31 January 2011

YUM! Peanuts

A handful of salted cocktail peanuts gave us some much-needed energy before our walk down Nursery Ravine. They are the perfect snack food.

Skeleton Gorge & Nursery Ravine

Date: 30 January 2011

Location: Table Mountain, from Kirstenbosch

Walkers: Claudia & Helen

*** Route plotted here ***

I'd been wanting to do this walk for a while and today was the day! Claudia and I were expecting hot summer weather so we met at an early 6.30am to beat the heat. But it was cool and cloudy, a pleasant surprise. The cloud was low on the mountain, but we reckoned it would probably burn away quite quickly. So we set off, through Kirstenbosch's Rycroft Gate, heading up and along the path to Skeleton Gorge.

Before long we were in the forest, climbing up the steps, crossing the contour and onwards up the path. Slow but steady... up-up-up.

As always it was wonderful to be amongst such gracious old trees. We did find it exceptionally humid in the indigenous forest though, and were soon dripping with perspiration.

When we reached a clearing we saw that the misty cloud was still very much there, and we were walking up into it.

After a while we reached the sturdy wooden ladders, and up we climbed.

Beyond there was a lot of clambering over rocks as the path followed the stream bed. Even now in the middle of the dry summer months it was damp and slippery in places and we had to proceed carefully. No surprise that this route is treacherous during our rainy winters.

As we got higher up we were on a proper logged step path once again. The mist was still thick, and it was green, lush and ferny all around us. It was wonderful and we felt a million miles away from the city below.

Oooh, an exciting find: a red Disa bud, right next to the path.

And a few minutes later, on top at last!

We followed the path for a short way, to what is usually the Hely Hutchinson Reservoir. As we saw on our walk up the Back Table in December this dam is totally empty now and rather like a giant sandpit. It was particularly weird and eerie in the thick mist.

There was a chilly wind up top and so much mist it was almost drizzle - I was so wrong about the cloud burning away! We'd planned on doing some exploring up on the mountain but decided now that the weather was too bad. So, after retracing our steps and consulting the map, we took the path to the left leading directly to our point of descent, Nursery Ravine.

We took our time on this path as there were so many flowers... beautiful flowers, covered in water droplets. They must love these summertime mists.

First of all, lots of handsome Watsonia tabularis. The ones that grow on Table Mountain seem to be more of a pinky shade that the specimens further south on the peninsula. The ones we saw recently on Constantiaberg were bright orange. I wonder why this is. Both are lovely, but I like these salmon ones best.

Next up: many little Autumn painted ladies, Gladiolus monticola.

Agapanthus africanus. Fun to spot in the wild.

A new one for me: teensy Tritoniopsis parviflora.

And another tiny one... not sure. My best guess: Trachyandra brachypoda.

By now we had warm layers on and damp hair. Castle Rocks loomed out of the mist and we followed the path through these striking rock formations.

More flowers on the other side: Hermas villosa, Bobartia indica (I think), Erica lutea, and Struthoila striata (I think!)

Some were so easy to identify, like red Crassula coccinea, and some extremely challenging, like the clump of very small pink flowers. Some variety of Ixia perhaps?

Lobelia. So many varieties... I can't tell them apart.. don't even try. But I do enjoy their little purple faces between the rocks.

When I saw this unusual thing I had to know what it is. My books tell me it is a parasitic plant, Harveya capensis, also known as a white ink-flower.

It is very peculiar. I like the delicate frilly petals.

When we reached Nursery Ravine we had water and a few snacks, while contemplating the ladder that starts the big climb down.

I'm not a fan of downhill. But, of course, no choice but down ladder...

... down steps... down rocks. Usually the view is a distraction but we were still in a cloud. But wait, what's that? Out of the gloom we could see just about see the botanical garden below.

And then suddenly we were out of the cloud, and the view opened up. Hello Kirstenbosch! Still a long way down though... plod-plod-plod.

A little lower down we found the king of the sugar-bushes, Protea cynaroides, in flower all over the slopes. Now we're talking. Magnificent!

And of course the Cape sugarbirds were there too.

And then we were into the forest again as we followed the path down.

And before too long we were back in the garden. It was around 11am now and the cloud was still around, but starting to lift at last. Not that we'd minded really - we'd enjoyed our walk in the mist. The route's strenuous and hard on the knees, but well worth the effort. I recommend this walk and hope to do it again soon. I want to see that red Disa flower open!