18 January 2011

Silvermine: Constantiaberg

Date: 16 January 2011

Location: Silvermine

Walkers: Michele & Helen

*** Route plotted here ***

After a short warm-up walk, Michele and I set off to climb Constantiaberg. From the reservoir we followed the signs to Elephant's Eye Cave... up the hill. The fynbos was looking gorgeous, this time of year dominated by orange watsonia, yellow tinderleaf and purple powderpuffs.

We crossed the valley, heading towards the 'elephant's head'.

Seen along the way: a delicate blue micranthus, and an unusual reddish-brown plant, maybe some type of grass?

And lots of tinderleaf, Hermas villosa. Almost every flower head had a few brilliantly-coloured little bugs.

Above us we could see Constantiaberg, which is the 'elephant's back'. Usually one sees the tall communication mast on top, but it was hidden in the cloud. We hoped the cloud would clear.

As we came up the ridge to the lookout we got a wonderful view of the Back Table and Devil's Peak to the west, with the vineyards of Constantia below.

We followed the zig-zag path up towards the cave. Behind us we could see down to Muizenberg and False Bay. After a while we came to an intersection and took the path left, signposted to Constantiaberg. This path climbed up the back of the 'elephant's head'. Steep up all the way.

The views down took in the valley, with Fish Hoek and Simon's Town visible in the far distance. The weather had improved and it had turned into a really beautiful morning.

At last, our first glimpse of the radio mast.

As we got higher we could see all the way down to Prinskasteel Valley on our left. Our chosen route was a circular one and our plan was to walk back along through there later.

The path flattened out as we crossed the neck, and then started climbing again. Clouds continued to waft past.

A little higher up our view down expanded to include the dam where we started the walk. It looked so small and far away!

We climbed and climbed, until at last we got close to the tower.

Near the end we crossed the road a couple of times...

... and eventually made it to the base of the tower. We couldn't get close - the whole area is surrounded by a fence.

Lots of beautiful fynbos on these slopes including a large creamy-white erica (large flowers on a large bush - not sure which variety it is).

Also purple Pseudoselago serrata which seemed very happy growing with yellow Helichrysum cymosum. I love the way these contrasting colours pop.

And I think this small one is Roella triflora.

We decided to continue on to the very top of the peak (928m) which involved scrambling up a rocky outcrop, to the beacon. The blue Atlantic below.

Behind us, the Twelve Apostles...

... and in front, Chapman's Peak and Noordhoek's Long Beach. Wow!

After a short rest we began the descent on the path leading straight down to Prinskasteel Valley. We could see we would need to join that path down below.

As we got lower Hout Bay came into view on our right.

There were lots of familiar summer flowers on the slopes.

This was a pelargonium I hadn't seen before. What a pretty pink. I still can't make a positive identification on which one it is though. Any ideas?

We also paused to look at moss, grasses, pods and husks. There is beauty in everything in nature.

It was a fairly straightforward climb down. When we looked behind us we could see how steep it was. I'm glad we went up the the other route as this ascent would be quite a challenge.

We were very happy to reach the bottom of the valley.

To our right was a wooden viewing deck, where we sat for a few moments looking down to Hout Bay beach, the Sentinel and the Karbonkelberg.

Below us we could Chapman's Peak drive and the Blackburn contour.

Then we set off back to the dam. The path along the bottom of the valley is impressive: someone built the path stone by stone. It is a work of art!

As we walked along I kept looking up the Constantiaberg, now on our left. It's pretty high up, but a very enjoyable walk and the views from up there totally worth the effort!

We rejoined the road and found a flat rock with a view of the dam for our stop for picnic lunch. We were hungry.

Vegetables with dip, and roast beef and cheese on crackers, and fruit.

And, once back at the dam, a refreshing swim to end the outing.



Firefly said...

Another great walk. I love the views of Hout Bay and the ocean on the Atlantic Seaboard side. Stunning.

Lyn said...

Is this not an amazing walk - strenuous too! Your photos are stunning - makes me long to do this hike again - but I must wait for cooler weather now.
You were lucky to see the Table Mountain Beauty Butterfly (Aeropetes tulbaghia) pollinating the red Watsonia.

The Pelargonium could have been P. longifolium and the Erica was, I think, E. mammosa.

Swimming in the Dam is SO special - there is nothing so soothing as a swim in this dark tannin-rich mountain water, warmed by the sun. hope you had swimsuits on?!...
For years, in fact for my whole childhood and many years of my adulthood, swimming in the Silvermine dam was forbidden. We never questioned this - I wonder now why - and now in my opinion this Dam is Cape Town's best kept secret. Thanks to the fire of 2001, after which, and with some pressure from the public, the "powers that be" relented and allowed us to swim. (In fact, we had been doing just this albeit illegally for a good couple of months before it became "legal"! Perhaps we are budding middle-aged criminals?)

Helen said...

Thanks Firefly. This walk was one of the best I've done. Add it to your list for your next visit to the Cape!

Thanks Lyn, for the info on the flowers - very helpful. And about the butterfly. I've been making an effort to learn more about the flora, but insect and bird-life is another whole sphere of knowledge for me to tackle!
Must agree that the dam is a treasure. Just thinking about it now makes me yearn to take a refreshing dip!

Poles said...

Happy new year to you and all your readers, and here's to a prosperous 2011!