Sunday, March 11, 2012

Walks on Table Mountain

After a long time of having very little to write about, principally because of being in a "not so good" place, I'm back with an actual post. I have been finding myself reading other peoples blog posts but not feeling like doing one myself.  Work has been scarce and of course with that goes a scarcity of money and motivation. Oh well, this too shall pass.
I got an e-mail from my friend Marie, wanting to know how I am and whether I felt like going for a walk somewhere. Yes, absolutely! "Ok, lets go to Newlands forest on the slopes of Table Mountain early tomorrow morning."  Cool, see you in the morning.
So Yesterday started off by my going round to Marie's place to collect her. This was going to be an opportunity for me to show her a few things to help her with her photography about which we had been talking.
 As so often happens, the camera batteries were flat so while they were charging Marie made coffee and we chatted about painting, something Marie knows and something I'm keen to try my hand at.
Once the batteries were charged and coffee finished it was time to get going.
Cape Town is pretty much built around Table Mountain. The city centre is on the  Table Bay side being where the harbour is. Places like Constantia and Newlands are on the back of the mountain and this is where we were headed.
We stopped to pick up a few snacks on the way and then made our way through the Saturday morning traffic to the parking lot. And so our walk began.
There is a car guard in the parking lot to look after visitors cars while they are on the mountain and ablution blocks with clean water available to fill water bottles. This a popular walk for dog owners as, apart from the beaches, there aren't a lot of open spaces where one can walk one's dogs around Cape Town any more, space is limited and Cape Town has grown an enormous amount over the years, so people come here on the weekends.
Geoff, being the way he is, always lands up talking to strangers and yesterday morning was no exception, enter Ms Rowe with her two little rescued dogs. We chatted about safety issues and which areas were best for interesting photo opportunities and then parted company with her following the established paths while Marie and I chose to ascend via the stream beds. We both felt that any water would be more interesting in the earlier parts of the walk. Higher up things would not be as dry as they are at the bottom, it's summer here and this is our dry season.

Table Mountain does get cloud on top during summer, they call it the "Table Cloth." This cloud keeps the upper reaches moist and the water trickles down in little streams. I wanted to get some shots of the water cascades using a slow shutter speed, you know that soft misty look falling water takes on. The ravine Marie and I were working our way up was quite deep and other people who were on the usual pathways were quite a way above us. It was a lot more quiet down here, sound went right over the top, like children squealing and dogs barking.
Marie and I have been friends for more than 20 years now, and even though she really doesn't like having her photo taken, she's gotten used to me and my camera. We both were amazed by the root systems that were exposed by the winter rain that must rush down these stream beds. That's something we'll have to do, come back on a rainy day, everything will be green and there will be a lot more flowers.
We were still looking for interesting subject matter, it didn't take long to find one of my favorite subjects, mushrooms.
As we got higher and things got a little more moist we would come across more. These little ones were right down near the beginning of our walk. These I think are possibly Hygrophorus turundus. I'm not a mushroom specialist and so am open to correction. They were growing amongst the pine needles that had been washed down and become lodged between the rocks in the bed, a very damp area. Such a lovely red color and so delicate.
Marie hadn't  had anything to eat so we took a little break so she could get something into her tummy. I just went on with my camera, snapping away. Thank you Lord for digital cameras.
Being now refreshed we went onward and upward, clambering over boulders and taking pictures. I managed to show Marie how to change a few settings on her little camera and off she went. Marie takes really good photographs, she's an artist and knows about things like composition and back grounds. Unfortunately I don't have any of her pictures to show you but with a little luck I'll get her to publish a few on her blog, Mighty Mouse. I'll turn this into a link once she's published them.
Water, water everywhere and not a drop to photograph, that was about to change. As we climbed the stream flow was stronger and little waterfalls were becoming more common.
There is life on this mountain. These little pools that have formed in the stream bed are teaming with frogs and insects. It is interesting to be able to see tadpoles in a number of transformation states, some with no legs, others with both legs and long tails and then there are those with hardly any tail but with well developed legs. They were quite patient with us allowing us to get fairly good pictures. I wonder what happens to them when the rains come and these streams are in full spate?
Flowers are not very evident here at the moment. There are a few in amongst the boulders and along the sides of the ravines but they are few and far between. Spring time here begins in September and that's when the floral kingdom bursts forth in all it's amazing glory. I did however come across these little dandelions right down close to the water. Their color was so amazing when set amongst such moist and deeply colored rocks.

There are so many incredible pictures I took on this walk, if only I could show you them all here. Oh well, maybe I should load them into my Picasa web album and then post a link, hmm, we'll see.
Anyway, we eventually got out of the ravine and, without following the more conventional paths, carried on up. It was strangely noisy again, we hadn't noticed the quiet until we came out. On the way down we would become even more aware of the noise as we approached the parking area. But for now we were still going up.

The ground was becoming more and more rocky and as we went higher their size increased. The undergrowth is amazingly lush, ferns and other more moisture dependent plants seem to be flourishing here, even in the dry season.
By now most people, out for a walk with their dogs, would have turned back. The only indication of humans we came across was the campsite of what they call a "Bergie", Someone who lives as a hermit on the mountain, normally in a small cave formed by a collection of rocks. They are not always to be trusted so we chose to leave that area and go another way.

I can't begin to convey to you the feeling of being dwarfed by the sheer enormity of the trees, they are huge. Their roots seem to seek out gaps in the rocks and spread out like an intricate web, thick at the trunk, cascading over boulders like a series of waterfalls captured in a stationary moment in time. Everywhere the more fragile plants flourishing in the protected areas between the huge trunks. The flowers are going to be lovely here come spring.
Marie was saying something about a business motivational speech, something like, "The tallest trees get the most wind." My only thought on that was, even the tallest tree must eventually fall as does the lowliest. We were once again headed down. It had been a good climb and now it was time to leave.
Poor Marie's feet were hurting her on the descent because they would slip forward in her shoes and scrunch up her toes. My feet were also sore by this stage but for different reasons, mine had soft soles and so all the clambering over rocks had left the underneath of my feet a bit tender.
The homeward trek was a lot quicker. We decided to follow the conventional trails because by now we were both a little tired. There are places where the department of nature conservation have added board walks and bridges. Much easier on little dog's feet, ours too.
It had been a good hike and we both enjoyed ourselves immensely. We're both Christians and understand each other, and since we've known each other for so long, didn't have a problem talking to each other about anything.
Marie even did this little ballerina pose. We had a good laugh about it because she knows I write blog posts about the things we get up to, it was very funny.
I really wish I could show you some more pictures of this amazing place in the heart of Cape Town. My recommendation however would for you to come for a  visit and take a look for yourselves.
I've been living in Cape Town for more than twenty years now, this was the first time I've been to Newlands Forest.

For those of you who can't visit this lovely spot, I hope you enjoyed our little walk as much as we did.
Blessings to all of you from Geoff and Marie.


  1. Geoff,I've got an idea ... you invite your blog friends to Cape Town & we will take them on a hike. That is of course if they like hiking!Your pics are really cool.Please email me the one with the rope around the tree roots or rather put em on Picasa so i can copy? Thanks for the walk,for good behaviour you are rewarded (LOL)with the next walk in Kirstenbosch which you will enjoy even more as there are of course loads of flowers of all kinds! 'till next time ...keep blogging!

  2. What an interesting post, so much for me to comment about. First off, I didn't know Marie was Mighty Mouse... hello Marie, I am glad you kept Geoff in line and are such a good friend to him. Ahhh... good friends who ask nothing in return. Wonderful!

    Now for questions: I noticed on the first photo, the bamboo fence, but not growing, obviously as it is not green.

    After mentioning the mushrooms, you said Marie was hungry, so I thought you were going to say she dined on the mushrooms. I assume they are poisonous.

    Those boulders are incredible in size, I can understand the difficulty in climbing and the sore feet.

    As I looked at the photos and read your description of the sounds, the water, the atmosphere, I imagined myself back in Northern California when I visited in February many moons ago. The air was cool and fresh, smelling like pine trees, it was wonderful.

    This is the location you told me was dangerous? With muggings? Good thing Marie was along to protect you, Geoff. I can see how with the dense vegetation, muggings would be easily commited, it reminded me a city park where I used to live and you took your safety into your own hands if you walked there alone. I noticed the stranger you met was alone, but she had her trusty whistle around her neck. She could use the whistle if in danger and it would be Marie to the rescue. ;)

    Quite interesting about the "Bergies", but again, thankfully, Marie was near-by. ;)

    The quote Marie mentioned about the tall trees, and your thoughts and response was interesting. It sounds like something I would think and say, and then, my husband would say I was "negative". I prefer to see it as being a "realist". ;) I can be a dreamer too.

    I believe you've mentioned 3 times that you wish we could see the rest of your photos--go ahead and upload them to Picasa and we'll all enjoy the adventure. I'd love to come visit, but... you know, money and that sort of thing...

    I think I might have covered everything I wanted to comment on. Thank you for taking us along on your walk, sometimes if we just get outside and have a change of scenery and focus in our life, it helps to motivate and turn our thoughts in a positive direction. Best wishes and blessings to you always, Geoff. I understand about the lack of work and the anxiety it can cause. (Oh, I know, you are going to tell me everything is "cool". Okay. ;) ) Just remember that I think of you often and pray for your protection and blessings from God, you are a good man and a deserving person.

    Now, I must take a look at Mighty Mouse's blog.

    Your friend.

  3. Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for sharing your walk and pictures with all of us. I enjoyed this. :)

    Please let Marie know that I think she takes amazing pictures and that I think she is very pretty.

    I would have to say that I really love the pic of all the roots from that amazing tree.

    Looks like it was a great hike and if I am ever in your neck of the woods, I will definitely stop by this forest.


  4. Beautiful pictures! Would you believe that after five years in the area, I've never been on Table Mountain?


  5. What an awesome walk! The photos captured only part of the beauty, I am sure. wish I could have been there, but I am in San Diego!

  6. Amazing photographs. I loved the one of the tree and it's wonderful gnarled roots. I'm unlike;y ever to visit the area, so it was great to share your photos.