Although not a very long trail, the path from the upper road in Glencairn up onto Elsie’s Peak can be very rocky and overgrown. Add to that a very strong southeaster battering the sea side of the peak, and you will understand why we abandoned our destination of the front overhang in favour of the more sheltered, sandy path going up to the communications mast. The access above the quarry had us in the teeth of a gale which turned False Bay into a windswept, undulating ocean of churned sand and kelp, obscuring any views we might have hoped to glimpse of the orcas that have recently been seen in these waters.
In springtime this mountain top is a paradise of fynbos flowering, but today we had to make do with the almost as eye-catching young shoots of the leucadendron species, waving in the breeze like a cornfield of silvery pinks and greens. A single autumn pypie (gladiolus brevifolius) caught my eye and I knew I hadn’t seen this pretty pale pink flower with a bright yellow patch before – adding it to my iNaturalist records brought me up to 450 species seen on my travels in South Africa, but still leaving more than 9 000 to come! The delicate stem was no match for the wind and photography was abysmal, but a record nonetheless. Always an exciting moment to see something new in our vast floral kingdom.
The views from the peak encompass almost the whole South Peninsula, with simultaneous sight of False Bay and the Atlantic Ocean with a small white strip of beach. Fish Hoek beach stretched out below, empty but for a handful of people exercising their dogs, and no swimmers in sight. The bright green fairways of Clovelly golf course provided welcome relief from the sight of a valley now almost completely developed from mountain to mountain, and the wetlands remain a valuable conservation area that should withstand further development. As a child these places were our playground – sand dunes, mountains, river and beach (not forgetting soccer on the fairways after 5 o’clock!) and it is always a little painful to watch the march of ‘progress’. Memories are important things.
We took a different route back, toiling down a very rocky and sometimes slippery track (I had a view of the sky as my feet slid unceremoniously out from under me), past the old stone quarry with its scree slope that I could see from home way back then, shaped like a whale – the symbol of Fish Hoek in the 60s. It still retains a semblance of that shape, although the vegetation has encroached over the decades. The path then became very hiker-friendly, wide and sandy with no grasses or roots to trip over, and the last hour was a most enjoyable end to a good bit of exercise in a place of great beauty.