25 November 2009

Devil's Peak: End of Tafelberg Rd

Date: 24 November 2009

Location: Devil's Peak

Walkers: Dorothy and Helen

Previous walk here. Access for vehicles along Tafelberg Road ends after the parking area for the Saddle path. The road does extend beyond the barrier, but is in poor condition.

Nevertheless this is a popular route for cyclists, runners and walkers. Mostly on the level, the road snakes around the slopes of Devil's Peak, and, provided the south-easter isn't blowing, is a nice and easy walk, with great views across the city bowl, Table Bay and the harbour.

We saw that the slopes that weren't badly burnt in the March fire were looking very lush and green now, with yellow pincushions and Athanasia crithmifolia providing bright bursts of yellow.

Another attractive yellow bush that caught my eye is this one, which I've tentatively identified as Aulax umbrellata. Although, according to the information I've found, it is not meant to grow on the peninsula, this appears to be the male plant of this feather bush variety.

Also growing on this route: lots of attractive grasses. Oh my hayfever!

At several spots along the way we found small waterfalls, pools and ponds. Amazing how much water is still flowing off the mountain!

As we walked round to the northern side of Oppelskop we saw our first large patch of pink Watsonias, growing on the slope below the rock face.

A little further on we saw another pink stripe along the slope.

A few plants were growing alongside the road also. These are Watsonia borbonica, of course. We've seen them flowering on almost all walks we've done in the last few months. Their large flower spires are covered in cheerful pink flowers. Gaudy, but gorgeous!

We continued around a few more turns of the road.

We were heading for the end of Tafelberg Road. The tar ends and the route continues as a dirt road more-or-less above the Queen's blockhouse. I knew we would see more Watsonias hereabouts as I'd spotted the pink patches from the roads below (particularly from De Waal Drive coming into town). In fact this walk was all about coming to see this pink up close.

We were not disappointed. Just beyond the end of the road the slope above the road was a carpet of pink. WOW!

Although conditions are right for them here (they like a sunny north-facing aspect and grow well on fairly steep slopes) the main reason they're putting on such a show this spring, however, is all to do with the fire earlier in the year. This part of Devil's Peak was badly burnt, and although the whole hillside is still looking very scarred, Watsonias flower especially well after a fire. So this wonderful spectacle isn't the norm, but rather a direct result of the burn. What a treat to witness nature rejuvenate with such extravagance!

It wasn't just above Tafelberg Road that the Watsonias were flourishing... the slopes below the road were covered too. Almost too much to take in.

On the lower slopes the contrast with the black remains of burnt trees and bushes was most marked.

It was getting late, time to head back. Not to be outdone by the flowers, the sky decided to put on a show for us too. Pretty cloud formations drifted above Signal Hill, Lion's Head and Table Mountain, to keep us entranced on the walk back along the road. (Route plot here).

(Photos by Helen)

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