Yesterday was one of the trails that our Intrepid Leader calls ‘a flat walk’, and shows an elevation of 50m in the schedule blurb. He fails to mention that you will do that 50m over and over again, totalling 100m in my estimation. Perhaps it just felt like that, as I trailed at the back, pretending to view the trees and scenery while catching my breath. It seems like forever since I climbed up Cecilia Ravine or Noordhoek Peak with barely a raised heartbeat, and I wonder if I will ever be able to do them easily again. In the meantime, these leafy trails with the occasional splash of sunshine suit my capabilities. The companionship is an important part of hiking, as few of us have the discipline to set off on a 7km walk without the incentive and encouragement offered by like-minded individuals. I certainly would never have done any of the hikes over the last 5 years without them.
Most noticeable after a long absence from the trail are the deep grooves in the footpath hewn by the bicycle wheels that hurtle through these quiet forest areas, with steeply cambered sides curving round fallen logs and tree trunks . These deep ruts have changed the surface and made it quite difficult to walk comfortably as the even ground has all but disappeared. This is evident on all the suburban trails, with no apparent solution to this wear and tear. The area is also understandably very popular for dog walking, and here there is also a need for us all to be aware of the needs of other users such as horseriders who often need a tight rein to cope with dogs who are unleashed. It is a fact of life that it is our responsibility to be considerate and proactive when sharing leisure spaces with our fellow man, so that we can all comfortably and safely enjoy the beauty that is available to us freely and on our doorstep. (Back to the trail!)
Apart from an unidentified raptor and a Burchell’s Coucal treating us to his mellow bubbling song from the willows, there was no sign of birdlife – perhaps a gap in food availability or a change coming in the weather; birds disappear at the drop of a hat. The stream is still flowing strongly despite little rain, giving the dogs the opportunity to bound through the water joyously as only dogs can, particularly the water breeds, followed by vigorous shaking before leaping back into the water. A true paradise for them.
The tree canopy kept us cool as we turned from the Diep River trail to the upward climb of the Alphen trail, eventually reaching one of the loveliest cork oak forests remaining, that which lines Rhodes Drive. The beautiful soft bark is an easy pecking place for the Olive Woodpecker, and we were lucky to see three flitting in the trees – they must have bred successfully this year – and a friendly Dusky Flycatcher went about his business as we passed by, unconcerned by our presence or the rumbling of the traffic just metres away. A truly lovely place to end off a fairly strenuous walk at just under 7km in perfect weather.
(Photos: Brian Moore)