Saturday, May 18, 2024

Eye on Life

Broad interest online magazine

Trails

Shipwreck Trail as Spring peeks out

After last week’s weather battering the Cape Peninsula, a small group of us set off on the Shipwreck Trail from Olifantsbos in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve in the most perfect hiking conditions – sunshine peeking out from minimal cloud cover and just enough of a breeze from the sea to keep us comfortable in light jackets. Since my last hike here almost two years ago, it was noticeable how well the veld had recovered from previous fires, and the shrubs and reeds are now at their mature heights, so much so that two bontebok lying in the fynbos were only noticed by the movement of their horns as they browsed.

Although the sea had calmed considerably, a passing catamaran still rose on the swells and disappeared into the troughs as it accompanied us along the coast in the direction of Cape Point, soon overtaking us with the help of its engine and a tail-wind. Tankers and cargo vessels took the cautious route by staying far out on the horizon – even so they rounded the Point in no time, to be replaced by other vessels on this busy sea route.

We passed the remains of the Thomas T Tucker (1940s) and Nolloth (1965), both of which reveal more or less of their rusted hulks according to the scouring and replenishing of the coastline. The section of beach where the Nolloth lies was strewn with piles of kelp – or rather the shortened bamboo section with the root area smoothed as if by machine. The lengths were all the same, around 1m, and neatly cut rather than snapped by a turbulent sea. Kelp harvesting takes place along the coast off Slangkop, and it seems highly probable that these thousands of stumps were the bits left behind after cutting, although how they were ripped from anchorage is unknown. I was under the impression that the kelp would regrow from the stump, but these will definitely not and if this is the case, might be something for concern regarding the sustainability of the harvesting – not to mention the ecosystem of this shoreline that is entirely dependent on these dense kelp forests. Not being an expert in the field, this is merely an observation, but interesting to me.

As we turned off the beach and began the climb up to the ridge, it was a joy to see old friends – the gladiolus debilis (painted lady), leucospermum hypophyllocarpodendron (snakestem pincushion, so called because it grows flat on the ground), aspalathus capensis (bright sunshiny Cape Gorse) and various species of serruria, to name a few. Mom and Dad always used the Latin names and as a lover of languages, I have followed in their footsteps. The chinaflower (adenandra uniflora), so named for its delicate porcelain petals, was prolific and at its prime, decorated with silver raindrops from an early shower. A troop of baboons foraged quietly in small groups and took no notice of us as we passed by, not even looking in our direction. Good to know they don’t all view humans as a source of food.

The views from the ridge are expansive, with both Slangkop and Cape Point lighthouses visible and nothing to the west but ocean. There can be no cleaner air to breathe or finer place to be on a day that is hinting at Spring!

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