Sometimes it is nice to take an easy trail without the uphill toil. The track from the Silvermine East parking area that meanders down the valley to the Sunbird Centre is just such a trail and requires a little pre-arranged parking to ensure that some cars are left at the bottom to ferry us back to the top of Ou Kaapse Weg. The prospect of returning the same way makes one weary to even think of!
With winter not wanting to quite let go of Cape Town yet, the southerly wind decided to blow yesterday’s rain clouds back for an encore and a few spits and spots fell on us as we set off down the jeep track. Being well prepared and hikers of longstanding, we all had rain gear, but it wasn’t long before it was being shed as the sun peeked out. Jackets were donned and doffed frequently along the way, providing additional upper body exercise to burn off a few more calories!
The streams are still tumbling down the slopes, being filled weekly by the consistent rains, and the Silvermine waterfall is a glorious sight as you round the bend where the path forks from the jeep track. We couldn’t take that route as it’s impossible to cross the river when in spate, so we continued along the track, pausing at the drift to enjoy the sound and sight of the stream gushing below, foaming at the edges on its inexorable journey to the sea. The track wound gradually downhill round the contours of the mountains, branching off at the 2km mark to become a narrow and sometimes rocky trail, with tall protea bushes (including mimetes and pincushions) on either side. The dense vegetation required a little concentration to ensure a steady footing, and pauses were necessary to enjoy the lovely views down towards the Atlantic Ocean and Long Beach. Sunbirds, Karoo prinias and a Southern Boubou could be heard from all over the valley and mountain slopes, but none came into view. We kept an eye out for snakes as they are starting to come out of winter rest, but none were seen or stepped on.
As we reached the lower slopes, it was alarming to see the extent of the infestation by invasive alien trees, choking the proteas as they struggle to reach above them and fast losing the battle. Hopefully the authorities will set a programme in motion to attend to their removal and control of re-growth, to restore the natural beauty of the valley. The path became quite sandy in the valley, the ferrous oxide staining it red as the Kalahari dunes – quite interesting to note the varying geology of the Peninsula on these hikes, with most of the sand being finely weathered quartz and pale.
At the end of the hike we passed the ruins of the buildings used to house miners and gunpowder in the days when it was thought that silver would be found in the area. None was found, and all that remains are a few tumbled stone walls, ancient oaks and a dangerous network of tunnels that have formed sinkholes. Such is Man’s legacy.