A wind-blown circuit of Kanonkop, a stride of ostriches, and a quick visit to Cape Point

On Saturday morning, over a week ago now, we were rather keen to see more of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve after the previous week’s wonderful hike to Sirkelsvlei (and, of course, to make good use of our new Wild Card). After consulting the map, we decided to tackle the slightly more strenuous – though shorter – circular route around Kanonkop on the eastern coastline.

There aren’t many circular routes in the Reserve – the majority are ‘one-way’ routes (which means you need two cars) or ‘there and back’ routes. I confess that I’m a little prejudiced against ‘there and back’ routes, as I don’t like traversing the same terrain twice… blame it on a short attention span, perhaps?

We parked at Booi se Skerm, one of the designated parking areas along the eastern shoreline, and used the steady ascent up the tarred road, to reach the start of the hiking trail in the bushes above Black Rock, to warm up our muscles and to get into our stride. From the sign marking the start of the trail, the path climbed fairly rapidly up a rocky section, but then stayed level, more or less following a contour, as we walked in a northerly direction. At some point, we crossed a small wooden bridge, with water trickling down-valley. In the rainy season, this is probably a pleasant little mountain stream!

Look! The old signal cannon!

Shortly afterwards, we ascended across and between piles of boulders to the top of Kanonkop. From here we caught a glimpse of the elongated Sirkelsvlei across the vast Smitswinkelsvlakte; the surface of the water was glittering in the sunlight.

On the map, this place is referred to as “Misty View”, which was an appropriate name indeed that day! Light whirls of mist were swirling in from the sea, refreshingly cool against our skin after the quick climb. It was lovely that the slightly damp haziness in the air was not due to the dreadful air pollution that often hangs like a choking and lung-burning blanket over the city during the summer months. The air up here on the mountain top was crispy and cool, with that slight fragrance of bruised fynbos leaves, and we inhaled the clean air deeply and gratefully.

A little bit further, we found shelter from the strong wind in the lee of some rocks, on which stood the old cannon, and polished off a well-earned picnic of sandwiches and tea. Yum. Contented sighs all around, as we leaned back against the boulders, and gazed at the magnificent landscape surrounding us. It never ceases to amaze me that us nature-loving Capetonians have this national treasure literally on our very doorsteps.

View from the top of Kanonkop, looking south towards Cape Point

The cannon, after which this rocky outcrop has been named, apparently dates back to about 1806, when it was placed here by the Royal Navy. Personally, though, I wonder which poor chaps had been ordered – or sentenced? – to transport (drag, heave, push, pull?) this heavy, bulky and unwieldy cannon to the top of the mountain! They must have seriously annoyed a senior officer. I wonder whether they had horses to help them? Or a cart? Given the rocky and rugged terrain, I somehow doubt that. And I don’t think they had helicopters that far back! Life sure was tough then.

This fairly small cannon was not, I think, intended to fire AT any invading forces – though I know nothing about cannons, I think it would’ve been way too far to do any damage. Instead, this particular cannon was one of a series that would be fired to signal the approach of ships from the south, giving some advance warning to the naval base at Simon’s Town, located a few kilometres north and ‘around the corner’.

The view from up here was absolutely marvellous. On a clear day, it would’ve been possible to see straight across False Bay to Gordon’s Bay on the far side. Mind you, on a rain-drenched and wind-blasted day in the depths of our Capetonian winter, one can’t help feeling sorry for the poor lad who had to sit up here, shivering with cold and peering through the pelting rain for enemy ships…

Climbing back down to the car

At the top of Kanonkop, there is another path running northwards to the Smitswinkel Viewpoint, along a spectacular route called the False Bay Scenic Walk. It is 5.6 km (or 2-and-a-half-hours) one way, though (so you’d need to park a car on either end, unless you don’t mind walking back the same way, or along the much longer tarred road). Forming part of the 2-day Overnight Trail, it is also described as the most physically demanding walk in the reserve – and we weren’t quite ready for that! Apart from that, the map also seemed to indicate that a head for heights was advisable… which made me a little nervous, after my recent experience during our circular hike around the Constantiaberg. If you’ve done this particular hike, perhaps you can reassure me? Or… er… not?

After our picnic, we headed down the mountain again, and returned to our car at Booi se Skerm.

“Hm, I don’t feel like going home yet.”

“Me neither. Should we go have a look at Cape Point?”

“Oh, yes!”

“And how about tea and scones or sandwiches at the Two Oceans Restaurant?”

“Oooh! That sounds perfect!”

A collective of ostriches next to the road

On our way south, we passed a flock of ostriches next to the road.

I am puzzled: Is the collective noun for ostriches really ‘a flock‘? They are such huge birds – and moreover don’t even fly! – that I don’t really feel the word suits them… if you know what I mean. ‘Flock’ is far too ‘flappy’ and ‘fluttery’.

Google came up with the word ‘a pride‘, which I would’ve thought is reserved for lions, who are most definitely regal and proud. Mind you, if you’ve ever stood near an ostrich, and seen eye-to-eye with it, the word ‘pride’ does spring to mind too. They are rather large birds, and your eyes will be more or less on the same level, which can be very daunting – particularly in combination with that vicious beak! POKE!

Ever-helpful Google revealed that it could also be ‘a wobble of ostriches’ (New Zealand birds). I quite like that. Or, given their very long and powerful legs, how about ‘a stride of ostriches’? Or ‘a stampede of ostriches’, when they are running? Or ‘a curve of ostriches’, based on their long, s-curved neck? Or ‘a fluffing of ostriches’, which would be quite appropriate for this wind-blown bunch? What do you think?

A fluffing of ostriches?

We followed the main access road all the way south to the large parking area in front of the Two Oceans Restaurant and lower station of the Flying Dutchman, a funicular railway, which is (rather oddly, I think) named after the legendary ghost ship that is condemned to sail the wild oceans around the Cape of Good Hope, without ever reaching the safety of a harbour. We found a parking spot, and joined the throngs of visitors, who were trudging up the hill to the old lighthouse and the global weather station at the top. Judging from the accents and languages spoken, it was mainly overseas tourists, with a smattering of South Africans.

Joining the tourists on the long trudge up to the lighthouse

Neither of us was willing to hand over R35 a head for a single, and R45 a head for a return trip onboard the funicular (opening hours, contact details and costs can be seen here on the Cape Point website). There were however considerable queues at the bottom, waiting for a seat in the carriages.

We took some photos from the top – the view is truly spectacular!

View towards the new lighthouse on the outcrop faaaaar below, just above the waves - can you see it?

The wind was fairly howling, though, and we kept a firm grip on our hats and the camera, at which the wind was tugging and tugging. Although there is a walk from the Old Lighthouse (built in 1860) to a point from where you can look down on the New Lighthouse (built as far back as 1919), I was not keen to tackle it in such a strong wind. Moreover, the description of this short walk on Peter Slingsby’s official Map of Cape Point, was – quite frankly – making my knees feel all a-tremble:

“IF… and only IF… you don’t mind walking above an abyss, you can extend your walk to the viewpoint that looks down upon the New Lighthouse. There is a comprehensive brochure by the Friends of the Cape of Good Hope, available at the Visitor’s Centre.”

Oh dear… that’s two IFs in there, even an “ONLY IF”… and the one word I like least… so I shall just whisper it <<“abyss” >>... You know what? I think I shall just purchase and peruse the comprehensive brochure first before making up my mind. Of course, once hubby has read this blog-post, you can bet your bottom dollar, as they say, that we are doing that walk and not just reading about it. 😉 And I’m sure you all want pictures, right? Hm…

This must be the er-hm abyss he was talking about:

Cape Point - that is a serious cliff!

There is also another short walk from the parking area southwest-wards to the Cape of Good Hope. Peter Slingsby’s Map describes it as follows:

“The walk has spectacular views of Cape Maclear, Cape Point and Dias Beach, with a rewarding slog down a wooden staircase to the latter. Although sections of the boardwalk may not feel very safe (there is no handrail), you’ll be all right unless you trip.”

Sounds nice, hey? Apart from the ‘no handrail’ and ‘unless you trip’ bit, of course. 😉

View towards the Cape of Good Hope

The information centre at the top funicular station has loads of interesting pictures and displays, explaining the fascinating history of Cape Point – which, in case you don’t know, is not in fact the southernmost point of the African continent. That honour falls on Cape Agulhas, about 170km southeast of Cape Town. Wikipedia puts it so nicely:

“Unlike its better-known relative, the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Agulhas is relatively unspectacular, consisting of a gradually curving coastline with a rocky beach. A survey marker indicates the location of the cape, which would otherwise be difficult to identify.”

Yep, that’s a very astute observation. Cape Point is certainly far more dramatic – and more, um, pointy, and thus easy to spot on aerial photographs and maps of Southern Africa. Apart from that, it’s close to the Mother City of Cape Town, a tourism hot-spot in South Africa, so it’s much easier to visit on a quick day-trip around the Peninsula that incorporates all the other truly amazing, scenic places that our City is blessed with. So it’s not surprising that it’s been getting all the attention.

On our way back down to the car, we saw a herd of eland grazing in the distance. They are such stately and imposing animals, don’t you think? They are well-camouflaged in the veld here, with their tan-and-grey coats. Apparently, they are one of the slowest antelopes, although they are able to jump over a height of 2.5 metres (Wikipedia). They are also supposed to be quite docile – but during our recent stay at the Erindi Private Game Reserve in north-central Namibia (about which I wrote an introductory post here), they were the one species of antelope that constantly eluded our cameras. As a result, I was very pleased to get a shot of these ones.

A herd of eland in the distance

“When walking, tendons or joints in the eland’s foreleg produce a sharp clicking sound, the cause of which has not been widely investigated. The sound carries some distance and is a good indication of an approaching herd. Scientists take it as a form of communication in elands.” (Wikipedia: Common Eland)

Now isn’t that fascinating? I wonder if it’s true? I hope I can get a closer look at these peaceful antelope next time!

Down at the parking lot, we made our way to the Two Oceans Restaurant, in the hope that they might serve some tea and scones or toasted sarmies. Alas, no.

However, they did serve an impressive menu of more substantial dishes. Although seafood is their speciality, they also have meat and pasta dishes, vegetarian meals, and various salads. If you’re planning a visit, you can check out their à la carte menu here. The photos in there are enough to make your tummy rumble! Realising pretty quickly that these were tourist prices for non-locals, we refreshed ourselves instead with a pot of tea and a fruit juice, while enjoying a view that must rank as among the most glorious in the whole world.

I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo! How did that happen?!

Afterwards, feeling more than a little peckish after our exertions, we made our way to one of our favourite restaurants in the southern peninsula: the oh-so-quaint and pretty Ellies Deli at the Noordhoek Garden Emporium at the corner of Katzenellenbogen Lane, Noordhoek. Here we found ourselves a table on their lovely stoep, overlooking the garden, where more tables and chairs were set out under the shady trees.

Ellies Deli at the Noordhoek Garden Emporium - can you see the 3-dimensional spiderweb?

In the bushes right next to our table, we spotted the most extraordinary spider’s web. Its gossamer threads looked so fragile that they might tear at the slightest breeze – but they didn’t! What made the web so unusual was that it was three-dimensional. It reminded me somehow of that string figure I used to make with my girlfriends at school, called the Cat’s Cradle.

A close-up

Once we had placed our order for tea and toasted sandwiches, I got busy with the telephoto lens. Actually, getting a clear – and focused – shot of the spider was a serious challenge, because the spider itself was not very large at all!

Another close-up

The spider appears to have caught something  – can you see the insect that it has wrapped up with its webby threads? Kind of gruesome, but beautiful too, isn’t it?

Impressive, isn't it?

After polishing off a most scrumptious plate of toasted sandwiches, we packed away the newspaper (there’s always a stash of papers to read, which I love! it makes it all so cosy!) and said goodbye to Elly and her team.

We cast one final look at the tables and benches with red seat cushions they’d set up in the shade outside, next to the kiddies’ playground and sandpit.

An inviting table at the quaint coffee shop

So idyllic. The perfect place to have lunch after an invigorating walk!

7 thoughts on “A wind-blown circuit of Kanonkop, a stride of ostriches, and a quick visit to Cape Point

  1. This was a wonderful write-up of your hike! So many interesting things.

    Like your spider photos! From looking in my spider books, it looks like some kind of orb-web spider. They do spin the most amazing webs. In fact one of my spider books has a series of drawings on how they go about it.

    I think a “stride of ostriches” sounds the best.

    • An orb-web spider! Ah-hah! From reading your blog, I know that you, like me, are not particularly a fan of spiders. And yet, when one sees such remarkable, delicately woven, complex structures, it is impossible not to feel profoundly humbled, isn’t it?

      So you are also in favour of ‘a stride of ostriches’. Excellent. I wonder what suggestions my other readers will make?

  2. Pingback: I visit Cape Point: The (almost)-southernmost tip of Africa « The Fantastical Voyages of Flat Kathy

  3. Pingback: Freaked out by an orb-weaver spider | The Fantastical Voyages of Flat Kathy

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