The very thought of eating plum pudding on a searing summer’s day at the Cape is not at all enticing. One can only imagine that the homesick soldiers guarding prisoners at the King’s Blockhouse high on the hillside of Devil’s Peak were thinking of a British winter and imagining that the little hillock below roughly resembled the shape of a plum pudding. Today little remains of the three blockhouses and the once proud cannons that were fired to let the farmers across the Cape Flats know that a ship had entered Table Bay and trading was imminent. The bushes are reclaiming the land once cleared to build these structures, and it won’t be long before only a few walls remain to mark a colonial past. Fortunately the intention of our hikes in the mountains of the Peninsula is not to bewail the crumbling of historical sites, but to live in the present moment and inhale the clean upper air of the contour paths, drink in the astounding views of receding rows of mountains into the hinterland and revel in the glorious fynbos as it changes over the seasons.
The circular route from Rhodes Memorial takes a steep uphill as you head towards Newlands forest – quite the opposite direction – and a gradual rise is still enough to make many water breaks mandatory on a cloudless, sunny day. Once you reach the jeep track and turn back in the direction of Plum Pudding Hill and the blockhouses, shade is a luxury not easily found. The silver trees are abundant in this area, although a large patch is currently dying off after a fire. New saplings are everywhere, which gives hope of a full recovery of those lost and even greater numbers for the future. Here and there a few flowering gums (endemic to Western Australia) are showing off their brilliant colours of deep red, pink and all shades in between, even white, revealing why they are so popular as accent plants along roadsides. They at least provided good shade for the weary and overheated among us.
The track affords a view across the harbour and to Robben Island and the West Coast beyond, but doesn’t wind far enough around Devil’s Peak to enable us to view the rugged cliffs of Table Mountain or the City Bowl, but we were more than satisfied with the scenery towards the Cape Winelands, shimmering in the haze and making us intensely grateful for the slight cooling breeze that crept over the ridge. A lone pine tree high on the slope bears testimony to the wind direction in this neck of the woods!
Despite being high summer, there were sufficient pretty flowers (tiny, tough and drought adapted) to draw the eye and allow us to appreciate our good fortune in being out together in the mountains where the busy mind can quieten and recharge.