Tag Archives: Mountains

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!

20190625_141614
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.

Advertisements

Epic Mountain Experience

This nature reserve is located along the slopes of the Langeberg mountain range near the town of Heidelberg in the Western Cape, South Africa. See CapeNature for more info. See coordinates.

After a full year of medical school, a friend and I decided it was about time for an epic adventure! This was our December summer holiday of 2018.

Booking was necessary and hassle-free. The price for the basic shelters at Helderfontein was R60 per person with and additional R40 conservation fee per person per day.

Day one was started with great enthusiasm despite knowing that we were going to face some rainy weather. The trail led us through patches of burnt fynbos creating an unique contrast between the charred earth and the green sprouts of grass, ferns and restios arising from the ashes.

The unique Fire Lilies stood out scarlet red from the black earth – what a sight they were! These are lilies known to only bloom about two weeks after a summer wildfire. 

Other fynbos plants we could recognize among the vast diversity were the King Protea and Pink Disa. 

The higher we climbed, the worse the weather got in terms of wind and rain but not of enjoyment! Because we couldn’t see the surrounding landscape, we it was hard to guess our location on the map accurately – we just kept following the trail into the never-ending white abyss. With great relief and 16km later, we saw the two shelters revealing themselves through the white.

The huts, called Helderstroom Huts, were basic (as we were informed) but all we needed – four walls, a roof and a dry floor. We picked the one with the least amount of animal nests and odor. We prepared ham and mushroom pasta on our stove with coffee. While enjoying our food, a mouse revealed itself  from the floorboards – causing a brief surge on unnecessary adrenaline! Except for a bat making a brief visit to our shelter, the long, cold night on the hard floor went by uneventful.

The next day welcomed us with a soft drizzle of rain and a chilly breeze entering through the open door and window. We forced our stiff muscles and aching joints into motion so we could pack up and set out. The hardest thing to do was to put our warm, dry feet into the cold, wet boots!

We decided to return via the same 16km on which we came as the Duiwenhoks River on day 2’s trail is liable to flooding and hikers are advised to avoid the crossing during rainy weather. So with aching bodies, saturated boots and a long road ahead, we set out in a comfortable silence.

The road back, being familiar trail and downhill but not shorter or less rainy, passed by  quicker that we thought. Before we knew we were among the patches of burnt fynbos with the Fire Lilies again.

The Boosmansbos Wilderness 2 Day Trail was an epic experience of nature’s extreme conditions and pristine beauty! A trail well worth hiking, whatever the weather. 

Towards an Italian Cross in South Africa!

Weekends when I drive home, I have to cross the mountains via the Du Toitskloof Pass. I  notice this trail’s starting point every time I drive past. Eventually an opportunity came and a friend and I made good use of it!

Some interesting history: The pass is named after Francois Du Toit who with the Huguenots (an ethnoreligious group of French Protestants ) arrived as refugees in the Cape colony, fleeing religious persecution in their own country. He and his family were the first people to farm on the mountain slopes nearest to the where the pass is today. The mountain pass was built in World War II by Italian prisoners-of-war for whom the cross was erected on Huguenot Peak. (Read more about its long and interesting history)

Setting out early isn’t always as easy in summer time. It was a struggle to get out of bed and prepare for the hike. Eventually we reached the start at 10 am, the day was already getting warm and everything nearly basked in the sun.

DCIM100GOPRO

The trail led us up the Miaspoort ravine where we scrambled over a rock slide and between some shrubs before we started to climb the Small Drakenstein mountains. The climb was slow and steady, taking breaks often to look back at the Cape Winelands which was quickly getting smaller and smaller.

On top of the mountains, the trail took us on a plateau where we had breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

On top of Huguenot Peak, it was already noon and the sun was beating down on us. We sat in the shade of a large boulder, absorbing the silence and vastness around us. The cross was erected in memory of the Italian prisoners-of-war who build the Du Toitskloof Pass in World War II.

While we sat there two falcons were circling us. How free they must be, we wondered, only concerned with the tasks of basic survival. Well rested, re-hydrated and re-lathered with sunscreen, we headed back.

Walking down the mountain, we took in the last bits of scenery and freedom before returning to our student existence on Monday.