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Friday, 15 April 2016 02:52

Autumn Trails - Cape Mole Rat Trail

There is a hiking trail within very close proximity to Sedgefield that has a serious wow-factor. It has been cleverly designed to showcase one of the most quintessential natural assets for which the Garden Route is so prized – our lovely lakes! The Cape Dune Molerat Trail is a must-do nature walk for those wanting to experience the visual splendour of our lake systems.

The start of the trail is right next to the Rondevlei Bird Hide at the Wilderness National Park's Scientific Services Station. Immediately after setting off on this 6km circular trail, one has a moderately steep climb through the dense, indigenously forested, south-facing dune which rises up from the banks of Rondevlei. This is one in a series of three interconnected lakes linked to the Indian Ocean. Once the trail reaches the crest of the dune, you can see the entire lake expanse as well as thousands of birds which find sanctuary throughout this watery domain. One can also see a slither of the Langvlei lake.

The trail then heads north and you will observe Cradock Peak in the far distance, the highest peak of the Outeniqua Mountain Range. The vegetation promptly shifts here into a rich and colourful tapestry of prolific fynbos, the most eye-catching being the brightly coloured erica species, with crimson and pink coloured flowers edging the path. The greens of the landscape are offset by the grey, soft velvety leaves of the Kooigoed plant, a plant known for its natural insect repellent and used by the indigenous San for bedding.

After some time walking though pretty fields of fynbos, the trail reaches the northern side of the dune. Linger here for a while and take in the scene below: the gently flowing course of the reed-hemmed Wolwe Rivier, which feeds into the Swatrvlei Lake. The trail descends once again and connects with an old service road. On this side of the dune, the view of the river disappears because the reed beds are dense and high.

There are many other things along the trail, however, that keep you enthralled. Hikers need to exercise caution while walking along much of the path, because the Cape dune mole-rat, after which the trail is named, is prolific throughout. The molehills rising up across this landscape and over the trail are evidence of this. One can only imagine what kind of subterranean architecture is happening beneath your feet. These animals dig the longest and deepest burrow systems in Africa, sometimes stretching for as long as 100 metres. A single mole rat has been estimated to be able to excavate up to 500 kg of soil in a month, under ideal conditions. Sometimes while you are walking, the ground just gives way slightly, so tread carefully.

With the dune rising up on the right and the reed beds on the left, the trail heads south. Butterflies in their hundreds often fill the air, flitting over the soft delicate leaves of a plant nicknamed 'Ouma op the Berg' (meaning ‘grandma on the mountain’ because on top of the roundish bush are delicate pink flowers). Wild rosemary intertwined with wild dagga, aloes, sour figs, and restios are also clearly visible.

The trail once again heads back west, up and over the dunes. From the highest vantage point you have fabulous views over the Swartvlei Lake, the largest and the deepest of all the lakes in the area (reaching a depth of 16,7m in places.) You can even see the breaking waves of the sea in the far distance.

Throughout the trail, comfortable benches have been strategically placed to make the most of the expansive views.

The path then finally heads back through more tracts of fynbos to the starting point and a well- earned rest after a totally absorbing walk.


Published in Things to do