No matter what season we traipse across the Silvermine plateau to Bertie’s Balcony, there is always something new to see and so it is a walk we never tire of – I speak for myself of course, as there may be hikers who only go for the exercise and seldom notice the exquisite beauty at their feet or just a glance away on the left. There is nothing wrong with having only that purpose, but I like to combine as much into one outing as possible and pack in bird watching, hiking and photography into a busy morning. Sometimes there are no birds, but today the striking Orange-breasted sunbird with his slightly drab lady and her friend flitted flirtatiously between the pincushions, posing perfectly as if he knew I hadn’t brought my camera with me! A pair of Jackal Buzzards soared the thermals above Steenberg Peak, looking for lunch – perhaps a dassie which seem to be thriving in the hills or something more suitably sized such as a mouse or lizard.
The Silvermine waterfall is now more of a cascade as summer approaches and the continual supplementation by heavy rains has abated. It was cloudy and cool with the odd drop this morning and it was quite odd to be wearing a jacket in December, but then it has been a very odd year! We passed the site of the lovely Sticky Heath that is endemic to the Silvermine plateau and a small area down at Cape Point, admiring the proliferation of these pale green ericas that are so easy to pass by unnoticed. Here and there the orange splash of the Mountain Dahlia caught the eye and I stopped for the requisite photo, bending almost to the ground to capture the full bloom – fynbos requires a little exertion to get a really close look. I love to zoom in on the flowers when downloaded onto the computer, as only then can I fully appreciate (and in fact see!) the marvels of Nature. Technology certainly has its uses.
It was a merry band that wended its way across hill and dale, not looking upwards too often for fear of seeing the distance still to be travelled, but a resolute step by step always gets us there and in surprisingly good condition, with the group being pretty fit in general. We set a cracking pace and for once I was the one trailing at the rear, although that had a bit to do with stopping to look at things, and it was so pleasant to be walking in the shadow of the clouds, as hiking in hot sunshine can be wearying and lead to flushed faces and much perspiration. A large hiking group of men passed us on their return trip from Bertie’s Balcony, accompanied by about 12 dogs who ran backwards and forwards as if trying to double their exercise, brought up in the rear by a tiny dachshund who wanted to be carried because her little legs had had enough. It was quite a chaotic scene and made us feel rather sedate and organised!
We took the same path back over the hills rather than go down the slippery, loose-stoned jeep track. A wise decision and better for the soul. What a delight it was to be up there today, revelling in nature while the world turned without us. A man came past us at a fast pace, almost running, sure-footed and obviously at ease in the mountains. It was my cousin, a lifelong member of the Mountain Club, who I had thought about only 10 minutes before. I haven’t seen him for more than a year but this was probably the most likely place to find him, far from the madding crowd.