Slangkop Cobra Camp the hard way

Our usual route to the old wireless station lookout on Slangkop begins at the Kom and winds along the bay, past the lighthouse and up the steep side of the mountain – mostly a zigzag path with the odd rocky scramble. We thought a clockwise version might prove easier, with the long downhill, sandy trail and expansive views across to Hout Bay and Fish Hoek to be enjoyed from a different angle. The words ‘sandy’ and ‘long downhill’ didn’t alert us (apparently) to the arduous trudge that lay ahead. A nice stroll along the beachfront to Long Beach and a short traipse along the road led us to Rubbi Rd, where it soon became apparent that the uphill was going to far outweigh the zigzag path. A near 50 degree incline past the Rubbi Chapel and monastery saw me pausing for breath more than once, and the sandy track was, to put it mildly, soft. Digging our toes in to create a foothold, accompanied by the appearance of the sun from behind the early morning cloud and high humidity soon had the grumbles going up and down the line, while I again fell to the back of the party, using my love of the fynbos as an excuse to rest!

The mountain had two fires over the last year which is not ideal for rejuvenation of the fynbos, and the only good thing was that they raged fast and furious along a narrow strip of vegetation, the second following mostly the same path. Nature is always amazing in its ability to recover from these events, with the roots and seeds having their own special mechanisms for survival, and although the blackened sand left sooty residue on our boots, the spring flowers that adorn the hill were bright and beautiful, somehow eking nutrition from the poor soil and flourishing in the most unlikely of places. Where fire has not burned for many years, there are still huge pincushions and mimetes starting to bloom. The baboons that sometimes travel here love to sit in the trees after the flowers have died off, chewing on the seed pods that retain a toothsome sweetness and no doubt helping distribute them far and wide.

The cloud cover came and went and from time to time a welcome breeze ruffled the brims of our hats. At last we came to the disused building and sat down to enjoy coffee and a chat with a view to the far horizon where the Atlantic Ocean lay before us, waves breaking along the shoreline and the incoming tide filling the natural pools along the coast. A bokmakierie sang nearby but didn’t show itself, and sunbirds could be heard chattering. A watchful eye was cast in case of snakes, as this is snake season and they can be grumpy after a quiet winter, but none were seen or cared to reveal themselves.

The return trip down the sandy path was as we remembered it – all downhill! A marvellous mountain morning.

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