Under the canopy

Newlands forest, the last remaining afro-montaine patch on the Cape Peninsula, is possibly the most accessible and popular recreational walking area in Cape Town. Weekends see the trails jam-packed with runners, hikers, dog walkers, families with babies in prams and the odd picnickers. We are very fortunate to be able to do our hiking on a week day when it is still possible to sit in the shade of a spreading behemoth and hear nothing but the breeze soughing through the boughs. Yesterday was just such a day.

It’s been a while since I was in the forest, covering familiar territory as we picked our way carefully along the path where gnarled and knobbly roots from the soaring pine trees criss-cross the ground. Decades of feet have worn a marvellous patina over the roots, leaving them shiny as they snake across their bed of thick pine needles. It is this very carpet of leaves that gives the forest its silence as no footfall is heard. The lower tracks are undemanding and we forbore the steep ascent to the upper contour some 300 metres above us, simply because we could! This was after all the hiking group known as Slowly Up The Hills. Another day, another hike will see us up there again.

Our favourite spot for coffee on this lower section is on the slope among the trunk-sized roots of a tree that must be among the oldest there. Before us lay a panoramic view of the northern suburbs of Cape Town, mercifully hidden in a thin layer of haze, with the majestic outlines of the mountains of the Cape Winelands stretching into the distance, layer after layer in ever-fading blues. Snow-capped at times, they draw the eye and the imagination runs riot as talk turns to leopards and mountain pools, fynbos and fires, camping and hiking adventures of days gone by in this magnificent wilderness we can call home.

A gentle stroll took us back along the rushing torrent where early plumbing and water courses supplied the suburbs developing in past centuries remain to remind us of man’s engineering skills and endeavours in circumstances that seem unfathomable in today’s world of machinery and technology. It is thanks to them that we are here to experience the beauty of the Cape.

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