We went on a little road / backpacking trip up to the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area, only a couple hours outside Cape Town and up into the mountains.
We set off with Flipper, who likes 100km/hr and no more. Also, Flipper has no shocks. However, we are very happy to be leaving town.We drove up the coast road past our familiar northern suburbs beaches and farther north than we had been before - stopped only briefly in Veldrift on the coast to have a strange lunch and look for flamingos. For some inconceivable reason I didn't get a picture of them.
We headed inland through Piketberg. All roads, it seems, lead to Piketsberg. We took the R44 east to Porterville, got briefly lost and found a notorious prison, but then found the ungraded hellhole road which eventually switchbacked up the mountain front and gave us this view over the Swartland. Flipper does not do 4WD. Flipper's eye fell off.
We arrived pretty late and since it didn't occur to us to try the doorknob on the unoccupied (always? it turns out) reserve office, we didn't have a trail map for the park. We did have the government issue topo that showed nearly all the trails. It was pretty useful even once we got a park map because the park map omitted some water courses.
Here's Sila setting up the tent near the Disa Trail on our first night. See the ridgeline on the western horizon at dusk:
And after sunset:
The next morning we spent an ungodly amount of time organizing our packs and met some nice people in the parking lot who would reappear several times throughout our trip. They tipped us off that the office was WIDE OPEN for us to take the park map. Duh. We took off down the Groot Kliphuis Rivier (Big "rockhouse" river). There were some gorgeous pink flowers everywhere. They are called Ericas. Here's me with my little pack with one billion things tied to the outside. Time for a bigger pack maybe.
The trail follows the river down into some amazing piles of rock. Weird shapes and towers and balanced boulders everywhere. Here's Sila climbing among them as we stopped at a watering hole. This was before we knew how good the water is! All those rocks are essentially pure quartz and the rivers go in and out of the ground like a natural filter. There are some big tadpoles in the river though.
Here are some more of the strange "rock formations". Don't even ask, I have no clue. All I noticed is that they are most prevalent in the hinge regions of multi-kilometer scale synclines and therefore occur in roughly horizontal bedding with strong crossbedding, and are largely controlled by fold-perpendicular (E-W striking) vertical joint sets. But what you really want to know is, where are the sand people and do they have R2D2? And the answer is, I don't know.
This unfrickin believable waterfall was near the lower end of the river trail. Had I known how close we were I would have insisted on a swim! Look at the ferny goodness on that rock wall. So cool and refreshing. The streams through the fynbos tend to have a reddish tint to the water, I'm told this is a result of the organic acids and/or tannins produced in the soil. Dissolved organic acids would theoretically enable the water to carry a bit more iron but Prof. Harris tells me the waters (on Table Mountain anyway) have less dissolved solids than any natural waters he's analysed in his lab.
Sila found a rock which caught his interest. A PacMan rock which ate his head.
It was so frickin hot (40C/105F) and I was very cranky about passing up the waterfall so I took a nap in the shade of a precariously balanced boulder.
During our nap, the nice folks from the parking lot caught up to us and told us we were indeed nearly to our destination and we really ought to swim. This was good news and we followed their advice. Also, we lost the trail and waded through a muddy creek so we were soaked and feeling much better when the 13-km trail spit us out on the jeep track for the last few km to de Tronk, and old farmstead in the southern part of the park.
There's a low-water bridge on the jeep road, Sila had to do some laundry.
Looking south and down-river: A mission for tomorrow.
We caught our new friends again at a bridge over another great swimming hole on the Klein Kliphuis Rivier (little rock house river; klane klip hase rifeer) and even though evening was coming on and it wasn't hot anymore, I took one last dip, still feeling parched from the hot day. It was lovely.
We set up our tent under a protea tree with a nice flat bounder behind. We cooked dinner up there with great view across the valley and waited for the rain to come.
More posts coming, or check My flickr set to see complete photos