A lovely hike up to the Elephant’s Eye Cave at Silvermine

In the middle of May, the week before Tanya (Richard’s sister from Windhoek) came to visit us in Cape Town, we had walked the reservoir circuit and hiked along the Crags at the Silvermine Nature Reserve (see The Silvermine reservoir circuit and along the Crags). As Tanya hadn’t ever been to this reserve, we were very keen to show it to her.

The map at the start of our hike

So, the day after we returned from our mid-week break in the mountains of Swellendam (click on the link to read more about that little adventure), we packed our rucksack and headed south into the mountains of Silvermine.

Our route up to the Elephant’s Eye cave and down to the reservoir (screenshot from Google Earth)

We set off along the jeep track from the parking lot.

The Elephant’s Eye hike starts down here next to the parking area

We took the steep shortcut directly up the mountain, following the route markers towards the Elephant’s Eye.

Up and up we go, trudging up the steep shortcut

After some time, we came to a cluster of pine trees at the top of the ridge.

A cluster of pine trees on the ridge

From up here, we could see across an expanse of fynbos and down onto the Cape Flats below. The weather was perfect, with none of that smoggy heat haze we had experienced the week before.

The view across the fynbos towards the Hottentots Holland mountains on the far horizon

The stony path led steadily northwards. We reached a stream, that was cascading right across the path. Richard, the only one with waterproof boots, leapt across to the other side, where he found a large stick that he tossed over to us. It was easy to ford the stream by using the sturdy stick for balance on the wobbly river stones.

A bubbling stream tumbles directly across our path

As usual, I got distracted by the plant and bird life en route.

A pair of orange-breasted sunbirds

I’m not a hiker who likes to stride along without stopping, except to catch one’s breath. I don’t see the point in charging straight up the mountain and back down again. If I want to walk fast, I might as well walk around the block five times! Or to walk/run on a treadmill for an hour – Oh! how awful! Can’t think of anything worse.

I think that these are Leucadendron coniferum, otherwise known as dune yellowbush

No, when I’m out in nature, I have to – need to – make time to look, to smell, to touch, to feel, to listen, and to experience life in all its manifold glory. Yes, and of course to take photographs.

I don’t know what these flowering bushes are – do you perhaps?

My blogfriend Kathy is always writing about the importance of slowing down, like she does here. Sensible advice, in my view.

I’m fairly sure that these are Erica sparsa (or Common heath) – aren’t they pretty? Nothing Common about them!

But don’t take this to mean that I crawl along like a sluggish snail, photographing every single thing I see.

Oh! A sugarbush protea!

No, I can motor along quite nicely if I set my mind to it – even more so if a pleasant picnic awaits somewhere at the top! πŸ˜‰

Look – another orange-breasted sunbird!

We soon reached the fire lookout hut.

The lookout hut is clearly visible above us

Can you imagine sleeping up here? And waking up to such a view? Wow.

What a view!

From the stone hut, we could see the so-called Elephant’s Eye cave, literally a big hole in the side of the mountain.

Can you see it?

A marker led us to the right little track up and up and up towards the peak.

No, this is not a sign for an elephant crossing… πŸ™‚

Can you see the fire lookout hut on the top of that little ridge? And below are the dark green forests of Tokai and Constantia.

Gazing back towards the lookout hut

The path zigzagged steeply upwards. That dark opening in the cliff face up ahead is the Elephant’s Eye Cave.

Zig-and-zag up-and-up

At last, we came to an intersection. This time we took the route to the Cave, but next time, I want to go up to the Constantiaberg!

A helpful route marker

Oh my, what a view.

Wow…

We reached the mouth of the cave.

That’s the entrance to the cave!

A little shower of droplets was raining steadily down from above; I’m not sure where these come from, but it must have rained here the day before. Richard looked so tiny against the huge opening.

Can you see the droplets showering down from the cliff above us?

We found a dry spot to sit at the entrance, from where we could admire the view. We unpacked our picnic of apples, energy bars, crackers and water, and sat peacefully on the rocks, allowing the tranquility of this ancient place to seep into us.

Richard, who loves caves, used the opportunity to scramble all the way to the back of the cave, where it was as chillingly cold as sitting in a butcher’s cold storage rooms. Brrrrr…. The roof of the cave at the back was covered in green ferns, which had somehow, mysteriously, anchored themselves up there and found enough sustenance in the rocks to grow and flourish.

Richard’s artistic composition of the view from the back of the cave

Shortly after us, a little family, made up of Mommy and Daddy, a really sweet little boy and a just as cute little girl, all accompanied by their dog, arrived at the cave. We got to talking, as one is wont to do, when encountering friendly people on the mountain.

It turned out that Christine, for that was her name, was (is, I should say) a writer too! In fact, she was in the process of publishing a book about travelling in South Africa. I don’t know what it is called, as I forgot to ask her, but you can check out her website, which is called Coast to Coast: it is described as “a backpackers’ guide to adventure and accommodation in South Africa”. Brilliant, isn’t it?

We chatted about the challenges of having your writings published, and whether it is better to go the route of self-publishing (which is what I did), the mechanics of doing the layout and formatting yourself, and the importance of finding a good printer, and the difficulties of marketing one’s book once it has been published (yes, I could attest to that). It was such a serendipitous moment of synchronicity!

After losing track of time for a while, we realised that we were getting cold. We’d been so hot and sweaty after our climb, that we hadn’t noticed how cold it was, even just at the mouth of the cave. My teeth were starting to chatter. So we quickly made our goodbyes and embarked on our descent.

And pretty soon we found ourselves on the shortcut down to the jeep track.

And down, down, down we go…

I took a final macro shot of those white flowers at the side of the track.

I am not sure what kind of erica these are – I think they are Erica viscaria

We followed the jeep track down and did a brief detour to the reservoir, which we wanted to show Tanya too.

Protea a-blooming at the side of the reservoir

Look at this – I think it is a King Protea (Protea cynaroides).

Isn’t this just magnificent?

And that was the end of another fantastic hike. We are so blessed in Cape Town, with the mountains and forests and all their hiking trails just right on our doorsteps. We really should get out there as often as we can.

11 thoughts on “A lovely hike up to the Elephant’s Eye Cave at Silvermine

  1. Hi Reggie. I love your posts of your walk on the prom and these two in Silvermine and on the prom. It’s really fun to see your pics and write-ups of the places I’ve also explored πŸ™‚
    Isn’t Silvermine lovely! I recommend you try the Amphitheatre Path sometime – it is probably my favourite route there.
    I’ve never walked all the way around the dam, so that is what I’m going to do next time I visit. And I also want to climb Constantiaberg.
    Your bird photos are especially wonderful. I spent about ten minutes trying to snap a sunbird last time I was out and I got two in focus and I-don’t-know-how-many blurry shots. So frustrating. Flowers are so much easier.
    Regarding that white erica (I think we saw the same one – the front of the flower opens up like a little star)…my guess was Erica lutea.

    • Hello Helen – thank you!

      I also love reading your posts about the routes we’ve hiked – as you and your friends have covered A LOT more trails than we have, I like checking out your website to see what routes we could do too, and what the terrain is like (you guys are a lot fitter, I think!).

      And yes, we’ve also become quite enchanted by Silvermine. I’d so badly wanted to go exploring today, but – alas! – it has been raining since the night. Couldn’t it at least wait until Monday?! We haven’t done the Amphitheatre route – I see that you have written about it twice (here and here. Gotta explore that!

      Oh – and thanks for identifying the erica – yes, the front tip looks like a little star.

      As to photographing birds – oh man! I know! It is so frustrating! As soon as you get zoomed in far enough, and your focus adjusted, and the picture composed nicely, then – flit! – the bird is gone again. Argh! Even flowers can be tricky – sometimes I wonder if there is a mischievous little wind-sprite that follows me around… It can be almost perfectly windstill, but as soon as I stop for a macro shot of a pretty flower or an unusual plant, out of nowhere, a breeze starts up… just enough to blur the photo and to make it difficult to focus the camera. So even the flora doesn’t always cooperate! πŸ™‚

  2. Had to chuckle about the wind-sprite… same thing happens to me a lot!

    I’m also being kept indoors by the rainy weather today. It really is grim out there. I’ve done no exercise all week and am trying to persuade myself to go to the gym this afternoon. Urgh! Would much, much, MUCH rather be exercising outdoors.

    By the way, we’re really NOT a terribly fit bunch (especially for the last few months). Our pace is slow and steady, both up and down. I can move more quickly on the level πŸ™‚
    One of the nicest aspects of walking in the Cape is that you can have a fabulous walk, get lots of exercise and fresh air, and the experience of getting to the top of a mountain without being super-fit (and even without major effort if you start high up like in Silvermine). I agree so much with what you say above about taking the time to notice and enjoy one’s surroundings – that is usually our focus too, not exercise or reaching a particular point.

    Here’s hoping next weekend brings better weather!!

    (PS please excuse my ‘on the prom’ repetition in comment above – a bored black cat walked across the laptop and distracted me from editing my scribbles properly)

  3. I think you slow down admirably to see the magnificent world around us. And you show it to us so beautifully! Thanks for the nudge back to one of my “preaching” blogs. Smiling. Sounds like another wonderful excursion! You have my full admiration, Reggie.

    • Hahaha, thank you Bobz. πŸ™‚

      My relaxation skills aren’t that great, actually, probably because I have become so accustomed to multi-tasking on the computer and tabbing in-and-out of all the programs that are open at the same time, like internet, email, Word, Picasa, photo processing software, never mind iTunes and stuff like that. So I tend to skip around a lot (um, not physically, I mean ;-)) when I’m thinking, which is not conducive to the traditional “knuckling down and getting things done” approach we learned in school.

      BUT I do find that being outside, under the blue-blue sky, or in a quiet forest, or by a bubbling mountain stream, there’s a shift that happens in the mind, which is almost tangible. The thinking mind slows down, and after a while, the chattering ceases, and there’s a greater sense of presence, openness and receptiveness. That’s my favourite part of being “out there” [in nature]… because it actually brings me back “in here” [to where *I* am, *really* am…. Does that make sense?

      Hm. You’ve just made me think, Bobz. Hugs.

  4. Pingback: Friday morning hike around High Steenberg Peak in Silvermine East « Grains of Sand

  5. Hi there,

    I’d like to know how long the hike takes from Silvermine dam to the eye? A group of friends is looking for a relaxing walk and we’re keen for something not too hectic. Any idea how long it takes from the dam?

    Much appreciated

    • Hello HappyDays – it’s an uphill walk much of the way to the Eye, but it’s not a long walk up – probably about an hour? It depends on how fit you area, and whether you like stopping a lot to catch your breath/admire/photograph the beautiful surroundings. πŸ˜‰

  6. Hello Reggie – how nice it is sitting up here in the cold winter – and following your latest adventure – walking in this great landscape! I just start dreaming of following you πŸ˜‰
    Thank for making me dream, my friend!

    • Hello Truels – Thank you! Perhaps one day you too will find yourself walking around Silvermine Reservoir and up Constantiaberg and up Table Mountain? We haven’t been hiking for a long time, I miss it. It feels good to be out there in nature. I hope your winter is not too cold and long this year so that you can get out into your beautiful natural areas again too.

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