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Cape Town - Snaking through the treetops, swaying between branches, before dipping into the underbrush – it’s quickly clear why Kirstenbosch’s new walkway is called the Boomslang.
And on Monday the 130m-long tree canopy walk will be officially opened to the garden’s visitors.
At the weekend, visitors who trekked into the heart of the garden, the arboretum, were given a chance to clamber along its length.
“I feel like this is just going to fall down,” said one petrified visitor as the bridge swayed under her feet.
“I wonder how long it would take you to fall to the bottom,” said an excited child.
According to the park, the walkway has been on the back burner for a while. However, with the garden celebrating its centenary last year, architects Mark Thomas and Christopher Bisset and a team of engineers were given the chance to turn their vision into a reality.
It took roughly a year to erect the winding pathway. A combination of galvanised steel components, built offsite by Prokon Services at their workshop in Blackheath, each metal strut – which suspends the walkway in the air – is about 6m long.
The handrails are made of a wood called Padauk, a West African import, while the decking is a collection of simple pine slats.
It took a small crane, and a few adrenaline junkies, to bolt together the components and mount them on the towering support columns.
“It was put together much like a Meccano set,” said project co-ordinator Adam Harrower.
But the project wasn’t without its headaches, as Harrower pointed out: “There were numerous unforeseen obstacles.”
Fitting the giant pieces of the Boomslang’s skeleton together proved to be more difficult than anticipated, especially within a site as sensitive as the arboretum, which is densely populated with trees.
“Maneuvering a mobile crane within this space was a big challenge. Both the painting and the carpentry were long and tedious jobs, all having to be conducted high above ground level.”
The challenges met resulted in an unveiling scheduled last year to be delayed until today.
The structure towers over the so-called Enchanted Forest, which is below the Protea Garden and above the Concert lawn. Framing the mountains, the structure was flooded with sunlight on Sunday afternoon as countless visitors braved the steep cobbled paths that taper out into the forest.
“We are going to be so high,” shouted a child as he spotted the walkway between the trees. - Cape Argus