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Last Sunday I was on a mission, two actually, to find a route up the side of Myburgh’s Waterfall Ravine above Hout Bay, Cape Town, and I wanted to see the red disas that flower at this time of year in the cool, damp recesses of that shaded and precipitous watercourse.
Our provincial flower is simply gorgeous and well worth a modicum of effort to find, but having made the trip on several occasions in the past, I was keen to modify my route and try something different.
A particular guide book I have used quite extensively has enabled me to find some wonderfully interesting and frequently demanding scrambles in the mountains, but it does have the limitation that the route descriptions are dreadfully, even dangerously, vague, and reliance on them has seen me get into more than a few sticky situations.
Anyway, having given up on Myburgh’s Corner, I was determined to give it another go, and succeed this time. I prefer to be off the beaten track and particularly enjoy the rock scrambles away from the worn footpaths and jeep tracks of many hikes, but vague paths and vague descriptions can make the process more than a little tricky.
Heading off in the early morning, I found the shade in the ravine gloriously refreshing. Water seeped from the cliff faces and the tinkle of droplets provided a gentle musical accompaniment to my early morning stroll.
Once again I failed to find the designated path but figured I would be able to intercept it along the way and stayed left of the main ravine, taking in the occasional rock scramble and still following a faint but fairly obvious pathway. Then things started to look less well worn, with the rock scrambles turning into real climbing with hand jambs and fancy footwork required. None of it fitted the descriptions in the book at all. I was quite obviously both off route and committed at the same time. I did not wish to waste the time and effort required to head back the way I had come and some of those climbs would have proved near impossible in reverse.
The sun was beating down with a vengeance, with temperatures well over the 30ºC mark, but I had walked the area previously and I knew that I would, on attaining the summit, at least reach more level ground and be able to traverse to the top of the ravine in the end.
On occasion I would find some shade under a rock overhang and take a break and, as I had plenty of water, I knew that I should eventually prevail. I am quite used to making headway through thick bush and there is always a way through, it is just an energy-sapping and time-consuming business.
I toiled on in the heat, struggling in places to climb the various rock bands, and had a fortunate escape when a piece of rock broke underfoot. I was just over a metre above the ground and I fell, fortunately finding a soft landing among the fynbos. There were a few other places where, should the same have happened, the results could have been a great deal worse, possibly fatal. Adventure scrambling is all well and good but I was pushing things more than a little and I knew it. The idea was to see the disas but the thought did cross my mind that if I wasn’t careful, the only ones I might see would be on the badges of the Mountain Club’s rescue team.
Finally the ground began to level as I reached the base of Judas Peak and I could see the pathway at the top of the ravine in the distance. There was also the promise of much-needed shade once I reached the gorge.
Eventually I headed down into the cool, damp ravine, as good as a plunge into a swimming pool to my mind. There were a number of hikers coming up the trail – word was out about the flowers and a lot of people had taken the trouble to search for them. In one respect I was glad for my efforts; it had been overly taxing but at the same time I’d avoided the crowds. I prefer to hike without the constant babble of other people’s conversation in the background, so maybe it had been worth the battle.
Deep in the ravine, there were the disas, pretty as a picture, bright red stars in a shaded sky, a truly spectacular display and enough to bring joy to a worn-out hiker’s heart.
You can visit them without the travails of the route I took, and the hike up the ravine offers shade the entire way. If you adore the splendour of nature you will be glad you made the effort. - Sunday Argus