Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A walk to the Khoisan princess' cave

I haven't been on the mountain for about six weeks. After Christmas, time with family and eight days in the hot, hot Kalahari I'm missing my mountain. Life has been one long heatwave lately. 40+ temperatures in the Kalahari Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, only to arrive back in Cape Town to the bubbling sound of another, or maybe just one long, melted, heatwave.
So this morning, when I saw pale, cool clouds covering the mountain, I went to visit the princess in Silvermine. Most people in Cape Town have spotted the huge cave above Ou Kaapse Weg. You can see the big, shady hole in the mountain from almost anywhere in the Cape Flats. Its official name is Elephant's Eye cave, but I prefer the story of the Khoisan Princess.
According to myth/legend/fireside stories, she lived up there in the 1500's. (The other part of the legend is that the river that ran down there filled the Princess Vlei far below.)
Have to say, after all that sitting in the car over the past few weeks, my legs felt a bit cranky on the first uphill. But all pain was forgotten when I saw a row of salmon petals running up a stalk. Watsonias, or to be precise, watsonia tabularis. She is the beauty of high summer.
When the endorphins start kicking in everything looks special, even a spindly ball of feathery grass seed. Then some more watsonias, etched against the sky where the heat has burnt away the last of the morning’s clouds.
One of the best parts of this route is the path along the shady pines, but not for much longer. This morning I heard the sound of buzzing chainsaws, the day of pine trees on the mountain are over. Then the spot where the stream crosses the path. How often do you actually spot a startled frog plop into a stream? Reminds me of the haiku I read: The old pond/a frog jumps in/plop.
In the stream art and poems float around. Open seed pods. A dead moth on a grass stalk. And the tinkling of water on a hot day; the sweetest sound.
The path leaves the shade behind and a breeze catches a carpet of restios, grassy heads dipping, whispering, sooshing. A radio crackles at the fire look-out. I’ve never seen someone here before. A man called Alvin sticks his head out the window, two teardrop golden earrings dangling and wearing a t-shirt that says ‘toxic is the new black’. Can you figure that one out?
He’s listening to Good Hope FM and reckons this is the most boring job in the world. His job is to watch the mountains from Silvermine East, over theeere... to Constantia Nek, way over theeeere. They dazzle and sizzle in the heat, blue ridges simmering, green forests hanging on, turquoise sky flying into infinity. But Alvin is not impressed. On his narrow 20-something shoulders rests an awesome responsibility. Don’t let Table Mountain burn! And this is fire season. Yesterday and today are high risk, full alert days.
After the last 50m steep climbing in the mid-morning sun (hold legs, hold), the cave is a moist, green, cool, velvet, fern-lined princess chamber. And just in case you were wondering, Jungle was here in ’08. Or so says the graffiti.
Sitting up there, looking out over the flatlands, the lakes, the long white beach, the miles of foamy waves breaking, can you really imagine anything but a princess living here?


Wendy Morgenrood said...

Just great, Judy. I keep telling myself I've got to get these legs in motion but they won't listen to me!

Elizabeth Gevers said...

beautiful Judy, those legs just held in that heat. Lovely description of your climb. Will go with you when I get to Cape Town again. Love Ma

Jan said...

Pragtig my liewe woordsmit en siener.