Top of the world

The hike from Black Hill Expressway above Glencairn up to the Rooikrans ridge overlooking the Noordhoek Valley rates as one of the most scenic on the Peninsula. Somehow we always seem to do it when an icy southeaster is blowing in from the sea, and today was no exception. Another sparkling sunny winter’s day, tempered by the cool air as the onset of spring beckons, surrounded by abundant sugarbushes, ericas, daisies and metalasia, was the perfect antidote for a few days at the computer. The rough jeep track soon petered out and became a sandy, single-file trail through shoulder high restios, proteas and assorted shrubbery, from whence came the irrepressible twittering of the sunbirds revelling in the promise of the new season.

One of the greatest pleasures of hiking in our mountains, apart from the views, is without a doubt the thrill of spotting the early flowers after months of fairly dull greenery. The cheerful yellow of thousands of bobbing daisies as far as the eye could see (or perhaps throw a stick!) and the waving golden fronds of the restios brings a sense of peace and happiness as we realise that Nature never lets life get it down, and the regeneration of the vegetation after fires, drought, floods and general misuse is relentless. We can learn from this.

It seemed that the long, long uphill was never going to end, and that the ridge we were aiming for was impossibly far away. In fact, I huffed and puffed and rested frequently, bringing up the rear and letting my seniors show me up with their energy and fitness. Another inspiration on the mountains – those who are 20 years older than me, tackling tough trails like teenagers! Stopping to take photos of tiny flowers along the way allowed me to catch my breath surreptitiously, and of course brings the pleasure of viewing them in zoom mode later. The only way to fully appreciate the delicate intricacies of some fynbos flowers is to enlarge them on the screen. Yet many pass by without noticing the tiny blue babiana defiantly blooming in the middle of the path, daring a boot to trample it, or stooping to sniff at the minute cerise ericas to find out whether they have a scent. I see this as a lost opportunity to reap the full rewards of a hike, but each to his own – as long as I am up there, I have to see as much as possible. Seize the day, for tomorrow is promised to nobody.

The marvellous views from the ridge, once you have caught your breath and partaken of a sandwich, make it all worthwhile. With very little left of the Noordhoek wetlands, with encroachment from industry and residents alike, it is better to cast your gaze towards the distant mountains, the expansive white sands of Long Beach and the blue, blue Atlantic disappearing over the horizon than to dwell on memories of days gone by, when only a dirt road crossed the valley, and dairy farms and vegetable fields sprawled across the landscape. We are all guilty of adding to development, simply by needing houses to live in and places to work, but thankfully the mountains will always be there as a refuge from civilisation.

Basking in the sunshine on the craggy rocks of Rooikrans, where baboons have roamed for millenia, we could feel we were on top of the world. Wispy clouds draped across the mountains on the far side of False Bay, a valuable source of moisture for the Kogelberg biosphere – the fynbos gets much of its water from the cloud cover, having adapted its leaves to retaining every precious drop no matter where it comes from. The number and variety of species in those mountains, is unrivalled in the plant kingdom, and a visit in spring is on the bucket list. Yet still, to my unbiased (!) eye, there is no doubt that the Cape Peninsula is the fairest cape in all the circumference of the globe. Go into the mountains and enjoy it for yourself!

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