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Alsophila capensis
Alsophila capensis
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Mimetes pauciflorus
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Di Turner

CREW Custodians of Rare & Endangered Wildflowers

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Retrogressive Amnesia

This can be the only explanation for the fact that I tackled this again. Anno Domini is taking its inexorable toll and hiking is becoming progressively more difficult and taking longer.

The Outeniqua Traverse from the Saasveld cottages at first light via Tierkop, the slippery peat path below Krantzberg, the death-defying and steep track down Heartbreak Hill, the eroded and steep forest path up to Flanagans Rock, to the finish on the relatively easy path from Flanagans Rock to North Station on the Montagu Pass took 10 hours. Bill and I completed it as the sun was beginning to dip down behind the mountains. My arms and hands were bloody and bruised from many unplanned meetings with overgrown vegetation and protruding rocks along the way. I was thoroughly exhausted and even “Oom Willie van die Berge” was looking much the worse for wear. We crawled into bed after a quick thirst-quenching beer and a brief look at how the Blitzbokke had fared at the Olympics. Supper was simply one step too far. The distance was 18kms of hard hiking over some very overgrown tracks. Height gained was 1385m and the down-hills measured 948m. The steepest uphill was 46 degrees and the steepest down was 53 degrees (Heartbreak Hill). No wonder we were tired!

On the positive side, the scenery was spectacular with great views of the Arsehole Route (Bill’s vulgar name for it) of Cradock Peak. This is a dramatically steep ridge facing northeast, which requires some rock-climbing techniques and a head for heights. Neither of these are my strong points. In our relative youth we climbed it twice and on both occasions we came down in the dark. But that is a story for another day. Last Wednesday was a stunning day and there were plenty of “rares”. The highlight was finding Erica georgica (George Heath) in flower on the hill behind Tierkop and a new locality for the tiny Lobelia ardisiandroides (Rare) below Krantzberg. We also saw Mimetes pauciflorus (Flame Pagoda – Vulnerable) , Cyclopia subternata (Southern Honeyteabush – Declining) and lots of Leucadendron conicum (Outeniqua Conebush – Near Threatened) and Penaea acutifolia (Sharptip Brickleaf – Rare). The stunning Leucospermum glabrum (Outeniqua Pincushion – (Endangered) was in flower and Indigofera sp. 9 (Not evaluated) appeared on the northern side. Ocotea bullata (Stinkwood – Endangered) was thriving in the patches of Afro Temperate forest below Krantzberg and at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill. So thank you to Marge and WAGS for allowing the ancients to start earlier and do the hike in reverse. Swopping keys on Heartbreak Hill made a huge difference to the transport logistics.

For most of Thursday, there was a strong bergwind blowing. It was sometime in the afternoon that a fire started at Hoekwil. It quickly swept down the hill and spread to the reeds on the edge of the Island Lake. A few hours later, 4 houses had been destroyed on the Lakes Road area of Wilderness East. Terrifying images appeared on Facebook during the course of the afternoon and evening. There was also a fire in the Pine forests behind Heatherlands, which could easily have spread to the houses and the mountain behind it. . Virtually none of the rain that has been forecast has materialised and conditions are now tinder-dry in the Southern Cape. It is a very worrying state of affairs with very little rain on the horizon for the next week or so.

On Friday, we walked the cliff path west of Herolds Bay. It was cool with a light breeze coming off the sea. This was in stark contrast to the searing heat and hot winds which had fanned the flames the day before. With some difficulty, we found Euchaetis albertiniana (Endangered) in three locations at the end of the path from Herolds Bay and on the road which is now dotted with crosses in memory of people that have plunged over the cliffs in cars. Everything has become a little overgrown and we had to scratch around to find the plants. On the main site, we counted 66 plants. We walked a couple of kms beyond the stile into the coastal Fynbos to the west of it. This is no doubt destined for development and there were some ominous red flags dotted around the area. Here we found a yellow form of Erica glandulosa ssp fourcadei which is redlisted as Vulnerable because of development and aliens. Acacia Cyclops is abundant in the area and there is a lot of Hakea sericea as well. Other rares seen were a clump of Freesia leichtlinii ssp alba (Near Threatened) and Cullumia carlinoides (Near Threatened) which was scattered across the 8.8kms that we walked.

On Tuesday, we are leaving for 3 days to Anysberg. We will probably explore Landsekloof on Tuesday afternoon, the mountain all day on Wednesday and the rest we will play by ear. As the Spring trips come thick and fast, we are in for a busy time.
Hopefully we get some significant rain soon.
Hamba Kahle
Groete en dankie
Di Turner
Outramps CREW Group
Southern Cape

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