Glencairn forts

My first hike in weeks was the easy and wonderfully scenic trail from the top of Da Gama Park across the plateau to the old stone forts near Red Hill, built by the British in 1794 as a lookout for passing ships that might be friend or foe. This was one of my very first hikes when I began adventuring into the mountains in July 2017, and the landscape was very different. Then it was a barren wasteland of bare earth and blackened skeletons of trees that had succumbed to yet another wildfire a few months before, and only a few green patches had started to appear as the vegetation renewed itself. I have attached pictures of that hike to compare with the current landscape, which consists mainly of thick fynbos, thriving after fire, and masses of restios as high as one’s head, evidence of the porous nature of the mountains which hold every drop to be released in gushing streams in winter. Regrettably, invasive aliens have a strong roothold close to the houses and unless swift action is taken to eradicate it while still young and not blooming, it will not be many years before it gains dominance over the fynbos. Photos from a previous hike show that some clearing has taken place but nowhere near adequately. Proper management of the mountains is becoming a matter of dire urgency and one wonders how this can ever be achieved under current circumstances. Education, training, leadership and action are the only way. Litter and illegal dumping is also evident, as everywhere in this beautiful country, and once more highlights the lack of education and leadership. Once we get past the initial eyesores, this is truly one of the most magnificent places to be on a cool autumn morning.

A breeze was blowing in from the Atlantic, bringing high cloud to keep us comfortable. The path has become almost overgrown with the recovery of the vegetation, and small proteas and leucadendrons are almost as dense as the aliens – a sight to gladden the eye and the heart. The first lachenalias are poking out, their waxy tubular flowers a pretty mauve against the grey quartz sand. The old proteas that burned in the fire are barely visible now, but it will be a while before anything catches up to the age they must have achieved. Fynbos requires regular fire to thrive, but too often (less than 10 years) will have a devastating effect on survival of some species. Gladiolus brevifolius is everywhere, it’s delicate pale pink with intricate patterning demanding close inspection for full appreciation. Thank goodness for technology that allows our old eyes to zoom in on a phone photo!

Marvellous views await as you crest the ridge, with False Bay glittering below and the Hottentots Holland mountains fading to blue in the distance, the deep blue of Simon’s Town bay dotted with pretty white yachts and grim grey warships idling at the jetty. Small boats are filled with fishermen, dogs and children play on the beach and all is quiet up on the mountain where we sip our coffee and gratefully appreciate our splendid surroundings.

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