Tag Archives: geology

A Place of Grandiosity

In the winter holiday of 2019 a group of students decided to answer the mountains’ calling and set out into the Riviersonderend mountain range. We decided to pack our bags and overnight on the crest of the mountain.

The five of us set out in a foggy, overcast sky. This made the fynbos with water beads hanging from the leaves  take on a crisp green color. As we walked into a dense cloud, the whole scene chanced as we were surrounded by whiteness, large sandstone boulders with various shapes appearing as if from nowhere and the song of seemingly near sunbirds filled the surround.

 

The trail was an old jeep track, so we only faced the increasing incline as we neared the crest. We only carried our drinking water for the two days as I was banking on the fact that we ought to come across several mountain streams as it was raining a lot the past few days. I was surprised and eventually a bit anxious as we reached dry stream upon dry stream. We would have no water for preparing our food or drinking coffee on top.

This was likely because it was still early winter and the ground was not yet saturated enough  for the land to form water streams.

Someone was looking after us as, much to my relief, we eventually found a small, steady mountain stream just before our final steep ascent. We could fill up and not have to ration on our water. No dry 2-minute noodles and oats for us!

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We’ve found water!

Our final ascent took us even higher unto the mountain and we became completely enveloped in the clouds. With the view hidden from us, we pushed on and made our camp for the night.

To our surprise and delight, it was almost completely wind still on the mountain crest. We prepared our supper while sitting in our tents – a mix of bacon, green pepper, onion and 2-min noodles finished off with a cappuccino and chocolate!

 

Morning greeted us with one of the most spectacular sunrises we’ve ever seen! The valley was partially covered in a blanket of mist with the mountain ranges surrounding us protruding like large spiky islands. Some clouds still on our altitude came rushing towards us which created a very dramatic scene with the sun rising in the distance.

We ate our oats and coffee breakfast in style while sitting and taking in the scenery around us. Eventually we packed up and forced ourselves down the mountain back to the busy modern life of humans.

 

I’ve been on this mountain a couple of times and I have always left with an impression of the humbling grandiosity of our natural world.

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Wolfberg Cracks

During some long weekend my grandfather and I went on a trip to the Cederberg region. Of all our experiences there, the one we had on Wolfberg was the most memorable.

What made it so memorable was the rock formations. The rock type that gave rise to this spectacular formations is called the Upper Peninsula Formation sandstone. A reddish, soft and easily eroded rock giving rise to the many rock shapes and caverns. Good examples are the Wolfberg Arch and Cracks which we visited.

We slept at Sanddrif Holiday Resort so that we could be as close to the start of the trail as possible. In the early morning gloom of what seemed to become a hot day, we set out on the trail.

The main attractions of the trail are on top of  Wolfberg mountain which means you have to climb an odd 633m accent. We startet out early and upon reaching the top, the great rock faces were just starting to warm in the golden light of the rising sun. Somewhere between these shear cliffs is where you enter the cracks.

In the cracks , with the rays of the sun far from reach, the two of us made our way through the labyrinth with child-like excitement. The experience of walking about 30m below the surface was nothing but otherworldly.

After traversing the cracks, we emerged from the depths and the warm summer sun greeted us back. From there you can either hike another 5km to the Wolfberg Arch (an iconic Cederberg landmark) or return down the mountain via a big, easy crack. We went to the arch and returned thereafter.

The trail to the cracks and arch isn’t easy. It’s a total 7+ hours but a  fun packed 7+ hours. Definitely something for the bucket list!

A hike in the arid Robertson Karoo

Beyond the Boland and Riviersonderend mountains of the Cape, the rainfall becomes much less which results in the dominance of more hardened, water conservative ecosystems. Many species of succulents  together with numerous dwarf trees and shrubs make this region their home. On higher slopes and ridges one can find patches of renosterveld and along the (mostly seasonal) riverbanks, groves of sweet thorn trees grow.

The succulent karoo is a spectacular ecosystem because it gives one an appreciation of nature’s ability to adapt to harsh climates and still flourish.  The land here is home to various elusive creatures who mainly come out between dusk and dawn like the duiker, cape mountain leopard, porcupine, pangolin and grey rhebok. I’ve heard a interesting theory from a farmer once – he said the reason why mammals like the rhebok, duiker and leopard weren’t hunted to extinction when the Europeans came was because they are elusive and nocturnal animals. This is probable because one never sees any signs of life during the daytime unless you stumble upon a duiker resting in the shade or such.

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve is situated between the towns of Robertson and McGregor in the Breede River Valley. It hosts various facilities and trails – worth the visit! The Rooikat Trail is a 19km route taking you up the Elandsberg mountains offering spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. There’s no water along the way, the route is strenuous, takes about 8 hours to complete and you’re in the sun the entire time = come early and prepared!

What makes this trail unique is its remoteness and length. Nowhere in the popular routes will you have the privilege to spend a day out on the trail by yourself (plus your companions) in the company of only the stillness of the views and the beauty of mother nature. At the end of the day everyone’s feet are aching and tired but there is a mutual feeling of gratitude to be able to live on and experience such a wonderful Earth.

Bloupunt Hiking Trail

On Route 62 (South Africa) lies the town of Montagu. It lies in a type of basin surrounded by mountains with the most intricate geological shapes and formations making it a heaven for rock climbers and anyone with the adventurous streak. It is actually one of the world’s top rock climbing destinations. Montagu is also known for its muskadel, dried fruits and rich cultural history.

On a warm, humid winter morning before the next cold front, Andreas and I set out on the Bloupunt 16km trail.

As if for the first time, we were blown away by the pure undistilled beauty of the Earth. We started off in a grove of eucalyptus trees and entered the ravine (Donkerkloof) were we saw large blooms of arum lilies and patches of small cobra lilies.

We were talking lazily until the ascent started which took us out of Donkerkloof, 400m up onto the Langeberg mountain range. There we were surrounded by the famous Cape fynbos. We saw a variety of protea: waboomlaurel and sugarbush protea. These attracted many sunbirds which accompanied our trek through the fynbos.

While traversing the Southern slope, we had amazing panoramic views of the vineyard country below. Upon summiting, we had a lunch break while taking in the views. We also inspected the sundial and found the visitors book missing unfortunately.

The descent back into Donkerkloof was quite steep and tough on the knees. This hardship was contrasted by the intricate rock patterns of the opposing cliff face. While staring at these folds in the mountain, millions of years in the making, I noticed a large shadow skidding across the rock face which turned out to be a black eagle gliding close by.

Before long we were plunged back into the damp, dark and muddy arena of the ravine. Back on level ground and with the knowledge that there was no more mountains to climb, we had a new spring in our step and avidly started exploring the three waterfalls along the ravine. I was surprised that the river was still going strong despite one of the biggest droughts South Africa had faced in years. In one of the waterfalls there was a cave with a colony of bats.

The last few kilometers of the day were spent in bittersweet moments of gratitude for not having to hike another 15,6 km and the privilege we had to have had such an amazing experience of nature!