Although well past the gorgeous mass display of spring fynbos that covers the area in September, the flowers on the slopes of Lion’s Head remain abundant and diverse, and the late spring colours of yellow, pink and orange emulate a jewelled carpet among the greenery. Only the blackened stumps of the silver trees and pincushions remain to remind us of the devastation of wild fires, even though they are essential for propagation in some species.
The trail, which starts a little way down Kloofnek on the Camps Bay side, has only one short climb up rather high steps – most of the trails in the Peninsula seem to be for giants – and for the rest provides an easy, undulating path around the base of this iconic landmark. In the cloying heat of summer, the section above Sea Point can be rather debilitating, but today the fresh and very cool southwester blowing in from the Atlantic made this a most pleasant outing, with ample opportunities for admiring the views, the flowers, three Jackal Buzzards playing overhead and two intrepid paragliders.
The advantage of repeating our hikes during different seasons is revealed by the photographs I take along the way, which provide a pictorial journal of how things stay the same over a long period. We think of each season as being more extreme than the last and look back to find that the wind blew a gale on the same day, or the first heatwave occurred in that week. We can find the same plant near an identifying landmark as three years before, and see how many new seedlings have survived. In some small way, a contribution can be made to citizen science by recording these sightings on eBird or iNaturalist, thus keeping a list of your own observations while enabling conservation in various fields. We also note the deterioration of hiking paths through erosion, the huge impact of mountain biking, littering in places where there is easy public access and most of all, the number of dog poops that are placed in a plastic bag and slung into a tree or simply left to never decay for the next 500 years. A simple flick into the undergrowth with any stick would obviate the need for any plastic, but there are people who do not seem to have a clue.
A few lithe young things sped light-footed past, practising the route for the Cape Town Marathon trail run. Imagine such agility, hopping from rock to rock without breaking an ankle – and apparently doing it for fun! I think it has a lot to do with mental fortitude.
As we neared the end of our hike, the view was across the City Bowl facing Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak, where the fire burned so fiercely earlier this year. The slopes are once again verdant and masses of watsonias promise their spectacular display in a few weeks’ time. It should be visible from afar and definitely worth looking out for.