A Hike into the Unknown

Brittany Arendse
7 August 2015

Hiking to Salt River

Today was a perfect sunny and warm winters day in Nature’s Valley, one longed for after the cold and rainy days and nights. My hiking plans have been stunted by a combination of, rainy days, full office days and, I’m embarrassed to say, a dollop of laziness. Our new volunteers, (Sam, Maggie, Megan and Zi), Mark and I started our day’s adventure on the beach (beach entrance 1) on the way to one of the well-known hiking trails.

Figure 1 view from beach entrance 1.

Figure 1: View from Beach entrance 1

It was low tide and the beach was looking stunning: beautiful clear blue water, with the sun dancing off the rocks. Surprise, a pod of dolphins surfing the waves… what a delightful sight so early in the morning. After we stared in awe for about 10 minutes, we headed towards the Salt River trail.

With heavy panting, for what seemed like an hour (but was probably only 20 minutes), and sweat droplets covering my brow, we reach the first lookout. I have to say the crescent beach is probably one of my most loved views, thus far. Who knows what gems the Valley is still hiding from me?

Figure 2 View from Salt River Lookout point.

Figure 2: View from Salt River Lookout point.

Looking down at Nature’s Valley, it is hard to imagine that there are over 300 residences lining the streets. Mark pointed out that erf 298, my house - the house the NVT students rent, cannot be seen from above the treeline. This probably explains why my washing will not dry and I smell like wet dog half the time but who can complain when this view is on my doorstep (and I love dogs).

We saw beautiful flowering plants on the way, some I haven’t seen on our weekly hiking trips (documenting the flowering times of plants) - the most memorable species being from the Orchidaceae family: Bonatea speciosa.

Figure 3 Bonatea speciosa in full flower in moist shaded areas of Salt River Trail

Figure 3: Bonatea speciosa in full flower in moist, shaded areas of Salt River Trail.

We continued on the Salt River Trail towards the river and after 10 000 steps we landed on the soft sand. The water here is a warm brothy brown (stained by the tannins leaching from the vegetation), and cradled on both sides by lush greens. Instantly I was filled with a feeling of awe and regret – awe, at this beautiful sight and regret that it took me almost 4 months to tackle this trail.

Figure 4 Salt River Mouth

Figure 4: Salt River Mouth

As a NVT intern we know that pleasure comes with business and we cannot enjoy the beauty without giving something back to the environment. We attempted to empty the fisherman’s bins in the area. Unfortunately, one bin was detached from its post (hopefully by baboons and not man) and the second had somehow lost its lid. This disappointment allowed us to do a beach clean-up, which would otherwise not have been possible with the limited bin bags we brought along. We filled the bags with some plastic, fishing line and an inexplicable half of a gum boot. The shores were further littered with smooth rocks, interesting shells and mysterious egg cases. I later found out, through some guidance from Mark and some helpful research done by Robin Fokker that these eggs belonged to (in a clockwise fashion): a) St. Joseph Shark, b, c & d) Pyjama Catshark.

Figure 5 Egg cases fromjpg

Figure 5: Egg cases from a) St. Joseph Shark; b & c and d) Pyjama Catshark.

Overall, it turned out to be a beautiful day, filled with surprises and stunning sights and, of course, assistance to the deep blue. What I learned today is not to take this piece of paradise for granted, to do as much as I can while I can, to gather as much knowledge and share that which I have learned with those who will listen.