Saturday, February 16, 2013

Free Walking in the Table Mountain National Park

If you’re bothered by the rising entry fees at Silvermine or Cape Point, or the cost of a card that lets you walk your pooch, and you want a bit of pristine Peninsula as wild as anything you’ll find down in the deep, deep south, you really should try the Kleinplaas Dam area on Red Hill. It’s a substantial area with lots of different walks, and entry is absolutely free.
Mosses; Mimetes; Mountain dahlia [Liparia splendens]
There is a small parking area off the Red Hill road, at the Klawervlei turn-off, but there are unfortunately security issues there. There is safer parking up the Brooklands road – turn off Red Hill at Pinehaven – and park at the red roofed house.
  The slopes across the valley are littered with the ruins of houses. This was Brooklands, a small subsistence-farming community that was evicted by the apartheid government. Rumour has it that this was during P W Botha’s tenure at the Ministry of Defence. Whether that’s true or not, it would be in character with everything we remember of that finger-wagging demagogue. I haven’t been able to find out much more about Brooklands – any inputs would be welcome. There is a substantial, built-footpath that cuts down the hill across the Red Hill Road zigzags, and I’m told that the men of Brooklands walked this way to work at the Naval Base, while the women did the laundry for the Officers’ Mess. Rumours?
Unusual views from the Kleinplaas paths
From the red roofed house it’s a short walk up to the Kleinplaas Dam. The dam is a surprisingly-large body of water, built to supply Simon’s Town. It’s one of the few dams I know that has a wall covered in indigenous vegetation – hence almost invisible from below – and it has a sandy shoreline that is welcome on a hot day. You can cross the wall to other walks, but we turned left to find the Grootkop Cracks on our last visit. 
Fynbos; Shelter Rocks; Kleinplaas Dam; Walking in the Rain
The fynbos is gorgeous and at a good in-between-fires stage at the moment, with masses of leucadendrons, sewejaartjies, blue lobelias, watsonias and mimetes trees. There are some rare dragonflies in the area, too, but I am no expert on those I’m afraid.
Sewejaartjies; Watsonia; Orb spider; Suurtjies
The walking is really easy; only the last stretch up Grootkop is steepish but it’s really not much of a sweat. There are some useful shelter rocks on the way up to the cracks, great for wet or very hot weather. The cracks themselves are moderately impressive, with some intriguing views, but don’t expect Tranquillity Cracks-standard.
Grootkop Cracks
There and back takes less than two hours; the route is spelled out on our Cape Point map [see inset below]. Other great walks in the area leave from the top of Black Hill [Glencairn Expressway], or a pleasant short ramble from Da Gama Park to the old Dutch stone forts [1794] that overlook Simon’s Bay.
Click on the map to enlarge it
Kaartman, Feb 2013

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