– Tim Attwell
Oudebos, the relict patch of Afrotemperate forest in the ravine between Platberg and the back of Elephant Rock Mountain that gives its name to the offices of the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, did not disappoint us. We went looking for a spot under the forest canopy, next to a bubbling mountain stream to have our tea or coffee and the goodies we had brought with us. After all, the whole purpose of mountain or, for that matter, fynbos walking is ‘to find a good spot to have tea.’
We allowed ourselves an hour and a half on the first part of the famed Oudebos to Harold Porter National Botanical Garden Trail to find the right spot – and we did. True to form, although the sky suggested that it might rain, it didn’t, in keeping with the interesting fact that no Botsoc Kogelberg monthly walk has been rained out for the past four years. It took some nimble footwork to cross the swiftly flowing stream a couple of times, but our party of four proved up to the challenge and no feet got wet.
The early part of the trail wends its way past the cleverly designed eco friendly luxury cabins that are the justifiable pride of the Kogelberg Nature Reserve and makes its way across sandy flats where Struthiola ciliata is currently blooming in abundance. One of its common names, ‘Juffertjie roer by die nag’, delightfully evokes a young lady up to goodness knows what as night falls. This common name, of course, is associated with the sweet scent it emits in the evenings to attract its pollinators, the noctuid moths, Cucullia terensis and Syngrapha circumflexa which visit at dusk. Another common name, ‘Stroopbossie’, also refers to the scent which some say is reminiscent of vanilla ice cream.
Leaving the sandy flats, the trail ascends diagonally up the southern flank of Platberg where Mimetes cucullatus colours the mountainside. Brunia laevis, aka ‘Vaalstompie’, and Berzelia abrotanoides, ‘Rooibeentjies, testify to the damp conditions underfoot.
Once in the forest itself, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s moss growing half way up the streamside tree trunks. Close inspection, I mean with a hand lens, reveals that it’s not moss at all, but liverwort. The difference between the two is hard to spot, except that in this case the ‘moss’ that’s actually liverwort looks kind of ‘rougher’ than your everyday moss. Whatever. At 430 million years old, this form of plant life, the bryophytes, predate just about every other type of plant. Often it’s the small stuff that really blows your mind.
Getting back down the mountain was a breeze, in fact a little too quick. We seemed reluctant to leave, spending a moment trying to decide whether that bush with the small shiny toothed leaves and tiny magenta flower buds was Myrsine africana or Cliffortia ferruginea. But it really was time to go home.