Skeleton Gorge and the Aquaduct – Red & Blue Disas and more
Red disa – Window Gorge Stream
Saturday was a perfect Cape Town day for a hike up the southern side of Table Mountain, in search of the Red disa (Disa uniflora). These magnificent flowers only show themselves towards the end of January and usually fade away around the end of February. How quickly time flies when one wants to do something like this, before you know what has happened they have disappeared for another year. This year I have been lucky to see them in two different places, Myburgh and Disa Ravine, but they are always most prolific in the Window Gorge Stream and Aquaduct areas.
Meridian Hiking Club on Aquaduct Path
The weather was a bit cooler than it has been lately, with a little bit of cloud around to bring the temperatures down. From Cecelia Forest we headed up to the Contour Path and on to Skeleton Gorge. It was a fairly strong Meridian Hiking Club group, so the pace was reasonably good. We soon reached the top where there were a few of sort after flower hanging from the cliff face. Further down Smuts Track, at the Window Gorge stream there was a much more abundant display, with their red reflections in the water doubling the effect.
King Protea on Nursery Ravine
Along the route we were lucky enough to spot quite a few Blue disa (Disa graminifolia) and the occasional display by the red Cluster disa (Disa ferruginea). Up in the Aquaduct there was evidence of what must have been quite a magnificent exhibition of the Red disas, but most were now past their best. There will probably still be a few around this coming weekend, but that will probably be the last opportunity of the season.
Crossing the Aqueduct – Disas below
We continued our walk down the valley towards the reservoirs where we had our picnic lunch, before heading back through Nursery Ravine. About half-way down Nursery there is the most wonderful show of King Protea (Protea cynaroides). Even though this is not my own favourite route down (or up) the mountain, it is worth the effort just to see this.
It was good to get on to the contour path and head back for Cecelia Forest and the inevitable cold beer at the finish.
Your Cape Town Host
Walking in the rain is ok as long as you start in the dry. Saturday was different. Karen had organised a permit for Orangekloof – limited to 12 people per day and very much in demand at this time of the year, with the Red disas in bloom. It was raining as we started – not too heavily but clearly not likely to lift any time soon. But with permits in short supply and looking like a hardy group we put on our waterproofs and set out anyway.
At the start it was not too bad, just a few drips and plenty of mist, with more moisture generated from inside the rain gear than from outside. It certainly was not cold. We had planned to do Hell’s Gate and climb up to the Woodhead Tunnel, but with the wet it was going to be too slippery, so we turned off the jeep track on to the Disa Ravine path. The idea was to get too the Woodhead Tunnel, possibly see the disas there and then on to the top of the ravine and return via the concrete road to Constantia Nek.
Group at Woodhead Tunnel
As we got closer to the Disa Ravine path, the mist closed in, but the Blue disas decorating the path were superb. The rain got heavier but by now we were pretty wet, so decided to at least reach Woodhead Tunnel for ‘tea’. We were rewarded with a beautiful cluster of disas just above the tunnel and I was mad at myself for forgetting my newly repaired camera. I think Rodney was the only one who had actually brought real tea and we watched with envy as he poured a steaming cup.
Blue disas in Orangekloof
There was not shelter and have achieved the initial objective of seeing the Red disas, it was a unanimous decision to return via the same path and head for the dryer lower slopes. By this time we were all fairly well soaked but as we neared the parking area the rain seemed to disappear and we started to dry out. The idea of a warm fire and a cold beer enticed Karen, Keith and myself to the Constantia Nek Restaurant, while the others headed for home. Thanks to Karen for organising the permit – always worth it in spite of the wet.
With my sister out from Canada and Lindsay about to start a new job on Friday, we decided to take the opportunity on Wednesday to hike up Myburgh Ravine to see the red disas (Disa uniflora). These beautiful flowers are only seen between the end of January and the first few weeks of February and only in few locations on Table Mountain and some of the surrounding mountains. Inevitably unless you make a plan and get out and see them, the time passes quickly and they fade and are gone before you get there.
It was a misty morning, but cool and beautiful for walking. I had not done the route for quite a while and was pleased that Peter, who had done it the week before, had decided to join us. Starting in Hout Bay we had initially planned to hike up to the point where we had already established that the disas were blooming and return the same way. Getting to the start of the ravine is an easy and pleasant walk of about an hour through high stands of proteas. The start of the ravine is shady a shady section of afro-montane forest and there is a short scramble out of the ravine at one point, to get around a rock face, before returning the main path in ravine. This was a bit more challenging than anticipated, particularly having made the mistake of bringing dogs with us.
Once past this point it is a climb up over a boulder strewn section, not difficult, but uneven and a bit of a scramble over and around the rocks. With the mist and even light rain at times, it was quite slippery in places. Suddenly we were at the point where the disas were blooming. There must have been about thirty or more blooms of the delicate red and pink flowers. Most of the party had not seen these iconic Western Cape flowers before, so it was very rewarding and well worth the effort. We spent a bit of time just enjoying the spectacle and taking the obligatory photos of flowers and family.
The earlier scramble had proved more difficult than expected and we decided rather to continue up the ravine and return over the top, past Judas Peak and down Llandudno Ravine. The walk up through the rest of the ravine, is quite spectacular, with high cliffs either side. At the top, the route out itself is not that easy, with a very steep, sandy and rather degraded path. It has to be climbed very carefully and although there is a rocky alternative, on the day this was wet and slippery and not a viable option. Once at the top it was a stunning walk through the misty surroundings before heading down the steep Llandudno Ravine. Unfortunately the mist stayed down until we got quite close to Hout Bay, so we did not see the views of the Atlantic coast that you always get from on this route. Quite a tough day for family members not used to hiking, and a few sore legs the next day.
Warning: Not a hike to be undertaken without someone who knows the way. There are some fairly challenging scrambles where a head for heights is needed. The path at the top is quite badly eroded with a steep drop below. Not a route for dogs – a mistake that we made – adding to the challenge.