Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Eye on Life

Broad interest online magazine


Up to the lighthouse again!

It’s been a while since I made the trek up the long path to Cape Point lighthouse (the original, unused one), but after some indecision as to whether to do the Sirkelsvlei trail or the Shipwreck trail in the face of patchy rain showers, a small group of us broke away from the main hike to do the uphill challenge. By the time we had reached the Cape Point parking area, the cloud cover had lifted and we could see the object of our intention, far higher than I thought it would be, but there was no turning back. We, and especially I, needed the exercise after a long winter of discontent, interrupted by rain, work and an irregular heartbeat that had me thinking my hiking days were over. Wearing an ECG monitor strapped to my chest, a strenuous climb was just the thing to register any jumps and thumps before handing it over for analysis.

The crowds, if there are going to be any this year, were still arriving in buses that could be seen snaking towards the Point, and so we set off on the initial steep ascent before the steps. The seas were calm compared to the heaving swells of the last few days, and it was rather a pity that we had not been there to witness the Cape of Storms living up to its reputation, but still the scenery was incomparable – False Bay was lit up by a patch of sunlight pouring through the clouds and the odd peak of the Hottentots Holland mountains reared out of the wisps enfolding them. Dias Beach was its usual immaculate self, the white sands unblemished by the kelp swept ashore on the other Atlantic beaches. To the north, the peaks of Vasco da Gama, Rooikrans, Matrooskop, Paulsberg and Judas added drama to the landscape, with Muizenberg at the top end of False Bay before the long sweep of white sand extending to Gordons Bay before curving back down along the Hottentots Holland to Rooiels, Pringle Bay and Cape Hangklip. On a clear day, you can see to Danger Point, but not today.

The locals can visit our national parks for free this week, being the build-up to Heritage Day when we are all supposed to celebrate our diverse cultures – no bad thing, although some work needs to be done on maintaining a large part of the heritage currently in place. A group of youngsters were being hustled up the path by their guide/teacher, who was heard to say, as they passed us (ranging in age from 67 to 89!) that if these old people could do it, there was no need for them to rest. On hearing that Norman was 89, he stopped to shake his hand! Soon the path was filled with people toiling to the top, yet it wasn’t crowded on arrival – everyone was obviously on a schedule and took the obligatory selfies with friends, gasped at the sheer drop on the other side of the wall, admired the views and then headed back down. The buses wait for no man, as a number of people actually scuttled down the path in unseemly haste. Or else nature called.

We, too, took the obligatory selfies with friends, gasped and admired. We are so lucky to live within an hour’s drive of this marvel of nature and able to enjoy it in all weathers and varying degrees of visitors. The best time is dead of winter when the sea birds are within sight – albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters – a birder’s paradise. They venture close to land at this most southwestern promontory of this great continent, gliding effortlessly against the swells as they journey around the South Atlantic.

Despite resting several times to catch my breath, I made short work of the ascent, proving that I am still fit enough to tackle the heights once the heartbeat is regulated. It will be good to be out there again, hopefully soon. We rounded off the morning with a delightful light lunch at Bertha’s, Simon’s Town Waterfront, where we watched the incoming tide fill the little basin surprisingly quickly. Perhaps the heavy seas took their toll in this sheltered spot as well.

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