VI. Montagu Gorge

Tremendous folding in the Quartzite Sandstones in the Montagu Gorge
Tremendous folding in the Quartzite Sandstones in the Montagu Gorge

Montagu is not stricly in the Cape Floral Region but it was an interesting environment and I've included it here. 

 

Here is an account of our walk.  Slideshow follows. Labels to be added later.

 

After breakfast we walked over the river into the Montagu Mountain Local Nature Reserve and paid our R4 each to walk up the river gorge. By now it was noon and I made a joke about mad dogs and Englishmen to the friendly Coloured woman at the trail control point. We asked about baboons (See Mammals IV: Baboons)  and she said they’d now be up in the mountains feeding but if they did show up all we’d need to do was clap loudly and they’d leave us alone.

 

We passed by the old mill house and began our walk along the river obscured by 3m tall reed beds. Almost immediately we spotted a dassie (Rock Hyrax) up an acacia tree watching us intently. The path clung to the edge of the river with steep rock walls rising above us.

 

We progressed through the heat, the cloying fox-like smell of dassie middens in the air, the sun beating down, martens and swallows swooping over stretches of open water. The path led through the towering reed beds. It seemed remarkable to have the place to ourselves. We saw a couple of walkers and heard voices whooping echoes from the river rocks. It was a magical place with its dassies, black eagles, Cape otters, freshwater crabs,  huge grasshoppers, golden green frogs, and the incredible buckled and folded beds of ancient Sandstones weathered and worn by Little Karoo’s burning summers and bitter winters. 

 

But it also had a feeling, an atmosphere about it that was not altogether benign.  The sun was burning hot and bouncing off the exposed rock faces. The air was still. The world quiet. I had a 'Passage to India' moment; that place where the power of the exotic swings into something darker and threatening. 

 

I knew we would be highly visible from the tops of the gorge should anyone be looking. Or waiting. And that in the reedbeds that towered above us we could be easily surprised. And that we were alone and yet not far from Montagu.  'A man and three women' as the woman at the trail's start point had commented.

 

Let's just say that our return was faster than our approach.  Until we ran into dassies charging back to their rocky hide-outs with bits of grass hanging from their mouths and the magic and enchantment returned.

 

For more on Montagu see my page on the village.

 

Photos from Montagu Gorge