I've had the good fortune this week to play host to Ian Lesser, one of the greater nightmares ever to pass through UCSC Earth Sciences. Ian has been organizing farms in Kenya for the last while, and has been working his meandering way south to Cape Town for several months. Little bits of his adventures and photography are here on his "blog" but there's so much more that's not there. Anyway we have been hiking all over Cape Town and Ian has been doing his part to wear Sila out every day, much needed exercise and adventuring buddy.
On Saturday we hiked up Devil's Peak, across the front of Table Mountain on Tafelberg Rd (meeting John Rogers and his wife Phil who were trying to collect John's free birthday ride on the cable car!), up Lion's Head, back down along Signal Hill, down through Bo Kaap and across the city center to the train station. We were all hungry and happy to ride the train home.
So yesterday I blew off work and we rented a car and went to Cape Point in Table Mountain National Park. It was a phenomenal Cape Town day with blue skies and a warm wind. We parked at the Point thinking we would walk out to the lower lighthouse, along the False Bay side of Cape Point but took the meander down to the Cape of Good Hope (a few kilometers round trip).
We saw a baboon troup along the road right before we entered the park. The Chacma baboons are populous and prosperous on the Cape Peninsula although there are obvious problems with the proximity to cities, trash cans, open windows with pies cooling on the shelves, pickinick baskets, etc. This troup and a couple of babies, maybe twins?
We walked down through the fynbos toward the Cape of Good Hope, which although synonymous to most people with Cape Point, is actually a slightly smaller promentory adjacent to Cape Point. Here's the view from the path back to Cape Point. It is famously rocky and stormy. The original, smaller lighthouse down low was usually shrouded in fog, eventually the higher one was built and this did help with the alarming rate of shipwrecks. The towering spine of Cape Point is composed of Penninsula Sandstone, nearly the whole of the section, with a bit of the reddish Graafwater Fm. visible on the beach, as you will see below.
Sila and Ian and I strolled down the boardwalked trail, out to stoney lookout points that would be seriously gated, fenced, reinforced, and require a certification to enter back in the states. Nope, you can walk over the cliff here, and you will just be remembered as a fool or a klutz, but a lawsuit would be laughed out of court. In every other way, however, the rocky coastal fynbos, with aromatic scrubby bushes and trees and seemingly secret lillies and tiny succulents - is like the coastal chaparral back home only highly evolved. There are so many different species here even a brown thumb like me is stricken by the shear diversity of the fynbos. As we walked we even crossed some kind of invisible line - from a higher, greener, misty fynbos to a lower, sparcer, saltier assemblage.
A side stair off the trail leads down to a steep, pearl-white pocket beach. Sila keeps asking me why the sand is so pure white so I'll tell you all - those blocky gray sandstones you see all around you are the compacted, cemented remains of a periglacial river/beach/shallow marine QUARTZ PURIFICATION FACTORY. Under the sun, wind, and waves, the cements fall away and the self-same grains that were sorted and cleaned on a 400 million year old beach are again left out to the sea. Sure is beautiful with clear blue water. Colder than it looks though! This shot is between Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope - at the very junction of the Two Oceans (Indian on my left, Atlantic on my right, nothing ahead until Antarctica). Ian took this very nice picture.
This towering beach stack sums it all up - at the base the red shales, herringbone crossbeds, ripups, trough crossbeds etc. show a healthy braided river system. Quickly though, at Ian's knee perhaps, the sediment column seems to sterilize and from there upward is only coarse white sand. This event correlates to a time of heavy oxygen in the oceans - that is, a glacial time - and the great icy dunes or quiet sea (not sure which!) that sorted this sand has no analog on earth today.
Another thing without analog on earth is the Dassie (rock hyrax) which is seriously planning an attack on Dr. Lesser as he contemplates covering this rock with climber's chalk. Dassie does not approve (white arrow).
At the Cape of Good Hope we did a bit of tidepooling with the birds. The number of snails, limpits, chitons, tiny starfish, huge starfish, sculpins, and strange exotic anemones was great. I saw no crabs. Not one, not even a hermit crab, not even the sound of a tumbling shell which is so familiar when you surprise a hermit crab who's on a rock and he pulls into his shell in a hurry with no regard to a soft landing. Strange absence. Guess they just don't live here? Also no abalone.
We took the long way out of the park - more on that soon - and as I was telling Ian the story of the strawberry shortcake lunchbox in order to demonstrate how sentimental I am, Sila squeeled the car to a stop to let this guy across the tar road. A beautiful angulate tortoise(Cherisna angulata) - surprisingly fast, much faster than the larger tortoises back home. Wish I could remember the name of that grand old Mohave Desert Tortoise in Grammy Faye's yard - did he have a name? I bet he's still there, and I bet he's a hundred years old. More tortoises in the next post.