Kirstenbosch contour

Yesterday’s walk from Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch is generally regarded as a ‘flat’ walk, but memories are short and the undulations were noticeable, with the first really hot, sunny day of hiking reminding us why summer hikes should be in the shade. With little left of the pine plantations that used to line the mountain slopes, there aren’t many places where we can have a water break under towering trees a-twitter with birdlife, and we sought these with the same purposefulness as a lizard seeks the sunshine. High humidity and being on the leeward side of the breeze didn’t help, and after a steady climb up to the contour path, we reached the stream in Nursery Ravine above Kirstenbosch, delighted to find it in spate as it tinkled over the boulders where we rested our weary legs.

The views along the way are much improved as large areas of pine have recently been felled. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to remove the cut branches, trunks and smaller trees, which are lying haphazardly on the slopes looking rather like a potential fire hazard in future. On the bright side, it has proven to be beneficial for the regrowth of the fynbos which lies dormant for years and makes a remarkable recovery once these plantations have been removed. I was tempted to select a Christmas tree from the fresh felling, but getting it back to the car would have been a problem! We passed a fair-sized troop of Chacma baboons foraging in the fynbos, accompanied by two monitors who are tasked with keeping them away from the residential area. They have bred prolifically and migrated along the mountains from Tokai over recent years, causing much conflict with the wine estates where they enjoy lightning raids to sample the fruits of the vine. The male pictured here is wearing a collar, which means he is being monitored for ‘problem’ behaviour, usually having a negative outcome. They watched curiously as we passed by, and it was distressing to note that some runners with dogs didn’t bother to put them on leads and allowed them to chase after the baboons rather aggressively.

The descent from Nursery Ravine into Kirstenbosch was more taxing on the legs than the ascent, and concentration was required to ensure that we negotiated the unevenly spaced steps which sometimes required two steps per level rather than one, and today my legs are telling me I did I strenuous climb up a mountain, rather than a fairly sedate stroll. Such is the effect of reduced mileage and increased calories during Covid.

Large groups of young people were preparing for celebrations on the lawns, with cushions and blankets spread out (social distancing?!) under trees and baskets and cooler boxes being heaved up the paths. A woman was taking photos of her children climbing in the branches of one of the older trees, standing in the flowerbed. This is of course not allowed in our botanical gardens and it is maddening to see the lack of understanding of their purpose, which is to appreciate our natural heritage, not provide a playground. We made sure to point this out, but didn’t wait to see the result!

A cloud started to form on the mountain, indicating a westerly wind and cooler weather later. True to form, the Peninsula produced three different climates across its suburbs, and again a finger of fog obscured the sky over Kommetjie for the rest of the day, and by evening a blustery wind was blowing in from the sea, leaving only the memory of the heat along the trail to warm us.

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