Having just had 65mm of rain from a cold front, it was quite a surprise to wake up to a strong southeaster pumping up the valley this morning – somewhat unseasonal and probably caused by the weather patterns currently bringing heavy rain to the Northern Cape after years of drought. Our hiking destination was the Elephant’s Eye cave on Constantiaberg, one of the coldest places to be in a southeaster, and it was no surprise to see everyone in scarves, beanies, gloves and fluffy jackets as I arrived in the Silvermine carpark with 11 degrees on the car thermometer. It is a while since I hiked in such cold weather and was almost unprepared, except for my trusty drench coat which acts as a marvellous windcheater.
We set off for the Crags as the inevitable blanket of cloud descended and soon obscured the mountains from view. A snap decision was made to change our route and seek shelter from the biting wind, and an easier, warmer trail round the dam and along the river ensued. What a difference it made to our enjoyment of the great outdoors. Frozen facial features thawed and a general air of enthusiasm spread through our group. The River trail lived up to its name, gushing melodiously beside us in the little valley as it tumbled on its way to the sea in False Bay. The waterfall halfway down the trail was a torrent, giving off a pungent scent of damp vegetation in the breeze and giving away the source of its golden-brown waters. The tannins of the fynbos tinged piles of foam shored up along the banks, like piles of soft meringue on a pie.
I don’t think we have seen the river in such spate in all the times we have walked here, although timing is always important and no doubt it’s a regular occurrence, but the sound of running water always enhances the outdoor experience. The clouds burned away under the rising sun, on this Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere, and although true winter only starts now, the days will inexorably lengthen towards spring, when these hills will once again wear the fantastic cloak of our precious fynbos. The sugarbushes lining the road into the reserve are at their best right now, unblemished pinks, whites and greens tempting the sugarbirds and sunbirds to sip at their nectar, and delight the eyes of hikers who tread the paths of Silvermine – succour for the soul.