Paarl Mountain Reserve – Not just a pretty rock

Jeanne-Louise Wiese has visited her in-laws numerous times in the past year and always looked up at the Paarl Mountain where the granite boulders shimmer like a pearls after a rainstorm. After riding up to take a closer look on Saturday morning she decided to share some interesting environmental facts about the Paarl Mountain Reserve with you.

Did you know that the massive granite outcrop is the second largest in the world, is over 500 million years old and looks down on the third oldest European settlement in South Africa, the town of Paarl?

These huge outcrops fall within the Paarl Mountain Reserve which was established in 1977 and is administered by the Drakenstein Municipality. Amongst numerous mountain biking routes, the reserve proudly hosts the Klipkers Nature Trail which is a circular route set out by local schools and takes about two hours to walk.

JL Weise conquering a granite boulder to get a better view of one of the dams and Bretagne Rock
Jeanne-Louise Weise conquering a granite boulder to get a better view of one of the dams and Bretagne Rock

On a very hot Saturday morning in January my hubby and I decided to cycle up Jan Phillips Mountain Road and have a quick trip through the Mountain Reserve. Starting from Paarl in the early morning hours you have no choice but to adopt the “stay alert, stay alive” attitude as noises that sound like gunshots fire into the fresh air around the vineyards surrounding the town. The sound, which is meant to scare birds and other grape eating creatures, had me shooting up the hills in record times. Only much later did I realise that this is probably the most environmentally friendly way of diverting birds from the vineyards to protect the grapes – certainly a better solution than the historical ways of poisoning, capturing and shooting birds to prevent damage to any crops in the area.

A trip up the mountain could include a stroll over the recycled plastic path which looks like wooden slats on the way to Bretagne Rock (known as Paarl Mountain) or a visit to the Millwater Wild Flower Garden where 15 species of protea may be viewed. All of these can be accessed via gravel roads which offer cycling routes between four and twenty kilometres in length and cater for all levels of fitness. I would recommend that an early morning attempt is best to get to the top of the mountain where great views of the Boland Mountains and across False Bay towards Cape Point can be enjoyed. It can however become a struggle for hydration as the temperature can climb to above 30 degrees Celsius before lunch time.

On the plateau on the top, you can cycle the gravel roads which wind through fynbos vegetation, ancient wild olives, wagon trees and rock candle woods. Conservation efforts in the reserve of the indigenous plant and animal life involve, among other things, eradicating exotic plants and implementing a program of controlled burning. Large water storage dams have also been built on the plateau and are easily accessible and used to provide water to the surrounding residential areas. For this reason, swimming is not allowed in these dams, no matter how tempting it is when cycling in the hot summer months.

Other recreational activities in the area include fishing, for which permits can be obtained from the Paarl Municipality, hosting a braai at Krismis Kamp or visiting the famous Taal Monument, which was built in commemoration of the Afrikaans language. Hiking or cycling in this area would probably be the best way to interact with the unspoilt ecosystem which flourishes on top of the mountain. You might come across animals such as baboons, caracal, dassies and porcupine, amongst others. So next time you decide to stop by Juno Café or visit any of the wine estates in the Paarl or Wellington area, get up earlier, pack your cycling gear and consider starting your day with a bang. Because it’s not inside, it’s on top where the trails and views of the Paarl Mountain Reserve are on offer…

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