Out and About in the Overberg
We have experienced typical Cape winter weather this year—a few spells of pelting rain and Arctic temperatures, interspersed with wonderfully sunny days. These are the days that we should, quite literally, head for the hills.
Alex Antrobus, a family friend, did just this, accompanied by a couple of his pals. He had this to say about his hike in the Kogelberg… The Kogelberg Nature Reserve forms the heart of the Kogelberg Bioshpere Reserve. For those Betty's Bay and Kleinmond residents who live inland of the R44, the Kogelberg Bioshpere Reserve literally is in their back yard! But this doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed by everyone.
For those without Wild Cards who wish to avoid Nature Reserve entrance fees, the Bioshpere Reserve east of the Nature Reserve also features a very well-kept network of hiking paths, stretching from Kleinmond right across to the mouth of the Palmiet River.
We set off to explore this part of the Biosphere reserve one sunny winter Saturday. Beginning from Fairy Glenn where the Palmiet meets the R44, we walked east along the contour path, which curves along the shoulder of the Three Sisters above the R44 towards Kleinmond. This track makes for easy walking and boasts a spectacular forest of Bot River proteas (Protea compacta). These in turn attract hordes of endemic sugar birds (Promerops cafer), which buzz and whirr about, chasing each other and trailing their long, regal tails. Other species seen here are the ever-conspicuous orange-breasted sunbird (Anthobaphes violacea) and the yellow bishop bird (Euplectes capensis), thought the latter is a little less obvious in winter, when out of breeding plumage.
About two-thirds along the contour, we followed the Three Sisters sign and began to climb up to the spine of the mountain. At the top, we doubled back to join the main Three Sisters route, which follows the spine west again, summiting three individual peaks along the way. The highest of these Three Sisters is just under 600m and the drop on either side of the ridge is quite precipitous at some points. Unfortunately, we were caught in a howling northwester while up there, which made this section of our hike a little nail-biting! It is well worth the climb though, with some beautiful delicate Erica species flowering among the rocks, which we did not see anywhere else on the hike. The views from the topmost sister are spectacular, taking in much of the Palmiet river valley, its estuary and a wide expanse of ocean from Betty's Bay to Kleinmond. We even saw two whales, which is quite unusual in June.
"The views in every direction are amazing."
As we descended from the Three Sisters, we came across another charismatic endemic of the Cape mountains, the Cape rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus). These handsome birds are a sought-after special for many birders. They have a fascinating evolutionary history, being somewhat of a “feathered Coelacanth”. Their only close relative in the country is the Drakensberg rockjumper (Chaetops aurantius). Beyond that, their only living relatives are the fascinatingly rare rockfowl of north-west Africa (Picatharthidae), from whom they diverged many millennia ago.
From the Three Sisters, there are a few options for getting back down to Fairy Glen. We elected first to go north and descend into Spook's Neck, where we joined the route up to Perdeberg peak. This is a far easier climb, with the path meandering gradually up to what is actually the highest peak in the local area. Perdeberg offers another perspective on the
Biosphere Reserve, with views of what seem like countless ranges of mountains stretching north towards the Highlands road. Perdeberg even offers views of the Rockview dam on a clear day. The lower-lying area of Spook's Neck briefly holds the rains before they run off the mountain, allowing dense stands of the beautiful marsh pagoda (Mimetes hirtus) to grow. These areas also support extensive heaths of short grasses which provide good cover for the cute and cryptic Hottentot buttonquail (Turnix hottentottus). Although ostensibly common in the area, these secretive ground birds are very difficult to see. My only two sightings have both been in the Kogelberg Biosphere reserve, in Spook's Neck and on the plateau above Fairy Glenn waterfall.
The Kogelberg Biosphere reserve offers some fantastic hiking, which is easily accessible, with well maintained paths and fairly good signage. I do highly recommend obtaining a map first though, from the Oudebosch office in the reserve.