Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Hiking the Heavens

Hiking is more than just exercise, it goes much deeper. It is a wonderful few hours I get to spend with the man I love, without any outside interruptions and it is a spiritual renewal.

During most hikes I have a song in my head, usually an old hymn, something which speaks of the grandeur of God's creation.

This Saturday's hike was long and at times extremely painful (anyone who has climbed Plattekilp Gorge will understand that pain), but I loved it. Climbing to the top of a mountain and then looking down, that is living on the edge! Then climbing down the mountain and looking up, that is accomplishment!

If you ever think your life is going nowhere, get out and do a hike and you'll end up with a feeling of : "I can do it all - I am Superman!".

Here are some pictures of our Saturday hike. We climbed Platteklip Gorge, walked to Maclears Beacon, followed Smuts track and then turned off towards the Hely-Hutchinson dam and the Waterworks museum. We then went down, back to the Smuts Track and took a very steep decent down Skeleton Gorge.

Here is Hout Bay pictured from Table Mountain.

Maclears Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain, is named after Sir Thomas Maclear (March 17, 1794–July 14, 1879) an Irish-born South African astronomer who became Her Majesty's astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope.

The crater Maclear on the Moon is named after him, as is Maclear's Beacon on Table Mountain and the town of Maclear.

There is an amazing collection of flowers on Table Mountain, like the King Protea pictured here - which is the South African National Flower.

And here is the Drosera trinervia (sundew), a carnivorous plant (no Meatless Monday here).

Pictured here is the Hely-Hutchinson Dam. It was constructed in 1904 by Thomas Stewart, a Scotsman and South Africa's first consulting engineer.
Before they could start building the reservoir, they had to construct a railway line, up Kasteelspoort (from Victoria Road Camps Bay), to transport the men and the materials.

Stewart and his men lived on Table Mountain for 3 years, before construction was completed on the Woodhead reservoir (next to the Hely-Hutchinson). Woodhead did not solve the water shortage in Cape Town (especially with the increased demand for water resulting from the Anglo-Boer War), and so the bigger Hely-Hutchinson reservoir was commissioned.The Alexandra, Victoria, and De Villiers dams which served Wynberg were built in the same period, all overseen by Mr Stewart.

Thomas Stewart also surveyed the Hottentots-Holland Mountains searching for suitable catchment areas, and discovered two excellent sites in the Steenbras and Wemmershoek valleys, which would see development in later years.

To read more about this extremely interesting and influential man please go here, where I was able to source my information.

Hely - Hutchinson reservoir has a maximum capacity of .95million cubic meters of water.

Here is the view from the top of Skeleton Gorge, overlooking the Cape Flats, False Bay and the Hottentot Holland Mountains in the background.

At the top of Smuts Track, named after Jan S. Smuts, who was a keen hiker. He was born on 24 May 1870, at the family farm, Bovenplaats, near Malmesburg - just outside Cape Town.

Jan was 12 when his eldest brother died, and he was then able to take his brother's place in school. He made excellent progress, despite his late start, and caught up with his contemporaries within four years. By the age of 16 he was studying at the Victoria College in Stellenbosch, which was the former name for the University of Stellenbosch.

Once he graduated from Victoria College, he won a scholarship and decided to travel to the United Kingdom to read law at Christ's College Cambridge and graduated in 1893 with a double First. As you can see, he was a very intelligent man.

But back to his love of hiking, because for me to tell you even half of his achievements, would take more than a blog post.

Jan was an amateur botanist - with a particular interest in grasses, and has a grass which grows in Irene named after him.

Jan Smuts ascended Table Mountain more than 70 times, even at the age of 70! So it is not surprise that they have named a path leading up the mountain after him.

How Skeleton Gorge got it's name is not known to me, but after the decent I do think it is very aptly named. It is certainly a decent for the brave!

The prize at the end of the hike is walking into Kirstenbosch Gardens - without paying (in money at least).


Parag said...

I am stunned looking at those amazing pictures.
The Table Mountain

Nina Timm said...

This is just beautiful Rose and you amaze me!!!Well done!!!

Marisa said...

Stunning pictures. Reminds me again of what a beautiful country we live in!

Helen said...

Oh what lovely photos! I've been such a wimp about walking during this heatwave, but this makes me want to go out onto our mountain *right now*. I've really been missing being outside and that wonderful 'top of the world' that you write about. I'm delighted to have discovered your blog.

Elle said...

Wonderful hike and gorgeous photos, especially the protea (not sure I spelled that right!) and I love the history, too. Imagine if Mr. Smuts brother had lived...what a waste of a brain if he had not been able to further his education...although he may have hybridized some grasses instead. God works in mysterious ways!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

What a beautiful post! You are certainly blessed to live in such an amazing country.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Gorgeous views! We love to go hiking when we travel to different places.

Jeanne said...

I've always wanted to try Platteklip Gorge (not fit enough this trip!) but I think I'd take the cable car down! Hubby has done Skeleton Gorge but he is far less fearful than me ;-) I've walked to Maclear's beacon in dense mist from the cable station - it was completely surreal but very beautiful. Gorgeous pics!

Hiking Lady said...

Your pictures are gorgeous! It really makes me want to go hiking in South Africa! I also like how you think about hiking as more than just exercise. I too find that hiking provides wonderful mental relaxation for me.
Happy trails!

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water."

It is not your business to succeed, but to do what is right : when you have done so, the rest lies with God.
C.S. Lewis

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