A couple of weekends ago, we felt like a change of scenery from the now-familiar Newlands Forest, and thus headed further south to Constantia Nek.
A number of hiking trails begin from the parking area near the traffic circle at the top: there’s a few shorter circular trails that goes through the pine plantation and back to the start; a longer there-and-back route takes you up to the contour path, along which you can reach Kirstenbosch Gardens from the south; and of course then there’s the more strenuous route that takes you up the back of Table Mountain via the dams. (Well, that route is actually nowhere near as strenuous as the steep ascents of Platteklip Gorge and Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine.)
As we were both inexplicably feeling a little under the weather, we chose the short, roughly circular route through the pine plantations.
Shortly after 9am, we ambled slowly up the broad gravel road, and were soon passed by a man with a couple of lively dogs who bounded along, pausing to sniff here and there. A combi with a trailer came roaring past in a cloud of dust, forcing us to step smartly aside.
Everywhere, we saw the stumps of pine trees, which forestry workers had chopped down. It had turned into a warm and humid day, and we were longing for the familiar shade of our beloved Newlands Forest. The sun was beating down on us despite the relatively early hour.
After some time, the broad gravel road divided into two: a locked boom prevented vehicle access to the road heading up the mountain, which was the one we chose. The other road, along which we returned later, led downhill to a building, barely visible in the distance. I asked directions here from a group of women walking their dogs.
There weren’t that many flowers growing here, but these ones were quite striking against the barren slopes.
Eventually, we were surrounded by pine trees on either side. The trouble with pine plantations is that there is very little undergrowth – apparently because the pine needles make the soil so acidic. It was very, very quiet here too, hardly any birds singing. The only sounds came from groups fellow hikers overtaking us, and continuing up the back of Table Mountain.
We reached a little hillock, which rose up on the right side of the path, where it curved to the left.
And directly opposite this, on our left, were these large boulders. One of them had a pile of small stones on it, and a mysterious plaque.
Close-up of the plaque, dedicated to Angela; it says:
“In loving memory of my darling
7.11.69 – 31.7.97
Happier than ever at this peacefull spot on 30.07.97”
We’d noticed this plaque on previous hikes, but have never been able to find out who this mysterious Angela is. According to the dates, she must have been hiking here on 30 July 1997, the day before she died. She was only 28 years old. I wonder what happened to her?
If you can solve the mystery, please let me know?
I too felt compelled to add a small stone to the pile, with a friendly prayer that she and her family might be safe and well. And then we continued on our way.
The ground dropped sharply away on our right. The tall tres with their barren branches lower down and green branches only right at the top, were straining towards the sunlight. On our left was a similar steep slope, without any trees – they’d been cut down, and only their stumps and untidy piles of dead branches remained. I must admit, I don’t particularly like plantations. I prefer indigenous, wild forests with little evidence of the slaughter of trees.
We continued plodding along the red gravel road, descending steadily. After about 10 minutes, we came to an intersection, where a group of very tall bluegums reached for the sky. Richard obligingly posed for me next to the one, while we debated which direction we should take.
We could either keep walking along the main gravel road, which – if memory served me right – should hook up somehow with the contour path towards Kirstenbosch, or we could turn sharply to the right here and see whether this side road would take us back to the start. We decided on the latter.
We could hear the excited voices of children and dogs barking in the valley below us, and the sound of a running stream somewhere, but I wasn’t sure how to get there.
After a while, we reached a cluster of houses in the middle of green lawns, and surrounded by a tall fence. It was the Cecilia Forestry Station. Richard found a small path that skirted around the back of the fence, and rejoined the gravel road on the other side. That’s where I saw this very large tortoise lumbering along in the middle of the lawn.
A couple of minutes further along the path, we heard the sound of running water; a small stream was tumbling down some rocks, that looked as though they had been placed there deliberately to create steps. You may just be able to see them between the bushes here:
I rather liked the pretty clouds!
At last, we came to a pretty picnic spot, a sturdy bench standing right next to a gurgling and splashing waterfall!
A handy picnic bench for the footsore hiker.
Once we’d polished off our apples, we resumed our hike. Pretty purple geraniums were in flower:
We passed a cluster of cork oaks, with their strange looking bark. When you touch it, it feels very dry and slightly spongy, exactly like real cork!
Roadside flowers lent a bit of colour to the landscape.
By half past 10, we were back at the start, and on our way home. It had been a short and very leisurely walk.