07 Feb 2011

The Disa is in bloom!

The Disa is in bloom!

By tim rolston/iol.co.za:

It is odd how things happen. I have been traipsing about the mountains of the Cape for more years than I care to remember and possibly more than I should admit to, and I have always carried a desire to see red disas. They are, after all, the official flower of the province and pretty as a picture to boot, but they are not exactly common. I once saw them in profusion while floating down a private and remote section of the Oliphants River many moons ago on an extreme kloofing trip, but they have eluded me since, despite the occasional foray with the express intention of locating them in flower.

But last week I was fortunate once more to come across these incredible blooms in some degree of abundance and I suppose, as with many things, it is mostly a case of being in the right place at the right time.

The weather had been rather hot and the south-easter more than a little troublesome so I was having some difficulty thinking of a place to go. Eventually I decided to try a route up Myburgh’s Waterfall Ravine, as my guide book promised it would be sheltered from the wind and the bright sun for most of the ascent. I had never walked on that part of the mountain before.

Myburgh’s is a steep wooded gulley heading up towards Judas Peak above Hout Bay, cutting up through the seemingly impenetrable massif that borders the northern boundary of the valley in an impressive rock cliff.

I set out early but it was already hot on a trail I knew would eventually take me some 700m above sea level, a more than reasonable target in high summer. What a blessing when I almost immediately disappeared into thick, green forest that provided cool and shade.

The gorge was an oasis of green, the rocks underfoot covered in still slightly damp moss, although the river bed was mostly devoid of water save for the occasional trapped puddle. Overhead the lush vegetation provided the kind of sparkling and dappled light that enthrals me, softening the hard edges of reality and bathing everything in delicate emerald tones.

The forest also buffered the sounds of the outside world so much I could no longer hear the traffic noise from Constantia Nek or the relentless hammering of construction projects in the valley below, only the soft crunch of leaves and twigs under foot and the incessant cry of a rock kestrel busy in the clear blue skies high above .

The ravine narrowed severely near the top and at one point I was beginning to wonder if I would be able to escape it, as sheer rock walls on either side pressed closer. Near the summit, as the sun began to break through the thinning canopy, there they were, a cluster of bright red disas and I was totally elated to see them in relative profusion.

It is one of the things I have learned from my walks: you can rarely predict what you will find but if you make the effort and simply head out with a willing heart, nature will generally reward you. The red disa (Disa uniflora) flowers from January through to March and loves damp seeps on the edges of steep waterways; there are apparently some 100 species of disa in the fynbos so it would seem I have a lot of walking to do to see the rest of them.

Eventually I clambered out of the ravine and into the harsh sunshine of the mountain top, following a faint trail to join up with the Twelve Apostles path and my route home via Llandudno Ravine. The sea was pretty as a picture but the descent was long and tiring in the heat of the day and the trail back to the car seemed to last longer than I would have liked.

As I walked, a mongoose tripped along in front of me for a while and I passed a cluster of black and white spotted feathers where some creature had obviously dined on a guineafowl in the recent past. By the time I reached the car I was more than a little tired, but I had finally found my disas and that was enough to make the effort worthwhile.

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