Having barely exercised over the last few months due to excessive heat, bronchitis, fatigue, and general work, it was with great delight that I joined the walking group again on Friday for one of the most pleasant trails in Cape Town, the Alphen Trail. This popular greenbelt is best on a weekday, as those who are confined to weekend walks far outnumber the fortunate few. With late autumn providing a soft carpet of fallen leaves and the recent good rain bringing the mountain streams down in torrents, the lush surroundings and a chilly 8 degrees made us forget that only a few weeks ago the searing heat of summer had us seeking shade, where now we sought sunshine.
With jackets zipped up to chins, lips and noses icy cold, and wafts of steam rising from the morning dew, we took the track to the left hand side of the Diep River, where patches of dappled sun and the occasional clearing allowed us to warm a little. The coffee trailer at the meadow was doing good business and even a single table and chairs were set up in the damp grass. Dogs frolicked in the icy waters, flowing deep and clear in the first runoff of rains, and a pair of tiny Shetland ponies was being led along the path. You never know what you may see on your walks!
We didn’t do the long uphill to Cecilia Forest, as many of the group are only just returning to hiking after the last two years of uncertainty and it is after all the Slowly Up the Hills group, so no need to overdo it! Parts of the trail are becoming quite muddy, a sign of wear and tear from use, but good hiking boots in winter solve that problem, if you remember to bring them with you. Another fallen giant lay across the river, neatly sliced into chunks that will decompose and return to the soil over the next few centuries. Things move slowly in the valley. Splashes of scarlet chasmanthe brightened the way, and large tracts of very healthy acanthus promise spectacular displays later in the year. As always, the showy tree ferns that line the stream caught the rays of sunshine streaming through the towering pines, creating an eerie Jurassic ambience, but no pteradactyl flew overhead; only a young Black Sparrowhawk alighted on a branch, its call echoing in the treetops.