Staying on the level

The Tokai forest walk has to rate as the flattest walk on our hiking list, with the only elevation being the brief climb up One Tree Hill, our coffee stop with sweeping views of the Constantia Valley and busy M3 highway with accompany rumble of traffic. It is the only walk with a reminder that we are still in a city, as traffic noise is virtually non-existent in the leafy green belts or among the crags of Silvermine.

Over time, more houses have been built along the streams that border the pine forest, but nonetheless is remains countrified, with horses and chickens to be admired along the way. A marvellous enterprise has sprung up – a ‘hole in the wall’ coffee shop operating from one of the properties, with a charmingly outfitted container providing a secure space for the operation, pavement cafe-style mosaic table and chairs and an attractive display of edible offerings. Even the dogs are catered for, with a jar of special biscuits for the furries. As this is exclusively a recreational trail, they know their customers and are always certain of foot or hoof traffic – oh, and cyclists! At night, the gates are closed and it goes back to being a securely walled property. What a way to run a business!

We do this walk several times a year, each time visiting the big tree that stands on the bank of the stream to see how much water there is. At present, the water is standing in a pool a way back from the tree, unable to breach the sand bank, but no doubt the first autumn rains will remedy that. Easter is usually the turning point in the weather and marks then end of the dry summer – let’s hope the tradition continues. The heat was quite oppressive, with no wind at all, and the shade offered by the rows of tall pines was a life saver. The thick layer of soft pine needles crackled underfoot, at times the only sound in the silence of the forest, where squirrels and sparrowhawks inhabit the treetops unperturbed by the human activity far below.

On the other side of the forest, where the plantation was cleared some years back, a controlled burn was taking place, with personnel and fire engines on hand, to rid the area of invasive alien vegetation. There are an average of 12 days in a year in Cape Town when the wind drops sufficiently to allow these essential operations and this burn produced a spectacular plume of smoke that, by the end of the day, had covered the greater Cape Town area! The initial dark brown smoke, which can be alarming, is caused by the burning of the oils in the aliens, with the white smoke being given off by the actual vegetation. Now the fynbos that depends on fire to renew itself will hopefully regain its rightful place and delight our eyes next Spring.

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