I may think I know Silvermine because I’ve done the banks of the dam umpteen times with friends and family, lazying away the day over picnics and a stroll along the reservoir trail. But this weekend we were to see the dam from a totally different perspective, and I found new respect for the beauty which is ours for the taking in Cape Town.
Walking Silvermine, the Amphitheatre Route Around the Dam: We whip out our Wild Card at the gate (the fees have now risen to R25 a person) and are aghast to see that on this autumnal Sunday cars are already lined along the road from the car park. It’s not surprising given the stillness of the day and the sunshine.
Now on foot, we swing left at the boom just before the new boardwalk and toilets at the entrance to the dam, and head up below the the water reservoir, catching a glimpse, as the path meets the boardwalk, of the numbers of fires and people on the sides of the dam. The consistent murmur of voices is surprisingly loud and I’m glad we’re not here to enter the fray.
At this stage of the walk, up along the loose gravel path that heads up towards the Steenberg Plateau, we pass numerous other hikers, their dogs, and mountain bikers sending it down the hill. But soon we have the place almost to ourselves, passing only another three groups during the duration of our time spent on the mountain.
Photographs — Left: HT we branch off / Right: Crassula
Just over halfway up, we take a right turn at a little wooden stump on which there is a yellow shoe print and the letters HT – hiking trail? (it faces the top of the ridge, not the dam, so you’ll need to look out for it). Our six year old seems relieved to get off the steep gravel path, with little idea that from here, almost all the way to Crassula Edge, we shall walk uphill, most of it up stone hewn steps.
It was probably a good thing I had no clue either, as I’m not fond of climbs. The great thing about this walk though, is that the uphill is not noticeable, not until right at the top when the steps become fairly steep, but the fynbos and views more than make up for any discomfort. Afterwards when we looked back to how high we had climbed, the negligible effort required to get there seemed more than a fair trade for the vistas it presented.
This stunning hike lies in the northern parts of Silvermine Nature Reserve, which is part of the great Table Mountain National Park. I mention this around now because as you rise and stop to look at various view spots, so the full implication and geographical layout of the peninsular becomes more obvious.
Initially the views over False Bay are incredible. If you have visitors to the country staying with you, this is one hike you want to take them on, when it comes to explaining the various bays and parts of the peninsular to them. One can see right the way (on a clear day – summer’s hazy hot days may not offer as fine a view) to the Strand and beyond, whilst on the other side, Fish Hoek, and then a little later, even Simon’s Town are clearly visible.
Photograph — A moment …
A little higher and Chapman’s Peak too presents itself. We stand for a long time looking at the magical interplay of mountains – the 3 D weave of the different peaks that make up the fold mountains this side of Cape Town – it’s spellbinding.
Finally, we make Shelter Rock, the first major landmark on our Peter Slingsby map. Up here the wind is decidedly chilly and we’re busy pulling on fleeces and hats, and take a moment to snack on our dried fruit and nuts. The views, again, are drinkable.
We may have thought this was the top, certainly from below it looks that way, but isn’t that the fascinating aspect to walking (and life), that just when you think you’re there, you aren’t? Ahead of us is a further climb, whilst we look out for the Breakfast Slab – a little confusing, as there are numerous large, slabs of rock that overlook False Bay that easily qualify.
Finally, we decide, on uncovering the best vista yet out over Noordhoek and Long Beach, that Breakfast Slab must be the flat edge overlooking this part of the Cape, rather than those we’ve flirted with on the other side of the ridge along which we’ve climbed. The sun, which rises in the east, would be that much more obvious from here.
There is surprisingly still something of a climb before we find ourselves on Crassula Edge, along which we find all of two crassulas – but then vegetation is given to change. We’re aware that the weather is now beginning to change. It’s around 2.30 in the afternoon, and clouds with a hint of grey are beginning to head in. We’re not that worried yet.
Photographs — Left: The beauty with which we live / Right: The sun plays with fynbos
The Amphitheatre path is wonderful. The walk flattens out now and, though we’ve left the views over Noordhoek behind us, we can still see out across the dam and False Bay.
Now the walk begins to descend slowly. Frogs begin croaking, a sure sign that rain is on the way as it’s not as though there is running water in these parts yet. Dragonback Passage is something of a cave directly overlooking the midline of the dam. It’s a wonderful formation of weather worn rock, moss and tree, and we stop again for a snack.
The cold is really working its way in now, but we can see our way clear, despite the youngest member of the party’s complaints about being tired. Blind Man’s bend is virtual hedges of fynbos that grows to above the height of a man, creating an avenue or two of vegetation lined pathway, along which it is easy to walk.
Finally we join up with the path that takes one on to Elephant’s Eye Cave and back down to the side of the dam, where we join the mass exodus to the car as everyone leaves – the mist is descending. Good thing we advised the couple we meet on the way down, dead set on heading up along our walk in reverse, not to do it today, or they would have been caught in the heart of the clouds.
Photograph — Views over False Bay Muizenberg
- Cape Town Hiking Trails
- Western Cape Hiking Trails
- Things to do in Cape Town
- Cape Town Accommodation
- Western Cape Accommodation
- South Africa Accommodation
What to take on the hike:
- Hats, water, sunblock
- Peter Slingsby’s map (find it at Exclusive Books)
- A good pair of sturdy shoes
- A fair number of snacks
- Your camera – the vegetation and the views are magnificent