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Our gruelling zipline excursion was rewarded by gulps of fresh water, right from the source from the Boland watershed. The end of our Journey of Water has left us breathless, exhausted and motivated to bring change into our lives, writes Andrea Weiss.
I found myself doing the “Lonely Planet”, dangling from a zipline a few metres away from the platform as the guide shuttled his way down the line to retrieve me. That’s slang for getting stuck on one of the ziplines on the Cape Canopy Tour, the last and most magnificent of our adventures on this final day of the Journey of Water in the Boland Water Source Area.
There were eight of us in a group and we were among several groups making our way from platform to platform down a river gorge in the high mountains of the Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve.
All around us was a beautiful fynbos landscape, craggy peaks and far below the river we had been tracing for the past few days – the Riviersonderend. From the platform perched against the rock, I could see the tea-coloured water bubbling into a deep rock pool in the gorge below. Each platform had interpretive signage and names like “The Rabbit Hole”, with information about the landscape we were moving through.
It really was like being in the best classroom on top of the world.
When we first arrived for the tour, we drove through pine plantations, the remnants of a forestry industry developed between the World Wars. It continues to crowd out the indigenous vegetation and suck up precious water, and even here in the high peaks there were pines springing up in places that only the high-altitude clearance teams equipped with specialised mountain gear could reach.
But today was about celebrating the source and the end of our journey. We were whooping and cheering our way down the ziplines as we drank in the surrounding mountain scenery that could rival anything in the world.
At the start of the tour, reserve manager Monique Ruthenberg welcomed us to her patch, and talked about the three ingredients that make for successful conservation: people, nature and tourism. Of the three, she said, nature underpins it all.
Her words were pertinent to a lesson we’d been learning all along our journey – about how rivers can create jobs, whether it be in small enterprises such as the Genadendal Nursery, or large-scale clearance projects, like here in the Hottentots Holland where some 300 people have been employed to clear vegetation.
And even these award-winning ziplines themselves in the midst of the Cape Floral Kingdom World Heritage Site where 35 guides now have permanent jobs taking people like us along an exhilarating ride of our lives.
Between the mountain peaks, glimmering in the distance we could see Theewaterskloof Dam down in the valley where we had spent time visiting its huge earthen dam wall the day before.
This is another reason why the Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve is such a vital component of the Boland Water Source Area. As one of the highest rainfall areas in the country, it supplies three of the Cape’s Big Five dams – Theewaterskloof, the Berg River and Steenbras, not to mention several smaller agricultural dams that keep the deciduous fruit industry in this area alive. We had spotted the bright red apples ripening on the trees driving in.
After successfully conquering the zipline, there was a steep slog back up the mountain – some walked, some caught a lift – to a peak called Landroskop at 1450m where CapeNature botanist Rupert Koopman reminded us just how unique the Cape Floral Kingdom is.
There could be no more fitting way to end an extraordinary journey which would resonate with many of us for a very long time.
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