A Wild Goose Chase

A long walk (14.7kms) up to the top of Aasvoelkop today in search of more orchids was something of a disappointment as far as the orchids were concerned, as we saw virtually none, apart from Disa cylindrica and some dead Satyrium stenopetalum.  It was, however, a real leg stretcher and we all knew we had had a walk by the time we came down off the mountain.  The images below show what we recorded.

A Vogelgat Walk

We set out to tackle the mountains above Franschhoek, but turned back when we encountered gale force winds and saw heavy rain ahead.  The weather back at Hermanus was fine, so we proceeded to Vogelgat and did a strenuous 9.3 kilometer walk up Lex’s Gulley, across to Sip Lodge and then back down past Quark Lodge.  We were all pretty tired at the end, but we had a good workout and saw some good flowers along the way.

Of special interest were the very large numbers of Disa Tripetaloides which were growing in profusion along the stream banks.  We also saw many Disa cylindrica and one old Disa bivalvata, as well as the Acropholia ustulata, which continue to flower at the site first identified near Leopard Rock.

The Green Mountain Trail

We met at Porcupine Hills on Monday afternoon, where we spent a comfortable first night, but not before we had had an excellent tasting of Winter’s Drift wines and a very good dinner provided by our hosts, Tony and Cha Davenport.

Next morning we traveled by bus and pick-up truck to our starting point on the slopes above Twaalffontein Estate.  The weather was balmy and we made our way up to the top of Groenberg where we enjoyed a picnic lunch, with views over the Elgin Valley.  The walk back down to the Viljoen’s Pass pick up point was beautiful with vast fields of everlastings (Syncarpha vestita).  Another night at Porcupine Hills meant that we had another excellent meal, as well as the usual cameraderie that occurs between ten good friends.  After walking 18 kilometres we were soon ready for bed!

On Wednesday we set out from Viljoen’s Pass on the second leg of our journey.  This took us along the lower slopes of the mountain and above the beautiful Oak Valley and Paul Cluver Estates.  Alison Green met us with a wonderful picnic lunch and we were able to relax before completing our walk to Fresh Restaurant where we enjoyed some cold beer and a tasting of Paul Cluver wines, not to mention a sumptuous tea!  We had had a long day and were glad to see the bus which then took us to Wildekrans Country House at Houwhoek where we spent the next two nights.  Alison ensured that we were well looked after and the dinner that night once more ensured that we would not go hungry!

Our Route
Our Route

Next day we were taken back to Fresh to commence our walk to Houwhoek.  We wandered through the amphitheatre and then on to the challenging cycle trail with its fascinating array of bridges which we had to cross, before setting out through orchards and vineyards. We eventually came back into fynbos and enjoyed another good hike ending up at Wildekrans once more.  A free afternoon meant that some of us could enjoy the luxury of a good massage to ease our tired legs!  That evening Christian, the winemaker from Gabrielskloof, entertained us with a very competent and amusing wine tasting, before we once again sat down for a wonderful dinner.

Our last day saw us heading out of Houwhoek and along the old wagon trail, before we branched off into the mountains once more and on to Beaumont Estate.  It was warm and we wasted no time in donning our bathing trunks for a swim in the dam, after which we had a delicious lunch provided by Jane Beaumont.

Finally, we were transported back to Porcupine Hills where we were re-united with our cars for our journey home.  We had all thoroughly enjoyed the outing and were exhausted, but buoyed by the challenges we had survived.  The guides who accompanied us on our walks, and everybody whom we came into contact with, did an excellent job and ensured that we were at all times comfortable and well informed.  I can certainly recommend this trail!

A stroll along the Palmiet River

Eleven happy walkers hiked along the beautiful Palmiet River in the Kogelberg Reserve this morning.  This has to be one of the most picturesque areas in the southern Cape.  The river was flowing strongly and there was much evidence of recent flooding, with all the fords on the jeep track washed away.  We were lucky with the weather, managing to walk 10.5 km with partial cloud cover and a cool breeze, but as we arrived back at our cars the rain started!

Audrey was the only one courageous enough to swim, and said the water was warm.  The rest of us just enjoyed our tea on one of the small beaches.

Sunday morning at Vogelgat

Renee and I decided to take a walk in Vogelgat this morning.  We did not go far and were only out for two hours, but we got some good exercise and even managed to see a new (for us) orchid.  This was Holothrix villosa.  We also saw the Acrolophia ustulata plants that we had first seen four weeks ago and they are still in good condition.  This is obviously a very hardy Orchid.  For the rest we saw some interesting plants, specially the Merciera azurea which is on the red data list  There is no doubt that one needs to walk every month to see how the vegetation changes with the seasons.

Another Orchid Search

We did not take part in our usual Wednesday walk with the Hurriers yesterday, but went up the Zig-Zig to the Jeep Track in the east of Fernkloof in order to find more Orchids. Liz, Pat and Fran were the experts, whilst Renee and I trailed along.  It was a great outing.  We covered 11 km with perfect walking weather and we found no less than seven Orchid species, so were well pleased with our efforts.  First up was a rare Eulophia aculeata (just one on its own) then the usual suspects, Disa cylindrica and Satyrium stenopetalum, followed by Ceretandra atrata, Disa cornuta, Pterogodium catholicum and finally, what we had set out to see, the beautiful little Disa vaginata.

Of course, we saw many other interesting plants and some of the insects that probably polinate them.  On our return we went up to the contour path above Voelklip to photograph the newly discovered (in this region) Erica genistifolia.  We found only one small specimen and wondered if it is the last of it’s kind in the area.  Hats off to Liz, who first noticed it last week.


Halloween and Cricket in Knysna

We spent a pleasant weekend with Mike, Nicky, Travis and Robyn in Knysna.  The highlights were seeing Robsy gearing up for her Trick-or-Treat evening and then again when her face was painted at the school fair the following day, whilst on Sunday, we spent the day watching Travis playing for the Sports Club team against the SWD team.  He was the top scorer for his side and played very well!