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Honorary Rangers Climb the Mountain
by John Elford
The iKapa Honorary Rangers recently completed a training exercise on Table Mountain.
The group of newly appointed Rangers hiked to the top of theTable Mountain and learnt about much of the flora and fauna that occurs on the mountain. Using the Peoples Trail Route, the group lead by Table Mountain National Park experts Claude and Lauretta Steenkamp, were exposed to areas of Table Mountain that are not normally frequented by visitors.
This route to the top of the back table is accessible only with a permit, and is rich in many different species of fynbos.
Besides the stunning variety of plants, prolific bird life, including raptors, which can be seen en route, this path is not for the faint hearted and provides an exhilerating climb, with spectacular views.
Besides the natural beauty of the area, there is a lot to be seen of historical interest. The route passes the first tunnel built through Table Mountain. This was completed in 1891, and supplied water to Cape Town from the Diza River before any dams were built.
When the need for water became greater, the Woodhead Dam followed by the Heely Hutchinson Dam were built from 1891-1901. These dams built from imported granite and locally hewn sandstone, still supply water to the city. A museum housing many artifacts from these bygone days offers an interesting insight into the past when these two dams were built by hand. Workers mainly from Wales dressed in suites with bowler hats and ties toiled for years building these engineering marvels of the 19th century.
The old wash houses have been destroyed many years ago, however the foundations still show where the carbolic soap, used to clean the clothes, has etched into the bed rock. These offer a silent testimony to the many workers who built the dams. Standing silently at the wash house sight or at the head of the cable car that used to bring supplies up the mountain it does not take much imagination to hear the voices of the workers toiling away. For a protracted period during the construction of the dams the top of Table Mountain was a small town supporting men women and children. The whole infrastructure included schools, churches and accommodation.
The iKapa Honorary Rangers are a volunteer group of conservationists who contribute to South African National Parks (SANParks) in their private capacity. This is manifested in many ways such as raising funds, creating vital public awareness and supplying much needed manpower and equipment to supplement various conservation, tourism and environmental needs within SANParks.