For scenery,sensory delights and exercise to get your heart-rate up there is nothing like a hike up Chapman’s Peak from Long Beach in Noordhoek or Chapman’s Peak Drive above Monkey Valley resort. Within metres up the path you feel above all the fumes and fuss and fury of regular life in the city and can “just chill”, immersed in the moment.
The views on the hike are spectacular all round. In the picture below the seasonal lagoon on Long Beach, Noordhoek may be seen, a haven for all kinds of waterbirds. Kommetjie juts out in the backgroud with the Slangkop lighthouse just visible.
A bit further to the left one overlooks the whole Fish Hoek valley and way in the distance over False Bay the outlines of Hangklip.
Seen from the hiking path the vehicles on Chapman’s Peak Drive look like dinky toys.
As one climbs one becomes aware of the extraordinary variety of fynbos species. Not only are the variety of species eye-catching, but also the variety of colours.
The Protea lepidocarpodendron is endemic to the Western Cape with a narrow distribution range from the Cape Peninsula along the False Bay coast to Stanford. It is always found within 20km of the sea and between sea-level and 300m.
The greeny-grey leafy whorls of the Xiphotheca fruticosa, also known as the Tall Silver Pea, stand out freshly amongst the other greens. According to the SANBI Red List of Plants it is a widespread but rarely recorded species that is found in the area stretching from the Cape Peninsula to Bredadorp and Laingsberg in about 20 locations (2012). It grows at between 100 and 1200 m above sea level amongst the fynbos on sandstone slopes. (http://redlist.sanbi.org/species.php?species=285-4)
Nature in all its beauty. Shades of colour in the fynbos and shades of colour in the sea.
I asked our son Bjorn, a geologist with a PhD in Ocean Chemistry, to explain the different colours of the ocean. Because his response is highly scientific and my arty brain would not dare precis it I am publishing it verbatim here. Ditto for the information about the fascinating rocks pictured below.
“The photo shows the interface between two water masses that have different density properties (i.e. salinity and temperature properties). The difference in colour is caused by further differences in water chemical properties with the lighter coloured water (right) likely having a higher silica content. Such a mixing interface is common in the Cape waters, where the cold Benguela current, travelling southwards down from Namibia, meets the warm Agulhas current that brings tropical water down from the East Coast of South Africa.”
So now you know.
Tea break on top of the Chapman’s Peak. We watched in fascination as this Southern Rock Agama, a male in breeding colouration, munched on a piece of banana dropped by one of the hiking group. Must have learnt some lessons in foraging from humans from the Chacma Baboons on the mountains! He and a shyer companion came up to see who these strangers were in their domain.
The populations of the “sociable” (indeed!) rock agama, a species found only in South Africa and Lesotho, have declined in urban areas where domestic cats reside. They are also preyed upon by fiscal shrikes and snakes. They live in small colonies on rocky areas. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agama_atra)
The geology of the Cape Fold Mountains is as interesting as the inhabitants and the vegetation thereof. Once again I will rely on Bjorn to explain why these rocks look like they do. Awe-inspiring stuff.
Referring to the rocks below, our specialist says: “Sandstone rocks are separated by a layer of silica and manganese and/or iron oxide precipitates. These phases have precipitated in a joint in the sandstone rock. Joints and faults are typically caused by stresses and movements in the rock, related to a process known as tectonics. As water moves along these joint/fault planes, the dissolved silica and iron/manganese phases precipitate out of solution. These hydrothermal waters are often saturated by elements like iron and manganese, similar to the mineral rich water associated with hot springs.”
“The boulder below is comprised of a sandstone matrix in which conglomerate-sized boulders are hosted. These rocks formed in a marine delta environment between 510 – 330 million years ago. The rounded shape of the hosted pebbles bears testament to the deltaic depositional environment as the rounding was caused either by river action, or by wave action at the sea-shore. Evaluation of the pressure conditions to which these rocks were exposed shows us that the rocks that are currently at the top of Chapman’s Peak where once buried under 10 km of sediment (which has subsequently been eroded away and washed out to sea).”
I got the conglomerate bit right!
Bjorn: “I am hazarding a guess on this one, it is difficult to see from the picture. Looks like the weathering surface of a conglomerate (of small pebbles) where the matrix has been weathered away and partially replaced by precipitation of a secondary Fe/Mn oxide phase (nodules). The white grains are the remnants of a coarser grained conglomerate rock. In sedimentary geology, characteristic of the Cape, rocks are laid down in layers, resulting from erosion and weathering processes. If the laid down sediment is very coarse (like in river gravels), the resulting rock is known as a conglomerate. If the sediment is medium grained (like beach sand), we get what is known as a sandstone. Finally, the rock type shale is formed when very fine grained sediment is deposited, in depositional settings such as the deep ocean floor. This picture shows a conglomerate surface where the finer grained matrix has been weathered away by the action of wind and rain. The black nodules are a secondary precipitation of iron/manganese oxides as discussed above.”
So there you have it. Enlightened and enthused? Just put on them hiking boots!
The hike takes about three hours if you do it at a gentle pace taking time to smell the fynbos and to feast your eyes along the way. Enjoy!
Many thanks to all the experts involved in identifications: Bjorn von der Heyden and the very knowledgeable folk at I-Spot.
Viv von der Heyden
As I changed the order of some of the photographs, their captions unfortunately disappeared. If you hover your mouse over the pics the captions will appear. (I wonder what our grandparents would have thought of such an instruction.)