Just back from yet another wonderful weekend spent out of town discovering a new corner of this incredibly diverse, magnificent province of ours. We headed up to a spot just north of the rather pretty little town of Tulbagh, which is situated in a bowl surrounded by three imposing mountain ranges – the Obiqua to the west, the Winterhoek to the north and the Witzenberg to the east. We stayed on a farm on the slopes of the Winterhoek, its imposing, craggy peaks right behind our cottage.
We were determined to get ourselves up into the mountains and into a patch of indigenous forest tucked away in a kloof, so we set off early in the morning.
We hiked up a very steep firebreak which went right up the mountain until we reached the point where the fire-fighting vehicles would literally topple over it was so steep! It was hellishly hot – at 8am already. The combination of the heat and the fairly manic gradient was a bit too much for our usually fairly stoic little 8 year old…but the sight of the forest and its little waterfall was enough of a carrot!
It is always magical to be surrounded by 300-year-old trees, their creaking trunks and glorious twisted limbs with many a secret to tell. It is also a deep privilege to be able to scoop crystal clear water into your hands and drink straight off the mountain.
We clambered over rocks blanketed with dripping ferns and moss and headed a little further up into the mountain until it just became too steep. The place was full of raptors – from elusive African Goshawks flitting in and out of the canopy, to Jackal Buzzards and Peregrine Falcons outdoing themselves with aerobatics above…
We spent a little bit of time just sitting in the forest, sipping in all that energy and thinking how quickly all this brilliance can be wiped out… by us lot…!
The farm is stuffed with aliens, unfortunately, but in between all of that, we came across the most incredible floral jewel! The farm manager pointed it out to us as he showed us the way to the swimming dam. Rather alarmingly, he felt the need to pluck it out the ground to show us. At the time, it felt a bit wrong, and now, as I read up about this particular species and its fairly tenuous status, it was definitely not the best strategy!
This striking little turquoise-green flower (Ixia viridiflora) is one of the most unusual geophytes – and is confined to a very small pocket of the Tulbagh District. It is sadly listed as Vulnerable in the Red Data Book, and is likely to be upgraded to Endangered in the near future, if the decline in numbers continues.
These tissue-paper thin flowers have an incredible purple-black circular stain or ‘eye’ in the middle. This little gem of a flower is pollinated by scarab beetles – commonly known as monkey beetles!
After our mountain adventure, we hit the dam…a spectacular setting, with deliciously cool water and big fish nibbling our toes…what a great spot.
(With thanks to Warren for the pics, as always!)