Peak of perfection

Steenberg Peak is one of the trails I have not yet conquered (one of the many) and we set off this morning in perfect late summer weather to do just that. The initial path winds through head-high young growth of leucadendrons (the cone-bush variety of fynbos that virtually covers the mountains of the Western Cape in soft shades of silvery pink, startling bright yellow or gentle green. The growth is so prolific as to be impenetrable, and it certainly is a vast improvement on the old days of a pine plantation which covered a large part of the Silvermine reserve. A fire that destroyed the pines many years ago allowed the fynbos to regain its former glory, evidence that the seeds lie dormant for decades, just waiting for the right conditions for germination.

A steep ascent up an extremely well laid out path of flat stones took us up onto the ridge from where a 360 degree view of our surroundings made the huffing and puffing all worth it. The peaks of the Peninsula peeped out, dappled by the shade of the clouds scudding overhead. Low humidity and a tiny nip in the air – perhaps an early autumn? That would be most welcome for hikers! A brief levelling out gave hope for the weary, but soon it was clear that our intrepid leader had the summit in his sights and it was ever onward and upward. Some rocky scrambles were too much for some, but perseverance won the day and after squeezing through nooks and crannies we were rewarded by more views towards the mountains of the hinterland. A rock kestrel preened and fluffed its feathers for some time nearby, treating us to a rare opportunity to view this pretty bird at rest, and a pair of familiar chats flitted among the boulders.

Splashes of bright red dotted the landscape, and it was only on examining the pictures later that it became apparent that they were not all tritoniopsis – a most exquisite specimen of the cluster disa, disa ferruginea, was a lucky find, being the only one seen in the area. Even more worth the effort of reaching the peak!

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