Monday, January 17, 2011

The Feast of Crassula

For a long time I thought Crassula was just the name of a street in the suburb of Devils Peak. But no, it is not. Crassula is a red thing of beauty that flowers in bright blotches on the driest slopes of Table Mountain in the most arid month of the year: January.

As usual, the Afrikaans name says it much better. Klipblom. Stone flower, because that’s where it grows. On the tiniest scrap of soil in the crevice of a rock it shoots up into a thick fleshy stem with a crown of a dozen tiny scarlet blooms winking with their white eyes in the wind.

And now is the time of the Feast of Crassula. On Sunday, our first hike of the year, we chose a route with an appropriate name for getting back in the saddle. It’s called, well, the Saddle. The Saddle is the neck below Devil’s Peak that connects it to the front face of Table Mountain. It’s easy, less than three hours and a gentle way to the top if you walk along the contour path and scramble up over Oppelskop Ridge.

Long ago someone had the job of manning an outpost on this ridge. The roof is long gone and the wind and rain have nibbled away at the edges of the walls, but the view remains majestically unnibbled. To the left the wall of Table Mountain. Lion’s Head grabs a chunk of view over there. Cape Town Stadium looks like a huge oval UFO that landed in Green Point. Robben Island sits in its frill of white breakers a distance out to sea.

The small view is another matter altogether. You can only experience the Feast of Crassula if your feet are actually on a mountain path. Then you start spotting the red jewels. One just next to the path, another three stems shooting out of a rock above you, two more over there, another clump of crassula on the edge of a small ravine.

At the top of the Saddle is a huge all-weather rock that can shelter you from the southeaster if you sit in front of it and from lashing winter rain if you sit behind it. Sunday morning was so perfect that for once we sat next to it, on boulders along the stream that runs through the Saddle and has cut a deep gorge from there on its way down to the ocean. A tranquil little stream can do that if you let it run for thousands of years.

We drank our tea and we ate our rusks while the tranquil stream tinkled. Behind our big rock stood an agapanthus with rolled up petals of sky-blue promise and a patch of pink ericas spread like a dusty plumped up duvet along the stream.

What a mountain to come home to after a holiday. What a feast to enjoy after the festive season.

1 comment:

Linda Vergnani said...

From far-away Sydney, I constantly long for that magnificent mountain chain. Your blogs describe that Table Mountain magic so well - from the small intimate moments to the majestic.