Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hunting for red disas

The owls were still flying around this morning when we went up Nursery Ravine to go hunting for red disas. Mike the retired vet insisted we meet him no later than 5.30. It was a good move, although I didn’t think so when the alarm went off at 4.30 on a Sunday morning. Maximum temperatures were forecast today for 35+ and when we came down the mountain four hours later the sweaty red-faced hikers pulling themselves up over hot boulders were not a pretty sight.
It was still a bit early in the year for disas – indigenous orchids - but Mike had heard an unsubstantiated rumour that a few had already been spotted. So up we trudged. We were a third of the way up Nursery Ravine when a golden glow suddenly lit up the trees and moss covered boulders. The sun had risen. Once out of the forest we could see right over False Bay towards Hangklip and a silver cloud cascaded over Silvermine East. Mist touched the earth here and there, floating up from the ground.
My climbing strategy is a slow one, just keep going, even if fuelled only by half a cup of coffee and a rusk, keep going, keep going. Rest as you lift your feet, before you put them down. Breathe. But stuff if. Today I had to rest when the last steep stretch of Nursery Ravine appeared before me. Very annoying that Mike’s 20-something nephews who had slept between 2 – 4 hours and were sweating out last night’s mojitos had started after us and sat at the top waiting for us. I blame my lack of form on the long Christmas holidays.
At last at the top, we ambled through the shade of the clump of trees that date back to the old nursery from 1890. Coral watsonias caught the early morning sun and red crassulas burst against the rocks. (In Afrikaans a ‘klipblom’.)
The blue reservoir dams on top of the mountain always make me feel like I’m in a different country, somewhere like Sweden. At last we reached the little ravine we call Red Disa Gully and there, at our favourite teaspot on a rock next to a mountain pool, were the disas. Still closed. Rumours of disas, tightly curled up.
But over the crest and along a man-built furrow that leads water down to the reservoirs, we saw a flash of red. Two flashes of red. Then another. Disas! There they were, standing tall, their red heads swayed in the breeze. Now you know why they’re called ‘Pride of Table Mountain’. Disa uniflora, the Red Disa.
Further along the stone furrow views rolled out towards Hangklip on the far side of False Bay and a thin veil of mist drew dark shadows on the sea.
And then a glimpse of blue-purple along the path, spotted by a nephew who claimed to have only slept one hour last night. It was a ‘drip disa’, growing in a mossy hollow under dripping rocks, just like the name says, the disa longicornis or Mauve Disa. What a bonus, the first one I’ve ever seen.
Far below us three-million people were going about their Sunday mornings. Up here we felt like the kings and queens of the mountain, finding purple and red orchids in the shade of cool rocks in the middle of a scorching summer. “I love paying zero for a million-dollar experience,” Mike said.
By 10 a.m. we were back at our cars; four and a half hours to our own little corner of paradise and back. And a sweet memory tucked behind our hearts to last the whole week.


Confessions of a Hungry Woman said...

Darling Judy,
As always your words inspire me. Soon Jacques and I will go exploring with you. At a (very) leisurely pace.

Wendy Morgenrood said...

Very jealous about the drip disa. We'll have to try next Sunday - provided the night before isn't too late! Bounding up the mountain after one hour's sleep? In my dreams!

Judy Croome said...

Mauve disa? Only knew about the red ones.