The wet cliffs, streamsides and seeps of the Cape Peninsula and mountains of the southwestern Cape are home to the striking Disa Uniflora and it has become something of a tradition to visit its known locations at the beginning of February each year. Some years we have been rewarded for our effort and others not, and this is due mostly to timing, but also to knowing the exact location. Yesterday was one of those when too much misinformation and too little precise detail led to nothing. It was not for lack of enthusiasm or tramping the trail, but an intimate knowledge of Table Mountain is definitely a requirement! The signposts mention the ravines and dams, but unless you actually know where the Aquaduct is, all is lost. Suffice to say we were within 1km of our destination but it was a bridge too far due to uncertainty.
A steady uphill of around 5km up the jeep track from Constantia Nek takes you to the first dam, De Villiers Dam. As the hottest day of summer so far, with only a light breeze forecast, we left at 7.30 and reached the Overseer’s Hut within 2 hours, not bad for a bunch of Flying Tortoises. There were already swimmers and it didn’t take long for a few of our hikers to join them, clothes and all, in the refreshing tannin-tinted waters fed by pristine streams. After a refreshment break, we eagerly set out on rudimentary instructions for the next set of dams. The paved jeep track, which enables access to the mountain huts and waterworks for the relevant authorities, makes for an easy hike apart from the incline, but here on the back table it is a marvellous, silent world belonging to the breeze, the raptors and the fynbos. Fantastical rocky outcrops span the plateau and here and there a glimpse of the Atlantic can be seen. No signs of civilisation intrude and only the peaks of the Table Mountain chain disturb the line of sight. Beyond those peaks lie the patchworked fields and vineyards of the verdant Constantia Valley, the blue waters of False Bay, the cramped and crowded Cape metropole and the serried rows of rugged mountains leading to the hinterland.
We reached an elevation of 730m, 300m short of the table top, and it was clear that a whole day was needed to enjoy the scenery, rather than the toil to the top and down again for 12km or so. In all, a distance of 22km was measured on my Fitbit, with 30 000 steps (a far cry from the usual 10 000). A drinking fountain at the Overseer’s Hut was a saving grace in the heat, and a good soaking under the jet each time we passed it made me feel like a child again, running through sprinklers on a hot day. Without that fountain, I would definitely not have had enough water – around 4 litres went down the hatch over the day – and it was a warning about the absolute necessity to carry only what you require. Water should make up the bulk of a backpack. Although the aim of such an adventurous hike was to see the disas, I cannot say I was in any way disappointed in my day on the mountain. The heat was tempered by a cooling breeze, low humidity was a life-saver and sitting on top of one of the 7 natural wonders of the world was enough to make the heart sing If anything, an overnight stay is now definitely on my bucket list. I’m sure it won’t be difficult to find others to join me.