Elsie’s Peak to Brakkloof

Today was one of those Cape Town days where the local weather changes from suburb to suburb. The Atlantic seaboard was blessed with a cool sea breeze yesterday while nearby Fish Hoek sweltered in a berg wind. This morning a low mist accompanied by settling dampness caused me to think that our hike on the mountain ridge above Fish Hoek would be a cold and damp outing, and so long pants, boots and a rain jacket were donned. Naturally, by the time I had reached the other side of the Peninsula, the skies were blue and the breeze minimal, but I still held out hope for a little mist over the peak.

The initial rocky climb gave way to a soft, sandy track – evidence of the shifting sands that used to cover the area before housing developments and alien vegetation anchored and obliterated them – and our progress along the ridge entailed clambering up and over a variety of sand dunes rather than rocky outcrops as are usually present on these mountains. The dry season has leached all moisture from the ground and the going was more suited to a camel’s foot than a hiking boot. In the steeper parts, I was reminded of childhood days spent sliding down the sand dunes in the Fish Hoek valley with polished hardboard sleds and the two steps forward, one step back scramble back to the top. With humidity on the high side, perspiration was copious and water breaks frequent. Even the dogs sought shade behind the odd rock.

In spring, the ridge is a floral wonderland, but at the beginning of March there are only a few late tritoniopsis and ericas to brighten the landscape. Soft new growth is abundant in the fynbos and winter rains will bring the promise of great beauty to come. Alien vegetation is being ruthlessly hacked out by those who value our floral kingdom and it is good to see that it has diminished over the years.

On reaching the beacon at the Brakkloof end, the panorama stretches from Chapman’s Peak to Clovelly, Trappieskop to Elsie’s Peak, Simon’s Town to Red Hill and Slangkop to Noordhoek, with the white sands of Long Beach, Fish Hoek and Glencairn enticingly close for those who longed to plunge into the clear turquoise seas – temperatures in False Bay are in the low 20s, while at Long Beach a toe-curling 10. The trek nets at Fish Hoek hauled in a large shoal of yellowtail yesterday, but today the nets lay limp on the sands, waiting to be loaded back onto Rio Rita for another attempt, another day.

The breeze was cool, but the mist missing and with the wind at our backs the descent once again made us cast wistful eyes at the tidal pool below, but no costumes meant no swimming – this is not an isolated mountain pool – so better planning lies ahead.

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