Heat haze, jeep tracks and a full moon braai: A weekend in the Olifants River mountains, Part IV

This is Part 4 of our weekend in the Olifants River Mountains. Here are the links to the other four post about this trip:

After the morning’s exertions, the rest of the day was spent in a far more leisurely fashion. As the wind speed decreased towards midday, the temperatures soared into the mid-thirties.

Heat haze

We lazed about the cottage, trying to stay cool, reading a book and leafing through magazines. We downloaded and sorted through our photos. And we made plans for the afternoon’s hike, and worked out a route for the next day’s return to Cape Town.

We were not the only ones wilting in the heat. Even Lilly-Beth had decided to postpone hunting for grasshoppers to the early evening hours.

Lilly-Beth resting in the midday heat

An afternoon hike around the farm

By 17h00, the shadows were starting to lengthen and the temperature had decreased to a more bearable level. We lathered on sunscreen nonetheless and filled up our water bottle. According to Gemma’s map, it looked as though there might be a trail going north from our cottage and skirting the little dam, before heading westwards and down into the valley and back up to the ridge on the far side.

Map of the jeep track trail

A false start

We easily found the start of the little trail that skirted the upper edge of our little dam. I thought we might be able to see our cottage from the opposite side.

Setting off on our afternoon hike

But unfortunately the path soon came to an abrupt dead end at a large pile of dead branches, leftovers of pine trees, perhaps? I started to clamber across and through the pile, in the hope of reaching the path that I was sure had to continue beyond, but froze when I suddenly realised that there might be snakes curled up beneath the creaking and cracking branches.


Did they have puffadders and cobras up here in the mountains?

Perhaps it was best to turn back.

A pile of dead branches suddenly blocked our path

Second attempt

We quickly retraced our steps to our cottage and followed another sandy track down past some farm buildings until we reached another dam, slightly larger than ours. A wide jeep track ran past the dam, to an intersection where a large stone house was being built. The views from there across the valley and towards the mountains in the north were absolutely glorious!

Looking southwards across the dam, we could make out the other two self-catering cottages at the foot of the rocky outcrop that we had nicknamed the Dassie Kopje. The one on the left was Pelargonium Cottage (presumably because there were wild pelargoniums growing there), while the one on the right was Protea Cottage (most likely because it stood at the edge of a protea plantation). It must be quite spectacular here when the protea bushes are all flowering!

View southwards across the dam to Pelargonium Cottage and Protea Cottage

We continued north along the jeep track, descending gradually, until we came to another intersection.

An overgrown path heading up the hill

We continued straight, following the overgrown path through the tall fynbos towards a cluster of large boulders with some startling red flowers growing out of the rocks. There didn’t seem to be an easy way of climbing up to the top of these boulders, but I think the view from up there must be awesome!

Red flowers growing out of the rocks

A faint footpath

Instead, we noticed that there was a very faint footpath leading steeply up the slope to the right.

We carefully followed this, until we reached a kind of rocky cliff. I couldn’t remember the details on the hand-drawn map back in the cottage, but I was almost sure there had to be a trail running along the top of the ridge, somewhere near the boundary fence with the neighbouring farm. Richard, who loves clambering up and over rocks, offered to see whether he could find the trail at the top.

I remained below and took a panorama shot instead. You can see the large pile of boulders in the centre of the photo, all intermingled with bushes that seem to be growing between the boulders. And on the ridge on the far side of the valley, you can make out the main access road to the farm, running all along the side of the ridge.

A panorama across the length of the valley

Richard didn’t find a trail, but he did manage to reach the boundary fence. It didn’t look as though there was an easy path along the ridge, though, so he climbed back down again. Clearly, this warrants further exploration!

I wonder what he can see from up there?

Flora and fauna

Meanwhile, I had some fun photographing the fynbos:




I love the cheerful brightness of these red flowers!

These odd-looking large black beetles frequently scuttled across our path. This was the only one who was willing to pose for a quick photograph, though he didn’t give me much time to focus! I don’t know what kind of beetle this is – if you do, please let me know?

A large black beetle

We retraced our steps down the faint footpath, turned sharply left at the pile of boulders, and returned to the intersection with the jeep track.

On the jeep track once again

We followed this downhill into the valley and up on the other side, walking northwards between tall protea bushes, until we reached the main access road to the farm. On the opposite side of the road, was the turn-off to the lookout point, which we had explored the day before.

In the photo below, you can see the jeep track as it snakes down the hill into the valley.

Looking east at the jeep track

We marched southwards along the gravel road until I saw a little path turning off to the left, heading into the protea plantation.

The dassie kopje

We followed this past the Dassie Kopje, where a couple of dassies were lazing about in the late afternoon sun.

A brown dassie is sunning itself on the sandstone kopje (you’ll have to click on the photo to see it properly)

We were keeping an eye open for any trails that might take us closer to the kopje, and perhaps even to the top. But it didn’t look as though there was a path, so we continued all the way around, until we reached the large gravel road once more. We took the next turn-off and strolled down the hill, past Pelargonium Cottage, where the appetite-inducing smell of a braai was filling the air with delicious fragrances.

Home again

We made our way past the farm buildings, which we had passed earlier, and returned to Lilly Cottage. Lilly-Beth suddenly raced up from behind us, her tail straight up in the air with excitement. She must have been waiting for us in the shade of some rocks. She was clearly delighted that we were home safely, and gently reminded us that it was time for a little saucer of cold milk. Or two, even. We were happy to oblige.

Lilly-Beth looking beautiful, all aglow from within

A full moon braai

Like the night before, we made a little fire for our braai, prepared all the ingredients – plus a little extra for our hungry kitty-cat – and then sat on the patio, cold drinks in hand, enjoying the sunset over the valley while waiting for the coals to reach the right temperature.

This is always my favourite time of the braai: the lull between the rush of the preparations, and the frequent turning of the meat and the veggies and the toasted sandwiches on the grid, to prevent things burning. πŸ™‚

Blue flowers in the golden light of sunset

As the shadows lengthened, and the sun dropped away behind the mountain ridge in the west, the full moon rose higher in the eastern sky. An odd thought crossed my mind – that this daily and nightly movement of the sun and the moon is actually caused by the rotation of the earth. It was US who were moving… the world felt strangely unstable, suddenly. I reached down to scratch Lilly-Beth behind the ears, and she purred loudly and happily, pushing herself against my hand. Amazing, how comforting it can be to stroke a cat.

A contented Lilly-Beth

As the sky darkened, the first stars began to appear, twinkling ever more brightly against the dark backdrop. The birds, which had been darting hither and thither, catching their supper, or twittering on high branches and fence posts, gradually fell quiet. The frogs in the dam were croaking or gurgling or chirping, an eerily beautiful concert. The moon bathed all of us in a silvery light.

The strong wind of this morning had settled down, and left us with an intermittent, soft breeze that blew the smoke away from us. Richard was hard at work, continuously turning the meat, the potatoes, the butternut, the toasted sandwiches, moving them around the grid to find the optimum heat above the warmly glowing coals. We ate our delicious supper on the balcony overlooking the dam with its froggy chorus.

What a treat it was to be up here in these peaceful, rugged, majestic mountains!

I tried to take some photos of the full moon, but none could do it justice. So I’ll leave you with an image of these leaves, illuminated by the rays of the setting sun.

Leaves at sunset

2 thoughts on “Heat haze, jeep tracks and a full moon braai: A weekend in the Olifants River mountains, Part IV

  1. Another lovely day in the mountains! Lovely flora and fauna. Can’t identify your beetle– “a large beetle” sounds good to me! I have been longing to experience a real live braai since morning. Reason enough to visit South Africa!

I'd love to hear your views

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