Surprise Ridge

TIME: 3½ hours.
TERRAIN: Undulating path with moderate slopes and gradients.

The ridge holds two surprises. The first is that on approaching the ridge one finds that the real ridge is further on. The second is the magnificent view of the main Berg, from Cathkin to Cathedral and the Amphitheatre that suddenly appears. Top Gate is the starting point. Proceed to the TV aerial as for the start of the Cannibal Cave walk. Then follow the “contour” path, without taking the right turn to Cannibal Cave. At the confluence of the streams take the path easing left. Subsequently it takes several zig-zags on the ascent.

An alternative route is to go left after Top Gate. Almost immediately, under the pines, look for a white ground orchid, Disperis fanniniae, that flowers in summer. The path then goes past Cowslip Falls – named not after a pretty flower, but after a cow that slipped to its doom on a dark and stormy night. Beyond Cowslip Dam the path forks. Go left, across the little bridge. In autumn the area to the right is a mass of red Leonotis flowers, a magnet for sunbirds. There are always a few white flowers among the red; it’s the same species, but lacking the red pigment, an example of albinism. A little further, also on the right, is a classic specimen of the red rock fig hugging a big boulder. New spring growth flushes brilliant red. The tree never grows any “taller” because every winter frost trims it back. The path will join up with the other route at the confluence of the streams.

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