14 October 2012

Down in the valley where the bugs wear boots

Today - a rather cold and windy day - we were going to try a new path where we have never walked before (even though Simon, our human brother, has - once when he was still at school). We parked the Land Rover at the Sunbird Centre (the site of an old farmhouse originally built in 1904 by Barend Nicolas Petrus van der Poll who owned the farm Klein Silvermyn which is now part of Table Mountain National Park),
which provides accommodation for schools and any group that promise to conduct environmental activities, and we drove back in Alice's car to the Wolfkop Carpark where we met Pauline. Sue couldn't come as she is at Katta and Gerard's wedding in the Bontebok National Park this weekend. Thea was at a party in Hermanus and Paul is recovering well after a bout of feeling a bit unwell.
There were lovely flowers today - white China Flowers (Adenandra),
and the fluffy seed heads and pink stems of a daisy - possibly Senecio arenarius,
lots of Mimetes fimbrifolius bushes,
and a little Hermannia.
As tea time loomed, the Food Lady decided to go off on a tangent to find Berties Balcony - uh oh, looks a bit tricky to get up there.
Luckily the Alph found the overhanging cave after a very short little explore along a fairly good path, and planted our tea flag.
It was wonderfully protected from the wind and secluded from passers-by. We thought it would be fun to spend a few days here!
Alice and Maddie. Someone has written "Bertie's Balcony on the back of the cave and the Food Lady was wondering if it was named after Bertie Peers - one of the excavators of Peer's Cave. (See this excerpt about Bertie Peers from a rather nice book that the Food Lady read at her rather eccentric bookclub.)
Tea. Pauline, Alice, with Maddie hiding behind her, Dougal and the Alph with me.
Isn't this just a fantastic place for tea?
We left the shelter of Bertie's Balcony and climbed further up the Crassula Path - and were hit by the wild Southeaster at the top.
Even the flowers were blustery and blowing. This is a Yellow Ixia (Ixia dubia).
We walked through the Amphitheatre and soon dropped out of the teeth of the gale. You can see it raging up above! The air was fragrant with fabulous fabaceae bushes,
like this Cape Gorse (Aspalathus).
This was the turn-off to Silvermine valley (where we were headed)
so down we all went after the Alph who was walking with a purpose  - and two sticks.
The Silvermine Valley.
Golly gosh - not sure about boots but this bug is wearing a vest. (Actually, according to Jonathan Colville, its a monkey beetle called Pachycnema crassipes. Males have large hind legs for fighting over females. Females can be both brown and black with white or yellow scales on the abdomen, but the males are always black with white scales.) 
Pauline going down into the valley, the Southeaster cloud gathering up above.
An everlasting daisy - Cape Snow (Syncarpha vestita) - with its ring of tiny red flowers.
As we got deeper into the valley, we came across streams that were clear and cool and fringed with Vlei Kolkol (Berzelia lanuginosa).
Maddie cooling off.
We passed some ruins that the map says were once a "powder house" but the Food Lady can't find anything about whose powder house it was. Or what kind of powder was kept there. Must be something to do with the silver mine - that apparently never yielded any silver anyway. 
At last we came to the Silvermine River where we all had a drink -
and some of us a dip.
Then it was down this soft green path back to where we had left the car at the Sunbird Centre.
Our route. From Gate 2, round Maiden Peak and the Amphitheatre and back down the zigzags into the valley.
Looking back at Blokhuiskop. Again - not a clue as to why its called that.
At the Sunbird Centre we met a sausage dog who was digging up molerats in the middle of the road even though he was about the same size as a molerat! Luckily he wasn't successful or he might have needed me to go in and save him.

PS If anyone can tell the Food Lady where the nonsense poem "Down in the valley where the bugs wear boots, and the monkeys chew tobacco and the pigs spit fire from the telephone wire ..." comes from, she would be most grateful!
For a map of the route, click here.

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