During winter in Cape Town, the famous blue skies of Africa are often hidden behind water-logged dark-grey clouds that trail curtains of rain across the peninsula, causing erosion on exposed hillsides and widespread flooding in low-lying areas.
In the last three months, our weekends had rarely coincided with a bit of free time and a gap between the cold fronts. When we awoke to one of the most beautiful blue skies one Saturday morning in mid-June, and as soon as our errands for the day were done, we quickly prepared a thermos of tea and picked up some fresh rolls from the local bakery for a hilltop picnic at beautiful Silvermine Nature Reserve.
It was a glorious mid-winter day and we were looking forward to inhaling the clean, fynbos-scented air of Silvermine. When we arrived by midday, the main parking area at Silvermine West was moderately full. Luckily, loads of early-risers were already returning to their cars with their tired but happy looking dogs trailing behind them. We set off on the wooden walkway that led us towards the reservoir.
On previous occasions, the water in the reservoir had always been like a smooth reflecting mirror – this time, it was dark blue and churned up by a strong westerly wind… and when we crossed the bridge to the other side, that wind was freezingly cold! It felt as though it was racing towards us straight across the Southern Ocean from Antarctica! Brrrr!!
On the other side of the dam, we ran into a friend, his daughter, and their two golden labradors. They had been playing a game of throw-and-fetch, and the two dogs were wet all the way through their thick coats. I whipped out my camera, as J and R took turns throwing a long and heavy stick faaar into the reservoir.
Both dogs plunged into the chilly water without a moment’s hesitation, swam strongly to the floating stick, and brought it back to the shore together. It was sooo entertaining to watch, as they both took a-hold of the long stick.
“Again!” they panted, vigorously shaking the water out of their thick coats, and getting ready to leap right back into the dam.
“Again!” Tails wagged in joyful anticipation.
After a while, we said goodbye, and headed up the ridge on the southern side of the reservoir. We used the gravel road as our warm-up and, once we turned right onto the narrow footpath, we took it quite slowly, trudging up one step at a time, ascending steadily. This is always my least favourite part of the hike – the body’s not quite warmed up yet, the muscles are still a little tight, the heart is hammering in the chest, and the lungs are clamouring for air, air, air!
In the past, I’ve always used to breathe through the mouth at these times, trying to gulp down as much air as possible, and ending up wheezing and coughing asthmatically… but ever since we learned about the Buteyko method (Wikipedia and Website), we’ve realised that it is far better to slow down a little, and to breathe only through the nose, and in fact, almost to ‘hold’ the breath. It’s helped both of us tremendously to prevent or at least reduce that horrid tight-chested wheezing that usually accompanies any cardiovascular exercise.
Nonetheless, we were relieved when we reached the top of the ridge. Ahhh, now these views are worth all the exertion…
We continued along the ridge, alternately taking off our jersey and putting it on again, depending on the strength of the wind. I was savouring every moment up here, marveling at the healing effect on the spirit of being almost ontop of the world. From here, we could look southwest-wards across the long white beach of Noordhoek towards Kommetjie on the far side. And we could look southeast-wards across the mountains of Fish Hoek towards the naval base of Simon’s Town, and beyond that to the mountains of Cape Point Nature Reserve.
We followed the well laid-out path, as it took us westwards and further along the ridge, until we found a wind-sheltered nook between the rocks and underneath an old tree for our picnic. It was sooo peaceful up here. A cinnamon bun and a chocolate croissant quickly disappeared into our tummies. Finally, it was time to stow away the empty thermos, and to return to our car. We found a hidden little footpath that joined up with the higher-level gravel road that loops all around the Reservoir, and followed this as it led us steadily down, down, down to the parking area.
Ahh, it felt sooo good to be out in Mother Nature again.
Other walks we’ve done in Silvermine Nature Reserve: