It’s November and traditionally the time for the southeaster to set in for a few days’ blow. There are few places to avoid the wind down at Cape Point Nature Reserve and, truth to tell, I enjoy a hike with a good breeze to keep me cool. The discomfort of heat and humidity doesn’t sit well with me. The first thing we had to do in the carpark at Olifantsbos was tie down our hats, and here again, a bit of hat wire in the brim of a floppy sunhat will work wonders to keep it from completely covering your eyes and obliterating the view. I must remember to do that.
The initial climb up onto the ridge on the Sirkelsvlei trail is not taxing and has a very well made stone stairway with low treads to ease your way. Not made by the giants who laid the trails around Cecilia Forest, that’s for sure. The veld is slowly recovering from the fire a few years back and remains low and sparse, apart from the many damp areas where the restios grow thickly, their golden fronds tossed like wheat in the wind and creating shimmering waves among the vast tracts of Cape Snow. This shiny white everlasting rustles like paper as you sweep your hand across the crown, the petals dry and resistant and hence the name. They reflected the sun like snow and my photos look over-exposed and out of focus!
The trail winds across the plateau with views to Slangkop lighthouse up the coast and the peaks of Cape Point down at the southern end. Small herds of bontebok and eland roam here, but today we only saw tortoises, young and old, while the buck stayed down on the beach and out of the wind, where the grazing is green and good. The wind kept small birds hidden in low shrubs, where we could identify them only by their calls. After two hours (the path takes a circuitous route to the vlei simply to allow hikers the pleasure of walking through a stone archway in the middle of nowhere. A more direct route could easily be taken but why not have more fun on the way?
The vlei was whipped into waves by the wind and only a couple of Egyptian geese braved the water. Any ducks would have been swept into a huddle of jetsam at the downwind end of the vlei, I am sure. The water level was considerably higher than I have ever seen it in the last three years, and we had to perch on the highest rocks for our coffee break rather than on the little beaches now drowned by winter rains. Most sought shelter from the relentless wind for a brief time before we set off on the return route via the ridge above Olifantsbos. This circular walk is roughly 8km in total and takes a good three-and-a-half to four hours to complete. While not strenuous, it is tiring, but this is alleviated by the sight of the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean that pound the white beaches of the Peninsula. Wrecks litter the coastline, some ancient wooden vessels of early explorers, and some the rusting hulks of modern-day mishaps. There are many stories told of disaster and drownings, but more of survival, rescue and the endurance of the human spirit. This is indeed the Cape of Storms, despite today being just a fresh breeze, and the wrecks serve to remind us that the sea demands respect from those who venture upon it.