30 May 2010

Side Note: Mugged on the Mountain

Yesterday Michele and I were mugged on Table Mountain. We weren't hurt, but our stuff (backpacks, cellphones and cameras) was taken.

This is how it happened:
We were on the Saddle and had just started up the path to Devil's Peak. We saw two guys moving quickly up the hill towards us from the Newlands side. We both had a bad feeling and we decided to turn around. We then saw that another two men had come up from below. They moved towards us very swiftly. One had a knife. They demanded our camera and backpacks, which we handed over without arguing. We asked if we could keep our keys which they allowed. And then they were gone, very quickly, back towards Newlands. It all happened really quickly.

We made our way back down to Tafelberg Road as fast as we could and reported the incident to the TMNP official at the bottom of Platteklip, who immediately alerted other rangers and the SAPS. We didn't get a terribly good look at the muggers - four young (early 20s) African guys wearing dark clothing. The SAPS think they might be the same lot who carried out some muggings in the Skeleton Gorge area a few weeks ago. They know who they are - had them in custody but had to let them go.

There were a lot of people on the mountain yesterday, but we happened to be alone at that place at that time. Unlucky. Although of course incredibly fortunate there was no violence and that we are fine. Perhaps we shouldn't have been walking just the two of us, but I feel this gang would not have hesitated to confront a group of four or five people. They were out to steal.

Michele is feeling enraged about the whole thing and is full of vengeful thoughts. While I am angry too, I also feel so sad and helpless and resentful that this happened AT ALL let alone TO ME. Walking on the mountain is one of my favourite things to do and now I feel scared to do it. I'm not sure yet what this means for me or for this blog.

For everyone using the mountain: please be mindful of your safety at all times and take every precaution!

26 May 2010

"Puff" for Dorothy's Birthday

Date: 25 May 2010

Location: Table Mountain

Walkers: Helen & Dorothy

Note: This is the not the first time I've written about this walk we've nicknamed "Puff Adder Alley". Route plotted here, and archive of all the walks here.

It was Dorothy's birthday and we went for a walk! It had been far too long since either of us had done this favourite route of ours. From Tafelberg Road we set off up the familiar path, towards Platteklip Gorge.

Up the path we went, stopping only to smell the roses - I mean, the Indigofera cytisoides. It doesn't have much of a scent actually, but it is a very pretty pink!

Everything was looking green and lovely.

As always, we turned left once we reached the contour path.

I think these attractive shrubs on the wayside are Phylica buxifolia.

At the cave we saw that more rock fragments had fallen down from above.

Slowly but surely the upper level is collapsing. Debris everywhere!

We walked on, taking the right fork onto the upper contour path ("puff adder alley"). A few late-autumn leaves are hanging on to the oak tree.

Despite recent rains, there wasn't much water flowing down the waterfall.

As we climbed the last section and walked on towards the saddle we admired all the orange flowers, Erica abietina, on the sides of the path.

The flower tubes are slightly shiny. Some flowers were covered with teeny-tiny little insects - perhaps the tubes are sticky too?

Once we joined the saddle path we zig-zagged down the hill.

The old signboard at the intersection of the lower contour path and the saddle path has been replaced with a new one. I've just noticed now that it isn't terribly clear, possibly misleading. In the shot below the saddle path should have an up arrow. The Saddle is up.

One down the hill we walked swiftly back to the start on Tafelberg Road to join friends for lunch. Happy birthday Dorothy - hope the year ahead brings lots of good walking.

(Photos by Helen)

23 May 2010

YUM! Water from Mountain Steams

I love filling my water bottle with cold water from mountain streams, as I did up on Vlakkenberg (several times actually). So refreshing! I don't mind that it is often slightly brown from the fynbos... I think it tastes delicious.

Vlakkenberg Peak

Date: 22 May 2010

Location: Vlakkenberg, above Constantia

Walkers: Michele, Helen, Richard, Claudia and Roxy

*** Route plotted here ***

Our plan was to do a one-way walk from Constantia Nek to East Fort near the start of Chapman's Peak Drive in Hout Bay, via Vlakkenberg plateau. This meant meeting at East Fort and leaving a car there for later, then driving back to the start at Constantia Nek. Backpacks on, walking sticks in hand and ready for a day on the mountain, we set off.

From the busy traffic circle we walked a little way down the hill direction Hout Bay, until we came to an access point for the mountain on our left. The pathway is part of Table Mountain National Park. The first kilometre or so is just a narrow strip, surrounding by privately-owned property.

The first climb comes soon... a stepped path runs straight up the hill, between the two fences.

Metalasia bushes grow on the side of the path. I love their honeyish smell.

I think this one is Metalasia densa. In flower soon!

As we got higher the views of Constantia corner opposite were super.

We found the path, part of the Hoeikwaggo Trail route, in good condition.

Purpley-blue lobelia is growing happily here.

At the top of the steps the path veers right, through a small section of the hillside overrun with aliens. In years past I know these were actively being hacked out, but it appears that all those efforts were in vain. Nasty aliens! Looking beyond we could see Constantia farmland, with mist still covering the low-lying ground in the distance.

We walked past through a stand of dead trees. Oh, hello aeroplane!

And as the path continued to the right we could see ahead. Our path was heading towards the neck between the two small peaks.

And now we were into the park proper and walking through rich fynbos... lots was growing on this sunny slope.

Gorgeous ericas bushes, completely covered in pink flowers

This one looks like Erica plukenetii.

But I'm not sure which variety this one is. Any suggestions?

Penaea mucronata is the name of this plant with the yellow flowers.

And this very unusual flower caught my eye. I've never seen anything like it before! I think I have it correctly identified as a serruria, common name spiderhead. I think this one could be Serruria cynoides or possibly Serruria aemula... bit hard to tell as it hadn't opened up completely. There are several varieties of serruria, most of them rare, vulnerable or endangered. I wish I'd studied it more carefully.

The path crossed a stream and continued to head up. It was quite steep in places, but we were taking it slow and it was an enjoyable climb.

Pink erica covered the hillside.

And plenty of cheerful pink oxalis lined the path.

Beyond the small hills directly in front of us we could see across to Orange Kloof to the left of Constantia corner.

Soon we neared the rocky top of the hill.

Beyond the two large boulders the path flattened out and headed straight across the plateau. Constantiaberg was now visible ahead of us.

As we walked on we could see to the back of Table Mountain behind us.

There was a definite reddish and pinkish tinge to the fynbos up here.

The path began to descend and we made our way about a third of the way down the hill to 'picnic rock'. Hooray, time for snacks!

Directly ahead of us we could see the path cross the valley below and head up the hill on the other side.

To our left we could see all the way to False Bay.

It was as this point we realised a blunder: the keys for the car waiting for us at the end of the walk had been left behind. Uh-oh! We consulted our map and considered our options and decided to walk to Vlakkenberg Peak instead and then return to Constantia Nek. So up the hill we went again!

From the plateau at the top we took a narrow path to our right.

The fynbos here was wonderful, with three shades dominating: rusty red, dusty pink and light lime green.... an unusual, almost gaudy, combination.

It was a short easy climb to the top of Vlakkenberg Peak. As always I loved the feeling of reaching the top. We took another break here on the summit.

We were now far enough east to see Devil's Peak in the distance beyond the Back Table.

The Southern Suburbs sprawled out below.

We could also look across to Tokai plantation where I'd walked recently.

From the peak we continued on our path, down and onto the plateau again.

One or two red Gladiolus priorii were spotted alongside the path here.

At a four-way intersection we took the path to the left. We followed it for a way, soon coming to a rocky outcrop. Although we knew we were heading in more-or-less the right direction, the path had petered out! After a bit of discussion we did the sensible thing and retraced our steps back to the intersection. This time we walked more carefully and found the correct path. We'd veered a little to the right the first time. It had been a bit frustrating getting lost and we were all relieved to have found our way.

The correct path headed across and down the slope, fairly steeply. Luckily cairns of stones now and then confirmed we were on the right track. Some sections were extremely overgrown and we had to push our way through thick bush several times - getting what I call the full body fynbos massage.

It was tricky negotiating the narrow path down so we were very happy when we rejoined the main path.

From below we could see the rocks onto which we'd strayed above.

Now we simply made our way back the same path we'd come up earlier. We'd ended up doing a different walk to the one planned but had enjoyed exploring Vlakkenberg Peak and the plateau above, and our little adventure down had been quite a bit of fun in retrospect. Great day out!

(Photos by Helen)