The West Coast

It took us a little longer than expected to get out of Groot Winterhoek - don't as me how we lost the trail, but it turns out sometimes you need a trail to get across a river. Anyway we were pretty happy to get across the wheat fields of the Swartland and out to the West Coast. We had a nice breakfast at a cafe in Piketsberg on the way. Finally we made it out to the legendary Eland's Bay which Sila had read so much about in the surf mags. Approaching the beach:
No swell today but perfectly formed tiny waves. There were kids wading around in the tide pools playing with large succulent lobsters. We will secure our crayfishing permits upon return to Cape Town, for sure. The beach at Eland's Baai was purple with shells.
We had a gin & tonic at the Eland's Baai Hotel and waited to see if surf would increase as the tide changed. Not so much. So we hopped back in the beetle to head north to Lampert's Baai, the West Coast's biggest fishing village and last real town. They had a pretty sweet harbour, which cost us R2.30 to enter. That's 33c US. I can't believe the toll-taker guy is collecting his salary everyday. Anyway,
Lampert's is a cool little town, there is a lot of tourism but fishing is still the heart and soul of the place. It was nice to see that people seemed generally employed and happy here. There is a lot of fish packing/freezing work as well. These guys had a pile of either octopus or fish innards - didn't get close enough to tell. What are they doing with them?
Beautiful fresh Snoek for sale. I wanted to get a cooler and bring some fresh fish home, but Sila said no.
Sila wanted one of these, but I said no:
Keeping things fair in the marriage, see?

A few km's south of Lampert's Bay on the extremely bumpy unpaved coast road is a strange little restaurant with walls built of tumbleweeds and brambles (Muisbos = Mouse bush). Muisbosskerm Restaurant is a prix fix barbeque extravaganza of all-you-can-eat West Coast seafood, South African traditional dishes such as the waterblommetjie bredie, and for an additional R75, two lobster tails. Will have to get some waterblommetjies as they taste like artichoke, although Sila wouldn't eat the bredie because of the mutton. He's still scarred over his mom's old ram Rocky that used to beat the crap out of him and Liam. Anyway going to try an artichoke dip or something with the water lilies. You can sit around the braai area and watch the cooking: Or you can sit on the beach and watch the fish prep:
Drinking cold beer or wine. Did I mention it is standard to get a glass of ice to put in your white wine here? No kidding.
From the beach:
Cutting the heads off our tasty lobsters:
Sun going down:

Future guests will absolutely get a visit to Muisbosskerm. Sorry Mom we didn't know about this place when you came to visit.

Groot Kliphuis and the best campsite ever

It was still rainy when we got up the next morning but this was somewhat welcome because we planned a long uphill loop for the day. We set off north on the jeep road from De Tronk but pretty soon took off on a side trail up a steep canyon toward Groot Kliphuis.

The canyon cut across the local geology and awesomely confirmed what I thought was going on in the area. The Groot Kliphuis River runs down the center of a gently south-plunging syncline and here we are crossing out of the eastern limb. You can see the top of the Peninsula Sandstone (without Pakhuis Member?) exposed by erosion. The 'fold zone' is clearly present even if the Pakhuis Member is not. Can't tell for sure if it is there. Above the exposed sandstone surface is the grassy slope of Cederberg Shale. Atop that you can see the sandstones of the Nardouw Fm. - these are very difficult to tell from the Peninsula Fm. in outcrop but a bit more likely to make the strange and wonderful boulder piles we saw along the river.

You can see some parasitic ramp-thrust folding in the lowermost Nardouw Fm. (Goudini Mbr).

We came out on top after a steep climb into the Groot Kliphuis valley. It was really beautiful and the fynbos in early summer bloom looked almost tundra-like. One definitely can tell it gets cold up here in the winter time. The floor of the valley is a thick sandy floodplane deposit and the river running through it was the clearest and most delicious we found.

We never did find the ruins of Groot Kliphuis, unless these oak trees are it. We had a nice hot lunch here under the trees. The sun started poking through.

We lost the trail at the oak trees - or maybe we left it and went on oak-tree-autopilot? not sure. Glad we had the topo although can't say our skills were terrific, too bad I forgot my compass at home. Anyway we made it back to the trail where it winds out of the valley along the headwaters of the Groot Kliphuis River and found ourselves meandering back up stratigraphic section into the Nardouw Sandstone goblinland again:

The river drops down into a deep gorge here, we never got a clear look over the side because by this time we were 10km into our day and getting worried about finding a campsite.
We stopped to take a picture over the gorge though:

We almost camped here at this beautiful pond surrounded by orchids. It was very froggy. We were only about 5km from the parking lot at this point and we knew of one last sandy, flat site along the river so we decided to keep going to see if there was anything better. I was hot and really wanted to swim!

The trail wound away from the river for a little while and I thought I had missed my chance to cool off. The boulders got stranger and I knew we were getting near to the syncline axis where the axial planar cleavage and perpendicular jointing in the Goudini Sandstone is much stronger.
When the river hits the axis of the geologic fold, it makes a 90° turn toward the south. At this turn we found the most beautiful swimming hole, with several braided pools and little cascades between them:

We decided to camp here, figuring we were an hour or so from the car, so we could take a morning dip in the clear water and still make it out to the coast in the afternoon. Here's Sila cooking ravioli in river water:

We found a carnivorous plant! If you look closely you can see it has captured a fly in one of the curled leaves on the left:

Beautiful potholes suggest this can become a torrent during flood season:

A pebble bed in the Goudini is partially eroded to reveal steeply dipping crossbeds in the sandstone underneath. This combination of features is pretty good evidence that the sediments were deposited in a fluvial environment, although it must have been pretty huge and stark compared to todays rivers:

We camped in a sandy spot right above the swimming hole. Too Perfect for words. Spread all the wet clothes from 2 days of rain on the hot rocks and watched the sun go down over the west limb of the syncline (ridge on the horizon). Watched the myriad strange constellations come out through the mesh roof of the tent.

Sun setting over the swimming hole:


Day Hike to Die Hel

Die Hel is Afrikaans for The Hell. It is really quite the opposite, although it is really deep. We woke up to very foggy and wet clouds in the valley and set out for a day hike down river to the southern extent of the hiking trails in the park. After about an hour of winding through the fynbos and protea groves the trail turned abruptly down and turned into sort of a switchbacked staircase. Over the lip of the kloof (that's a canyon or ravine or gorge or something similar) we caught a glimpse of Die Hel. It's one of the deepest pools in the Western Cape Mountains:There's a creek-walk "kloofing" route down into Die Hel from the Klein Kliphuis Rivier bridge that ends with jumping the 5m falls into the pool. There's another one that starts from Die Hel and ends hundreds of meters below at a farm in the valley.
Our friends from the trail were already there, finishing their lunch when we arrived. They were kind enough to take a picture of us. And then they made us tea. I am not even kidding you. Then they jumped up, said, you should really skinny dip here and not wet your undergarments, and took off. So we did! Of course the rain started in earnest while we were in the water so the clothes all got wet on the rock anyway. But it was not cold and it was so lovely, and the hike out is enough to warm anybody up.
They tipped us off to a side trail on the way up the wall that led out to a rock overhang. We didn't notice it on the way down but went to check it out. The overhang offered shelter from the rain and a clear view up and down the kloof. It was obviously the best place to hang out for any inclement weather.
On the roof of the overhang was Khoi/San rock art. The Khoi and San people were the indigenous inhabitants of the Cape - indeed, most of South Africa - at the time of European colonisation. The Bushmen of the Kalahari are their remaining descendants. The paintings in Groot Winterhoek are somewhere between 300 and 6000 years old.
... when there were elephants here:

The paintings are done with mineral pigments, some colours weather better than others.

We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening posted up in the tent. We made tea under the fly and made a deck of cards out of ripped up pieces of notebook paper. Sila won.

Off to the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

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


Happy Day! Playin Hookie

We got a Bug! It is so cute. We are calling him "Flipper". Heh heh heh.

Flipper can carry Sila's new 6'7" surfboard inside, no problem. Hopefully it can carry his old 7'6" board too, because that one is now for me!

This is the view that made me realize I do remember Dad's yellow bug - from the back seat.

Flipper goes surfing at Woodbridge Island in Milnerton (Northern suburbs) which is only about 6 miles from our house on the freeway. Reminds me so much of California. There are restaurants on the beach here but they are not taco stands. This is sad.

There is a nice view of the city and the mountain from this friendly beach break.

Beautiful day

Robben Island

Unfortunately one of us is prone to sunburn