - the Cape Floristic region and Southwest Australiam region...

    The Lobelia did look like Lobelia anceps - there has been some recent reviews on Lobelia, in which the type from South Africa has priority over the type (Lobelia alata) from Australia...


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