One of the most scenic of the medium-level hikes on the Peninsula is the meander up Elsie’s Peak from the top of Golconda Way in Glencairn. Starting halfway up the elevation of 320m gives one a false sense of security, as the choice of ascent can be either steep (the short way) or variable. We took the variable route, which takes you up a well-trodden path with easy steps (not built by a giant) to the ridge. From there, a number of tracks lead to the peak, providing further choices of descending quite a way down the other side to join the track coming up from the Fish Hoek side, or cutting across to the upper end of that track. Sensible to take the cross path, but with no hurry and the main purpose of our hikes being to get exercise, our intrepid leader took us along the undulating route, I suspect to mask the considerable uphill from our vision!
Elsie’s Peak is home to a huge variety of fynbos from the Cape Floral Kingdom and is quite breathtaking in Spring, but even now there is much to see if you look carefully. The bright orange watsonias and tritoniopsis stand out against the grey sandstone boulders tumbled on the hillside, weathered into fantastical shapes that capture the imagination in different ways – everyone sees something different in the silhouettes. Patches of deep blue miniature agapanthus abound, the only place I have seen them in the wild, although that is no real reflection of their existence in other places. Delicate lobelia in shades of blue and white dot the landscape, unappreciated unless you stoop to admire their tiny perfection, and soft-leaved leucadendrons cast a shimmer of silvery pink in the slight breeze coming in from the west. Pale pink vygies tangle with the blue and black roella, and bright sunshiny yellow vygies dare you to pass by without mentioning them.
A very interesting phenomenon was the millions of ants that were scurrying randomly all over the path – apparently not carrying food or moving home, just a confused, no particular purpose, un-antlike activity. We have never seen this before – perhaps a sign of some movement in the earth or odd weather coming.
Once you pass the cairn where the bottle of water and bowl for dogs to drink from is situated, the ascent begins. Looking up at the skyline is deceptive – as you crest each rise, another one lies ahead, and this gives you plenty of opportunity to turn and enjoy the wonderful views across the valley, encompassing the mountain peaks from Chapman’s to Constantiaberg and the blue Atlantic beyond. A band of fog on the horizon indicated cooler weather for the next few days, always welcome at this time of year. At last we reached the summit, where the mangled remains of the old communications mast lie at the foot of the smart replacement – no doubt it will remain as another relic for future generations to ponder upon.
There can be few more pleasant spots to perch on a rock with a sandwich in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other than on Elsie’s Peak, overlooking the still beautiful bay of Fish Hoek, despite many ill-advised or unattractive developments over the years. The westerly wind flattened the sea, an odd shade of green rather than its usual turquoise blue and we watched the surfskis from the lifesaving club glide smoothly along the coastline over kelp beds and submerged rocks where sea life abounds, while a handful of bathers took to the water within the bounds of the shark net that provides safe bathing. There have been very few sightings of the Great White sharks that necessitated this measure over the last few years, apparently due to the predation of the orcas, but no chances are being taken, at least not in the summer months.
We took the short route back. Steep, very rocky, slippery rocks (sand) and requiring the steadying influence of walking sticks – it required concentration and surefootedness, and perhaps the longer way back would have been better. It was a relief to shed the boots after the long downhill! All in all, a lovely morning on the mountain on a trail highly recommended at all times of year.