21 March 2011

The Whale Trail: Day Two

Date: 10 March 2011

Location: De Hoop Nature Reserve, in the Overberg

Walkers: Ian, John, Marianne, Rainer, Madeleine, Rob, Rooken, Kati, Michele & Helen

*** Route plotted here ***


More info about the trail here. Map (pdf) here. See also: Day One.

After retiring early the night before, our group stirred around dawn. We set off at 7am for our second day of walking. Like the day before we had around 15km to cover. It was a cool grey morning, with low misty cloud.

Our path up Hamerkop was a pleasant steady climb, and it wasn't long til we were in the mist.

And soon after that the mist turned to drizzle. Michele and I whipped out our rain ponchos. Although they looked rather ridiculous they worked really well: big enough to cover our packs as well as ourselves, they kept us perfectly dry. We both had proper waterproof jackets with us as well but these would have been too hot. Despite the precipitation and the early hour, the day was warm, still and very humid.

Close to the top of the hill we were excited to find several more Gladiolus cardinalis, like the one spotted the day before. They really are the most gorgeous flowers aren't they?

Also spotted: yellow Bobartia indica and another gladiolus in a pale pink.

In the gloom we made out the beacon marking the highest point (455m). Fortunately there was a break in the rain, and Ian and John were waiting for us, so we made this our stop for tea: a hot cuppa enjoyed amongst the rocks and ferny undergrowth.

As we continued onward there was still so much cloud around that there were no views to see. Instead we focussed on what was directly in front of us. This included: many anthills, even more spiderwebs covered in water droplets, and interesting mosses and lichens on the rocks.

Unfortunately the rain began to fall again, so we donned our rain gear once more, put our heads down and trudged on in the wet for a good few kilometres. The rain seemed to be steady and set-in. It wasn't long before my shoes were very wet and squelchy.

We reached the end of the escarpment and got a view down to the coastline. Our destination was the overnight hut Noetsie, which we knew was in the little bay we could see in the distance. It looked a long way away. So we continued on, in the rain, taking care to walk carefully as the path began to descend steeply.

About half-way down the hill the rain eased up, then stopped, and it brightened up. Hooray!

The flying ants came out and we watched an excited sugarbird feasting on the insects.

The other hikers in our group had walked on ahead, so Michele and I were, once again, bringing up the rear. We could see Ian and John up ahead, stopped at the spot where the path crossed the road, so hurried along the path to join them.

Here we paused for a picnic lunch, spreading out our wet rain ponchos and other gear to dry. I also took my shoes and socks off. Walking in them wet for so long has started to give me blisters and my feet were a bit sore. It was nice to get the shoes off and wiggle my toes.

After a good meal and a nice rest we bundled up our stuff and continued on the path. The sign indicated we had another 4km to go to reach Noetsie.

According to the info on our map we were walking into ecotone, a mixed-vegetation area where the sandstone of the hills meets the limestone of the coast. There were also a lot of alien plants which are apparently being eradicated. We could see piles of cleared aliens, but this is obviously an ongoing problem... much more hacking needed.

This low-land area was also home to many reeds and restios. It probably gets very boggy in the wet season. There were a few flowers to be seen as well, including staavia and struthiola. I'm not sure what the sweet little five-petalled flower was, but there were a lot of them too.

Also spotted: some very large tok tokkies (edit: I mean dung beetles).

As the path climbed slightly I glanced back at the hills we'd just left. The mountain part of the hike was over. Onwards to the coast!

We found the terrain here very interesting. It was very rocky, but the rocks had weathered so that they were holey, like swiss cheese. Plants were growing in the holes... they looked like miniature gardens.

Some of the plants here include buchu, metalasia, restio and erica.

The holes in the rocks provided perfect hidey-holes for lizards too.

Although some lizards were so perfectly camouflaged on the rocks they hardly needed to hide.

A fire must have burnt this area a year or so back - there were lots of dead shrubs, protea or leucadendrons I think. It was a bit bleak.

Not many flowers about, although we did spot one or two chironia.

The path seemed to go on and on. We were very grateful that it was still overcast; walking through this area in the blazing sun would have been hard going as there was no shade at all. We plodded on, down a dip and onto another hillside. We got a quick glimpse of the bay, but still had more distance to cover before we got there.

Although we didn't see any baboons we knew they were in the vicinity as we passed a lot of baboon poo. Ew, stinky.

At last, Noetsie camp was in our sights.

As we got to the cliff-face we saw, to our right, a cave where an archaeological dig appeared to be progress. We found out later that some of the other hikers in our group had met the archaeologists when they reached Noetsie. The team had been on site for six weeks but has packed up their camp and left that day.

To get to the huts we followed the path down the steep cliff and across the small rocky beach.

Hello Noetsie! I was very happy to get to camp.

There were two thatched buildings, one kitchen/bathroom, and the other a dormitory for eight.

There were also a couple of wooden cabins, each sleeping two. Like all the huts, Noetsie was well-stocked with kitchen utensils and cutlery and crockery for twelve. The lights were solar-powered, and there were gas geysers for hot water and a gas cooker. No electricity and no fridges.

Noetsie also had a lovely boma, almost on the rocks. After rests and showers we gathered there around the fire. It was good to relax after a hard day's walk and listen to the crash of the waves.

We were watched by a baboon on the cliff behind the huts. The archaeologists said one of their tents had been totally trashed by baboons, so we we kept a close watch on this fellow but he didn't come down.

John showed us the collection of toothbrushes he'd collected on the little beach. After being in pristine nature for two days it was bit of shock to see how much rubbish there was there, all washed up by the sea. He'd picked up only toothbrushes but there was an plenty of other litter, especially plastic bottles and fishing paraphernalia.

We compared walking experiences, and were all glad that the rain seemed to be over. We'd completed two of the five days, but over half the distance (30km of the total 55km). Tomorrow we had a shorter walk, along the coast.

We sipped our drinks and watched the day fade. Once dark we enjoyed Madeleine's yummy risotto for supper, and then crashed into bed.

Next up: Day Three.


Firefly said...

I'm still amazed about what the trail covers. So much more than just whales. Actually after two days you haven't had a chance to even see whales. I love all the flowers and plants as well as the rock formations. Can't imagine what this must look like in spring.

Firefly said...

The beetle looks like a dung beetle

Helen said...

Oh dear, of course that's a dung beetle. My mistake.

I also kept imagining how it would look in spring... amazing, I'm sure.