Day 110 – Out and about

Right. A shorter, more picturey post today. Not like that behemoth yesterday. So many words.

On Sunday, we headed up to SIlvermine to get some space and winter sunshine ahead of what proved to be quite a fearsome Cape storm.

Vehicular access to the area is still closed, which adds an extra couple of kilometres to your walk, but they were generally nice kilometres and we had some lovely views across the Cape Flats to the snow-capped peaks beyond.

Should have taken my tripod. Didn’t. Oh well. Next time.

Have a look at some photos here.

Still – a great day out and we breathed in all of that fresh air pumped into Cape Town ahead of the cold front.


Here it is:


But no. That would be far too easy. This is a blog post about a different Vienna – a Vienna that is a sausage dog (I see what they did there), that has gone missing in the Table Mountain National Park.

Now, before we go any further, let me categorically state that I’m aware that some people have a very close bond with their pets, and I’m sure that this a very difficult time for Vienna’s owner. I sincerely hope that Vienna is found, safe and well, very soon. It would be wrong of me to ridicule her situation in any way.

However, it would also be remiss of me not to pass some sort of comment on some of the people who are active upon the HELP FIND VIENNA Facebook page that has been set up. Since I discovered it, this page has been my immediate goto site each time I have a moment to spare in the lab.

Some of them are a bit nuts.

The first thing that interested me when I stumbled across the page was this sort of posting:


I was impressed. And hopeful. If this missing dog has a camera around its neck, then just share the screenshots and someone will know where it is. This individual is right in requesting assistance if they don’t know the terrain, but someone will recognise it, so don’t just describe it – show us the image.

Except there is no image, because there is no camera. What’s being shared are descriptions of an “animal communicator” who has linked with the missing Vienna and is “assisting” by sharing “her visions”.

That’ll help.

“It sounds like [this place]” comments someone, “But it can’t be because you can see the sea from there.” Trouble with that is though, these are dog visions, not human visions.


Good point.

There’s also an issue with people not being allowed into private areas of the National Park. This was never an problem before, was it? Was it? Everything has been taken from us. When did this happen? And why can’t dachshunds climb fences? That’s a weakness that needs to be addressed. A bigger dog would be able to do that. Or a monkey. Or a human.


Yes, cape townians. How?

Incidentally, that same person was relying on that self-same security not so long ago:


Yeah. With a few thousand visiting vehicles each day, that’s in no way asking too much.

But help is even coming from overseas


I think the issue with this approach is “when you see her” bit. It’s not being able to “see her” that is the underlying problem here. If Jayne could “see her”, then none of this would be happening. I think that Turtle Creek, PA needs to review its search and rescue provision. They seem to have missed an important bit of the whole process.


No. It wasn’t.
Hindsight, ne? 20/20.

The most concerning bit for me though is the way people are being led by charlatans. Latest news is that the animal communicator has said that Vienna is on tarmac or under a car. This didn’t sound like a good ending to me, but then I realised that it’s all bullshit anyway. Suddenly, there’s a massive rush to look in car parks.
Not this car park, obviously, because that’s gravel, but could someone maybe check that car park, because that car park is tarmac, isn’t it?

People are wasting their valuable time and effort on this sort of crap. Go do something useful.

Like when someone on the page stated:

I had a dream that Vienna was limping.

and people immediately started speculating whether it was through tiredness or maybe a thorn in her paw.

It was a dream.

On that note, last night, I had a dream that I was reconcreting the floor of Fishhoek Yacht Club, but I’m not going down there this morning to cordon it off so that people don’t walk on it.


But wait.
BREAKING NEWS: there’s now a white car involved.


But is Vienna in the car? Or could there be an alternative explanation?


Ah. Yes. That fits nicely.



I must go now, because real life. But I will be keeping an eye on the HFV group. Because it’s amazing.

If you have any information on Vienna, or feel that you may be able to help (hopefully more than that damn “animal communicator”), get in touch with the group on the link above.


A quick trip up to Silvermine (because we were in the area) was fairly depressing. The Reserve is closed and will remain so for the foreseeable future after the huge fire. Because it was off-the-cuff, I didn’t take the camera up (maybe I’ll find time for that tomorrow), so please excuse these phone pics. I think they still give you a pretty good idea of the nothingness that remains after the blaze.

Compare that with this pic from last October. It’s all rather barren and moonscapy.

Here’s some more information on the damage to the infrastructure in the Reserve, and a reminder that its closure has many knock on effects, not least the lack of casual employment for Henry, the car park guard there:

Henry Josephs, the car guard at the reservoir parking, is now without a job.  He has been working there for about eleven years and has become a familiar face.  He has been entrusted with car keys and possessions while folks have gone swimming.  He has learnt a lot about the fauna and flora to pass on to visitors. So he was special feature in the parking area.

Incidentally, if you should wish to help Henry out, his banking details are listed at the end of that post.

Mr Henry Josephs

as well as the contact details of Sue Frew – Chairperson of Friends of Silvermine Nature Area – FOSNA.

Unsurprisingly, because that’s how nature works, there are some green shoots coming through the grey ash. But they’re few and far between at the moment. Aside from tomorrow’s possible visit, I’ll make a plan to get up there again in the next few weeks to see just how much change there has been.

How to climb to Elephant’s Eye from Silvermine

Subtitle: with two kids and a beagle puppy.

The Elephant’s Eye cave is situated high up on the Constantiaberg mountain, and has wonderful views over the Constantia Valley and Cape Flats.

It can be done, and it’s worth doing. You’ll need to do a little prep though.

For the kids:
Ours are 6 and 8. It’s quite a hike, so make it exciting: let them know that you’re going to go and see this amazing cave on the mountain. Tell them that it will be an adventure and that they need to be ready for a big expedition. Mention that there will be lollipops and a picnic in the cave.
For the beagle puppy:
You’ll need a dog walking permit. You could look at TMNP’s “Walking With Dogs” pamphlet, but only if you have a PhD in cartography and a deep telepathic understanding of how their dog policies work. Good luck with that.
The simple answer is that you need a Level 1 My Activity Permit. It’s R210 for first user, and you can sign up a second user for R75 at the same time. This allows you to walk two (2) dogs per permit holder within the TMNP for one year. To find where you can and can’t walk your dog, you’ll need to consult the pamphlet above, but suffice to say that the walk to Elephant’s Eye from Silvermine is one of those places that you can.
For you:
Check the weather forecast. There’s little point in heading up there on a miserable day. Equally, a scorching hot hike will be of limited fun as well. Also, you’ll need “a morning” for this (we used 4½ hours, all in).

What to take:

  • Sturdy trail walking shoes or boots. Flops won’t cut it here.
  • Dog leash. Legally, you have to have one with you. Your dog doesn’t actually have to be using it, but your beagle puppy may run off if it’s not securely attached.
  • Water. Loads and loads and loads of water. And a bowl for your beagle puppy’s water.
  • Picnic. Stuff to eat. It’s not hard. Don’t forget lollipops and dog treats.
  • Sensible clothing. Protection from the elements, whatever they might be on the day you choose.
  • Sunblock/Sunhat etc. Yep. I know. Still needs to be said.
  • Swimming stuff and towel. You’ll want a dip in the reservoir at the end (leave these in your car for hike).
  • Camera. Because views.
  • Aforementioned Level 1 Activity Card. If you have a beagle puppy.

Park up at Silvermine, via Gate 1, just off Ou Kaapse Weg. It (Gate 1) opens at 7am in summer and this is a walk best started early. It’ll cost you R40 per adult and R20 per child. Your beagle puppy will be allowed in free of charge. Irritatingly, no-one will ask to see your hugely expensive dog walking permit at any point during the hike [personal experience]. *also, see Rich’s comment below

The walk:
If you’ve climbed Lion’s Head, then you’ll recognise the terrain on this one. Some clear track, some rocky scrambles, some big steps, some big drops. Take care out there.
When you get the car park, you will see three well signposted paths. The one on the right is the one you want:

The middle path is the boardwalk to the dam (but no dogs are allowed up here) and on the right, behind the metal barrier, is the dog-friendly track up to the dog-friendly part of the dam. You’ll need this later.

The first part of the walk is through a narrow, shady, tree-lined path. It’s easy going. About 300m in, there are some loos and the path then opens out into a wide track, surrounded by fynbos like Mountain Dahlias. Watch your feet too: we saw dung beetles doing their thing here.
The track bends up to the right and comes to a t-junction, where you should turn left. This is just about the only bit of the walk where you share the path with mountain bikers, so watch out for mountain bikers.
The first proper climb begins at the 1km mark with the sign Shortcut to Elephant’s Eye. It’s short and steep, but once you’re up to the top, you bear right over the hill and are rewarded with the first of the truly astounding views.

The path runs along the back of the trees (enjoy the shade) and then crosses a small mountain stream where there are tadpoles to be caught. From there, the second big climb starts – gently at first towards the fire lookout – the views from which are well worth the steep but short diversion – and then zigzagging up the elephant’s trunk towards the cave. You’ll probably want to keep your beagle puppy (and your kids) on a short leash for the last 100 metres or so, as the drop on the right is “significant”. But then, suddenly, you’re at the HUGE cave, with its fern-lined ceiling and breathtaking views out across towards the Helderberg.

We saw the cave at its best and its worst – we had the privilege of  having the whole thing to ourselves for 5 minutes and not 10 minutes later, there were fifty people in there and it was chaotic. I liked it better when it was just us.

Going back down is, unsurprisingly, pretty much the upward journey in reverse. Just take care not to turn right down the hill too early as you approach the fire lookout – that’s the “alternative route” back – it’s longer and with fewer views. It is signposted as such, but it’s not necessarily clear as you approach from above.

Enjoy the sight of the reservoir as you head back over into the Silvermine Valley. And take care of your tired children and tireder beagle puppy down the large steps on the way down.

Once you’re back at the car park, pick up your swimmies and your towel and head up that left-hand track to the “far side” of the reservoir. Dogs are only allowed in the corner next to the dam wall, but that’s fine – all you want is some cool water and a nice relaxing swim. The water is exceedingly clean and exceedingly red/brown as well – it’s like swimming in (cold) rooibos.

Then, take your newly-refreshed kids back home. You’ll probably need to carry your beagle puppy back to the car because it will either be asleep or want to be asleep. This behaviour will continue all afternoon.

The stats:
Total distance: 7.33km
Time up: About 2 hours, (leisurely pace with plenty of water breaks and photo-ops).
Time down: About 1 hour 15 minutes, including tadpole hunting.
Total ascent: 380m
Max altitude: 674m
Photo album link

Hiking guides on 6000 miles…Alfred Wainwright eat your heart out.