A blogfriend of mine, Helen from Walk the Cape, regularly goes hiking in the mountains and forests of the Table Mountain National Park. One of the areas where she and her friends often walk is the Silvermine Nature Reserve. After reading a number of blogs about those hikes, hubby and I felt it was time to extend our range further south than Newlands Forest and Constantia Nek. We did this hike way back in the middle of May.
One sunny Saturday morning, we followed the serpentines of Ou Kaapse Weg (the Old Cape Road) up to the top of the Steenberg Plateau, turned in at the sign for the viewing site and the pay kiosk, and handed over the requisite R15 entrance fee per person. We found parking at the end of the gravel road, near the reservoir.
As we hadn’t been here before, we thought we’d start with the easy circuit around the reservoir.
A sturdy boardwalk led all the way from the parking area to the water’s edge. A couple of families had settled in for a day’s picnicking, and their young offspring were playing games on the patch of lawn and chasing each other around and around.
We turned left here to walk across the bridge.
Idyllic, isn’t it? And can you see that little wooden bridge in the distance? That’s where we crossed on our way back.
On the far side, we turned right, and soon found ourselves on another boardwalk, which more or less followed the curve of the dam.
We saw this strange nest in a tree. It was covered with a wriggling mass of ants. I didn’t know that ants build nests in trees?
After walking for a little while, we came to the pretty wooden bridge we had seen from the opposite side of the dam. Water lilies grew prolifically in the shallows.
Egyptian geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca) were floating peacefully across the breeze-rippled surface of the water. I wonder whether these two were a pair?
Wow, isn’t this beautiful?
Strung among the shady plants between the boardwalk and the edge of the water, we found scores of these gossamer spiderwebs that had captured the dew.
I love this reflection.
All along the northern shoreline of the reservoir were picnic places, with low stone walls to sit on, and a flat surface to use as a table. Some even had fireplaces where you could make a braai. As we approached the lower end of the reservoir, where we had started our perambulation, the delicious fragrance of food being grilled wafted towards us. Ahhh! I’m hungry!!
We followed a little path up through the forest.
Here, we encountered a little family of… hm… guinea fowl they weren’t… what were they? When we got home, I a-Googling went, scrolling through images and websites until I was pretty sure this was a Cape spurfowl or Cape francolin (Pternistis capensis or Francolinus capensis). They were surprisingly tolerant of humans, allowing us to approach within almost a metre, before the entire family complete with adorably fluff-ball youngsters scuttled to safety among the undergrowth.
I’d been hearing a bird calling, as we walked, but everytime we got close, he fell silent. At last, I got a shot at him, albeit only through the branches. I think it’s a malachite sunbird (Nectarinia famosa).
These little oxalis (Oxalis glabra) grew everywhere along the path. They aren’t spectacular plants, but I like them. They give such a pretty dash of colour.
Our path emerged into the open right next to the toilets. Ah! Always good to know where those are! 🙂
We continued trudging uphill along this wide jeep track. Can you see the mast sticking out at the top of the mountain? This is a VHF mast, and as it is about 100 metres high, it is visible from afar. Constructed in the 1960s, it transmits the signals of local television and radio stations, as well as cellular networks. I even read in the Wikipedia that the South African Weather Service has a weather radar installation up there. I’m rather curious about that, so I hope we will make it all the way up one day for a closer look!
Oooh! Another bird! If Google is right, it’s a grassbird (Sphenoeacus afer).
I haven’t a clue what this fluffy-headed chap is in the next picture, but don’t you think he’s adorable? He looks just like a nutty professor awoken from his Sunday morning nap, a little grouchy and prickly before he’s had his tea and biscuits. 🙂 I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s a kind of sunbird.
After ascending for some time, we stopped to catch our breath. Look at this view.
We came to a sign to Elephants Eye, but there was a huge crowd of hikers on their way up, chattering away as they walked, so we took the next turn to the right.
And our narrow winding trail took us straight up through the fynbos to those rocks up there!
Oh my gosh! Look at this view! You can see that there was the typical heat-haze over the Cape Flats, which we get so often during the winter months, when the South Easter isn’t blowing all the air pollution out to sea.
Looking north towards the elephant’s eye, which is concealed in the side of that mountain peak on the left. On the lower peak, to which the path leads (can you see the line across the mountainside?), you may just be able to make out a square block.
Look, I’ll help you by zooming in. This is the fireman’s lookout hut. The view from there is just glorious.
And so was the view from our trail. We’d hopped across the rocks to get closer to the edge, and looked down on the green forests of Tokai. You can find the beautiful Tokai Arboretum down below. The arboretum was planted as far back as 1886 by one Joseph Storr Lister. He acquired trees from all over the world, in order to see whether they would grow well in this environment, and whether they would be economically viable to grow on a commercial scale, presumably. Unfortunately, as we experienced some time back, and as described on the Hiking Guide website, the site has been badly neglected. But it is still worth a visit.
I zoomed in as far as my camera allowed, until I could see the cooling towers of the decommissioned Athlone coal-fired power station, arguably the most famous man-made landmark in Cape Town. Just beyond it lies the verdant Garden City of Pinelands: Home. 🙂
Our narrow mountain track took us eastwards along the fynbos-covered Silvermine Crags.
From here we could clearly see the reservoir below us towards the south.
Wow, what a view towards the north. And by the way, that is smog down there. Ick. We actually live in all that polluted air. No wonder so many people are suffering from respiratory illnesses in the city. We too feel the effects of the air pollution when we have been outside Cape Town for a couple of days and then return. It’s not funny.
But back to the flora and fauna up here in the mountains.
These rocks were such a startling white against the green shades of the surrounding vegetation and the hazy blue mountains beyond.
On one of the crags, we found this long branch? tree? wedged tightly between a couple of rocks. You can see the access road below, chockablock with cars of fellow hikers and other outdoorsy folk. In the far distance are the mountains near Simon’s Town (I think), and beyond those is famous Cape Point, the place where the two oceans, the cold Atlantic and the warm Indian Ocean, do not meet. And although it may look like it at first glance, Cape Point is actually not the southernmost point of the African continent – that honour is reserved for Cape Agulhas, 150 km to the southeast. The ‘meeting’ between the two oceans is not indicated by any actual line – it fluctuates all the time, ranging between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas.
We continued following the path along the crags, until we came to a path that led down.
After descending steadily for a while, we reached one of the two jeep tracks. The intersection was helpfully marked by this sign.
Another track on the far side took us straight down to our car.
Sigh. And that was the end of a wonderful, uplifting hike. I can’t wait to go back again! I wonder if the weather will be okay tomorrow?