Can it really have been 50+ years since I last climbed the ridge in the Fish Hoek valley to Skildergat and Tunnel Cave? Life has a way of flashing by unnoticed when devoted to the mundane and again I saw how vital it is to get out there and do something different as often as possible. For me, hiking has been my ‘getting out of my comfort zone’ activity, and my reluctance to do this particular hike has been the safety aspect. We hike in what can be considered ‘safe numbers’ and so it really is just a case of getting into the right mindset and expecting only the best outcome. So far it has worked for me, and I was unexpectedly pleased to go back to the home of the valley’s earliest inhabitants.
The track winds through low shrubs and a lot of alien vegetation which provides the wood for our braais, courtesy of the local woodcutters. The spectacular satyrium carneum rose proudly above the grasses and tangled bushes, not allowing anything to stand in the way of it showing its fully glory to pollinators and hikers alike. Pelargoniums were in profusion, the Camphor Storksbill almost glowing such was the intensity of red in its centre, and the much smaller Rose-scented Geranium almost passed unnoticed in its delicacy. But the real stars of this hike are the weathered rock formations, once a little island in the valley where the evidence of wave action is clearly visible. If only we could look back into history and see how the early people lived. It will surely remain speculation and educated guesses. A little further along the ridge where the sand-dunes were once my playground, I came upon a midden scoured of its sand by the wind, and there I gathered up hundreds of tiny round pieces of shell with holes bored through them. It became a necklace which I still have in my jewelry box and conjures up imaginings of another girl thousands of years ago wearing the shells around her neck.
A considerable amount of scrambling is required to reach the Skildergat (Peers’ Cave) as the ridge is in an advanced state of weathering and tumbled rocks with sharp edges lie at the foot of the rockfaces. There are many opportunities to trip or catch an elbow on a protuberance, as well as much head-bumping on the low overhangs. Wearing a hat blocks your view overhead! Again, we cannot know how long ago these rocks fell or whether Fish Hoek Man made an easier route home from the beach.
Skildergat (painting cave) was so named because of the rock paintings found on its walls, but due to the inevitable interference of those who knew no better, these have been cleaned away and replaced by the scourge of graffiti. This aside, the cave remains clean apart from a few ashpits from fires and a pleasant time was spent gazing out over the valley as the ancestors did in days gone by.
The return trail took us up to Tunnel Cave, a place of spiritual significance for those in the know, and otherwise a chilly wind tunnel with great views towards Kommetjie. Many ceremonies take place here, but it is also clean and relatively free of graffiti. The wind may have something to do with that.
The hike was further than expected, being around 3.5km, as it doesn’t look to be very far from the raceway that is Ou Kaapse Weg, and took 3 hours, probably because of the rocky bits, but it was extremely worthwhile and a good thing to go back into history for a while. (I must record that at no time did we feel unsafe and the incident of mugging is some years back.)