Who could grow weary of walking the trails of the Cape Point Nature Reserve? Not I! A favourite is the trail from the parking area at Gifkommetjie down the steep but well-constructed rocky path to the shore, then turning northwest through the milkwood forest where the trees have been kept low by the prevailing wind and some serious back bending is needed to negotiate the tunnel. I am told that puffadders frequent these branches, and it is probably best to keep your eyes on the ground rather than scan the surroundings for snakes! This may be an urban legend, but I do know they are good climbers despite the lack of limbs or perhaps because of it.
Once through the milkwoods, we walk along a sandy track, an extension of the shoreline really, and again have to keep a wary eye out for the multitude of dead bushes that have left gnarled branches to trip over. Some of these make for attractive garden features and I always keep an eye out. I am not alone in this, and suitable bits are few and far between, most being a bit too big to carry the 5km trail. While looking out for tripping traps, we are able to spot the spoor of small mammals, birds and buck, and it’s always fund to toss around an estimate of how far ahead the eland is or when the baboons crossed the path. Sometimes there is evidence of otters and most often the large three-toed track of the ever-present ostrich.
As we near Hoek van Bobbejaan, we are eyed balefully by a small herd of bontebok who treat us to a wonderful display of their easy grace as they canter away to glare down at us from the top of a dune. They also seem to like the hiking trail, as it is liberally strewn with droppings from beginning to end – perhaps the trail is easier to negotiate than lifting their hooves through thick fynbos.
The beach is a lovely place to sit on the rocks for coffee and a rusk. Shorebirds lean into the breeze beyond the river winding through the dunes and spilling into the sea. Giant swells rear and crash on the reefs that claimed the ship whose rusted remains lie forlorn on the rocks and in the far distance we can see the peaks of familiar mountains – Chapman’s Peak, Constantiaberg, Table Mountain. Slangkop lighthouse stands sentry off the far distant point, slightly hidden by the horizon.
No hike ever follows the exact route, particularly as fires and lack of maintenance have meant that the very useful wooden posts with bright yellow paint indicating that you are on the right path have all but disappeared, and a large part of the ridge above Gifkommetjie consists of extensive rock slabs. This allows for easy walking as long as you are heading in the right direction, and the views across the plateau and down towards Cape Point make this a most enjoyable section of the trail. The fynbos species have very definite requirements and it is noticeable what grows above a certain level, what loves damp feet and what enjoys a sunny north-facing slope. We will be back in a different season to enjoy it all again.