The Somerset West back garden rests at the base of Helderberg Mountain. Helderberg Nature Reserve is one of the places I like to go to get some fresh air and relax. Whether it is sitting under the trees on the lawns or taking a hike or run on the various trails, this is a calming dwelling. The quote at the entrance summons you to “Have time to dream, to think, to enjoy peace and quiet and the wonders of life – the sea, the mountains, the fresh air” – Anonymous.
There are various trails for beginner to advanced hikers. You can even bring your grandparents to this tranquil patch to stretch their tired legs and open their wise minds. It is also the perfect place for a trail run. Check out the Mountain Challenge.
My adventures here tend to follow my dreams up the side of Helderberg Mountain. If this is your game then make sure you bring plenty drinking water and a few snacks. You will need to replenish the energy spent by the constant climb. The flat parallel walk from Woody’s Walk and Leopard loop is a climactic vista. Above the cliff faces of Helderberg Peak are worth the sweat.
Panoramic views of the wine lands, Hottentots Holland Mountains, through to False Bay and the peninsula. From here you can spot the majestic Schapenberg Valley and one of my favorite mountain bike trails.
The flowers of the magical Fynbos kingdom are scattered up the mountain. With wing beating more than 1000 time a minute, Carpenter Bees pollinate the alien Port Jackson trees and will not hover for a photo. Their energy humbled mine. The Cape Sugarbird with its electric “trill” is synonymous with the beginning of these trails. Try and spot the Orange Breasted Sun Bird proudly puffing out the flowering plants. The Bar Throated Apalis with stone clapping call and an African Harrier Hawk Soaring on thermals above.
Children will marvel at the giant Tortoises, prehistorically moving around the picnic areas, while gray mongoose may dart in and out of the trails in front of you. I caught a glimpse of a shrew scuttling down a Protea bush and the chilling sound of scrub hair attacked by a predator. From the rocky ravine it echoed, I imagined the perfect hunting ground for a Caracal or Cape Leopard.
The ancient Helderberg giant spits out sandstone, shale, and granite along its paths where Ground Beetles scuttle nervously. The warm spring temperature reminded me that summer is dawning. The cool air chills running through an Afromontane forest in Disa Gorge were as refreshing as the ancient trees that told the story of enslavement and transformation on wine farms below.
Benches are erected at various viewpoints on the trails and can be a time to sit, to stretch to spark aspiration. The Sunset behind the mountain silhouettes the sleeping cliffs of the Khoisan people.
As you near the bottom of the mountain my burn was met with a charred section of the park, serving as a reminder of the impact that fire has on Fynbos. A wasteland of sticks and dry sand left little life but a few sprouts from the recent rains.
This was a memorable jog through both history and beauty and I look forward to more Sundays under this guardian of life.