With winter finally coming to Cape Town, the hiking enthusiasts, especially the weekend are faced with the temptation to curl up in bed with a good book on a Sunday morning, instead of getting out there and enjoying the Mountain in the rain. Hannes (hike leader) thought the only way to overcome this was to issue a challenge to motivate a few stalwarts in to action.
It did not seem to have much effect however as only two of us joined him. Nevertheless it was a very rewarding hike, with the rain staying away for the most part. Parking at Kloofnek, so that we could do a circular route, we hiked along the Table Mountain Pipe Track, meeting plenty of runners and a few walkers on this section, until we came to the Kasteelspoort path intersection. I always enjoy this path as it is steep enough to be challenging but has enough variation and views to distract from the effort.
At the top there were quite a few surprising displays of pink Watsonias, deep blue Arosteas and bright red and white Anaxeton and some fading King Proteas.
It looked as if we were going to have a rain free hike, but as often happens in our Mountain, what it looks like and what happens is not always the same. As we climbed out of the Valley of the Red Gods, the rain started to come down. As it was heading for lunch time, we found shelter in the cave in the Valley of Isolation. In spite of the stream running through the middle and the waterfall on the outside we managed to find dry places to sit and enjoy our snacks and flasks of hot drinks.
As we moved on the rain was more of a light misty drizzle with a weak sun trying to break through every now and again. Hopeful of avoiding the steep trek down Platteklip Gorge, we headed through Echo Valley and up the short ladders to the cable station. As we got closer the clouds cleared for a moment, showing off the beaches of Camps Bay and the rough seas beyond. Very close to the top, was a royal display of red King protea, contrasting with a magnificent golden brown of a fading group retained their shape and beauty in spite of the colour loss.
We reached the cable station just in time to grab a quick cup of coffee, before the cableway closed and we caught one of the last rides down for the day. Pleased with ourselves for having met the challenge we headed for the one of our favourite watering holes and a well deserved beer.
As I get the opportunity to walk through the fire affected areas of Vlakkenberg and Silvermine and all the areas in between, I will publish my photos and reflections on the destruction and the recovery. This is the first of those as I got to walk on Vlakkenberg Ridge yesterday.
The walk up from Constantia Nek shows just how close the fire came to descending in to Constantia Nek itself and the potential for crossing over the road. We can be grateful that this did not happen as there are huge stands of gum trees and other alien vegetation in this area.
Looking across from the saddle the burnt area extends as far as the eye can see, over the Constantiaberg and across to Silvermine and Muizenberg Peak. Looking down to the Constantia vineyards, there is stark contrast between the green of agricultural area and the burnt National Park and pine forest. It also highlights how close it came the residential areas.
The area on top of the ridge is a desolate landscape with contract between the white of the underlying sand and blackened protea bushes. Nevertheless, the green restios with blackened tips are pushing through, growing quickly to provide the signs of new life and the messenger of things to come.
Standing out among the new growth are the bright orange paintbrush flowers that are popping up in a few places, one of them attracting a beautiful butterfly, quietly going about it’s work of pollination.
Down in the valley below there is a ridge of Silvertrees that stand out as what seems to have been a barrier to the fire, bearing out what I was told about the fire dying down when it came in to contact with these unique species.
There are many small signs of new life, although the recovery to it’s full former condition with the stunning flowering protea, is clearly going to be a long way off. Monitoring the changes over the next few months and years is going to be an interesting exercise. A link to the full album of pictures is below.