Ah, Cape Town, Cape Town – your weather extremes never disappoint! With a forecast of a strong southeasterly wind, some showers throughout the morning and wintry temperatures, some hikers opted out of the climb up to Noordhoek Peak this morning. The more intrepid among us gathered in warm sunshine at the Silvermine Dam, scoffing at the weatherman’s misguided forecast, and we set off up the jeep track at a cracking pace. This is a favourite hike, not only for the spectacular views, but also because it enables us to get the heart rate up with its continuous uphill – a total elevation of 375 metres from the carpark is achieved – and the wide track allows a steady pace with congenial conversation.
Once we crested the first ridge and looked down over the Fish Hoek valley, with Noordhoek beach and Slangkop lighthouse on the far right, the wind took on a fresher aspect, but rain still didn’t look imminent. Masses of leucadendrons showed off their Spring growth in displays that clothe the Peninsula in shades of palest green and golden yellow, bringing a freshness to the sometimes drab fynbos vegetation and demonstrating what a good rainy season can produce. The air was filled with the croaks and even songs of a multitude of frogs, a sound that was sadly missing during the drought years, and proved that the mountains are indeed giant sponges that hold Life in their soil, letting enough leach out and sustain the abundant floral kingdom while keeping most in reserve for the hard years. Streams and waterfalls trickled melodiously down old and new watercourses, their destination the dam far below and eventually the warm waters of False Bay.
A small detour to the Noordhoek Lookout, where we looked out on Noordhoek, drew our attention to gathering clouds further south over Simon’s Town, and it wasn’t long before there was a curtain of rain obscuring most of that area. It looked as though we had scoffed too much, and as we toiled ever onwards and upwards, our eyes scanned the slopes for rocky outcrops that might shelter us from the approaching inclement weather. There were none. We picked up the pace, glancing back often to gauge the timing of the first drops. Raingear was donned and still we were ahead. As we scrambled up the last 100m to the peak, large drops splattered on our backs. But positive thinking won the day, and despite a minor wetting, the whole cloud system passed to the right of us! Admittedly a few of the drops resembled sleet rather than rain, and an icy wind was threatening to blow hats and lighter garments out to sea, but nonetheless, we had outrun it.
In the time it took to unscrew the lid of the coffee flask, the rain was on the other side of the valley and we passed a pleasant half hour quietly freezing and scanning the bay for whales, while thinking how incredibly lucky we were to be up there in the elements rather than in an office somewhere. There is something quite exhilarating about buffeting wind and rain!
The jeep track took us back down to the dam in a long and winding descent, with a wind chill factor that froze the tips of my fingers. The masks at last proved their worth as protection against a frozen face! In the distance, fresh clouds gathered, and again fate was in our favour. The first heavy drops lashed my windscreen as I closed the car door. Another marvellous mountain morning.