Earlier sunrises mean earlier starting times for our hikes, and it was no hardship to find ourselves standing in the carpark at Olifantsbos, Cape Point Nature Reserve, at 08h30 this morning. A gentle breeze, scattered clouds and a moderate temperature was ideal and the heavy rain of the previous day meant that the sandy shore was compacted and as good as a hard trail underfoot. I have to admit that slogging through soft sand is not my favourite occupation, as it uses leg muscles you didn’t even know you had and the effort seems to be double.
Although animal sightings were scarce, their footprints were well defined in the damp sand and we could identify small buck spoor, a small troop of baboons and many different shorebirds. With the winter migrants back in Europe, there was little activity on the rocks – the odd pair of African Black Oystercatchers, a small group of gulls that showed no inclination to take flight despite our proximity, and only one small skein of cormorants out to sea. The avian flu that has taken a grip on birdlife up the West Coast has unfortunately reached the Cape and we can expect to see many dead birds in the time to come.
The good winter rains that still come back almost weekly have produced a fynbos display not seen for many years, if ever. The masses of Cape Snow, white everlastings that will open into a virtual carpet of pure white, have spread to both sides of the road down to Olifantsbos and can be seen creeping higher up the damp south-facing slopes of the nearby hills. Lining the road are bright purple-pink pelargoniums, which can be seen all over the Peninsula at this time of year staining the mountainsides a rich purple that can be seen from miles away. Low-growing restios waved in the breeze across the plateau, mimicking fields of ripening wheat in shades of copper and bronze.
Rivulets from the hills gathered in pools of marshland, where my choice of Dubbined boots saved my Skechers, and seeps of fresh water oozed out from under the shoreline on the way to the sea. Nothing can stop the march of the element that only ends its journey at the oceans. The rusted remains of the shipwrecks Nolloth and Thomas T. Tucker change only by the depth of the sand that shifts around them, and currently the Nolloth is quite well exposed, but nary a sign of its cargo of whiskey was to be seen. Towering swells rose and fell across the reefs that doomed these and many other vessels rounding the Cape of Storms over the centuries, with the Nolloth being one of the more recent in 1965.
The short but slightly strenuous climb up onto the plateau took us into the teeth of a wind that had risen ahead of an ominous streak of dark cloud and it soon became clear that rain gear would be needed. Curtains of rain were already being released over the sea, and after an assessment of the wind direction, it was a matter of how quickly we could cover the last few kilometres and whether we could will the wind to change by a few degrees. As a result, we finished the almost 6 kilometre hike in record time, got splattered by a few drops and watched in relief as the main shower fell to the right of us. What a fortunate end to a most delightful morning in this very special place at the southwestern edge of Africa!