Easy start to 2023

Our first hike of 2023 was of necessity an easy one. Festive season indulgence required some sort of exercise to balance the calorie intake, yet the onset of searing summer days makes one reluctant to embark on anything involving steep climbing and sunshine. A happy medium was the Spaanschemat trail from Peddlars along the M3, turning towards Spaanschemat River Rd at the mandala and up to the Kramat. With plenty of shade in the beginning, we were happy hikers for some while, enjoying a water break on a thoughtfully placed circle of wooden stumps under the oak trees before the first trek in the full sun to the road.

We took the middle path, between tall rushes indicative of the stream that meanders down the meadow in winter, of which there is no sign now, and passed the paddocks where beautiful shiny-hocked horses, groomed to perfection, stood quietly in the heat, flicking glorious manes and tails – the envy of those of us not blessed with bountiful locks – to keep the insistent flies at bay. A finger of fog crept over Constantia Nek in the distance, a harbinger of the clouds that would carry a few drops of rain promised in the evening, and a gentle breeze soothed our sweating brows from time to time. But in the main, it was hot!

Apart from a Common Buzzard circling overhead, and a juvenile raptor (possibly Black Sparrowhawk, unseen) calling plaintively for food, no birds sang in the trees that we passed or were observed on the trail – the height of summer towards midday is a good time to rest in the shrubbery – and only the manicured gardens provided floral delights, with one large (planted) patch of blue and white agapanthus brightening the meadows. Agapanthus come into their own at this time of year, providing spectacular displays on verges when closely planted, multiplying over the years and requiring little attention – a very worthwhile addition to the garden with many varieties from pure white to deep indigo. My favourites are the miniatures which display well around the edges of the flowerbeds. The flowering gums, although alien, are also painting the trails with the palette of their mass flowering, from cream to luscious scarlet, and can thus be forgiven for their many faults.

After a break for coffee in a shady copse, it was time to tackle the dreaded expanse of open fields. Despite the fierce sun, that little breeze did the job and we made it across the kilometre stretch with just enough energy to toil up the hill that took us past the edge of the vineyards of Groot Constantia, with marvellous views across towards the mountains, and the promise of it all being downhill from there. We passed beautiful homes, shuttered against the outside world, where it seems nobody lives except for a few weeks of the year, and only the unseeing windows gaze out across these beautiful vineyards.

The last part of the trail joins the Sillery track, passing the stables, the flower farm and surely the finest granadilla vine in Cape Town, heavily laden with fruit, that will need to be paid a visit later in the season. A good 6km of excellent exercise and companionship – highly recommended.

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