Photo of the week – January week #2: Table Mountain water

Jan 13, 2013

 – View across the Hely-Hutchinson reservoir towards Cleft Peak –

First-time hikers on Table Mountain often turn up their noses at the sight of the mountain’s amber-colored water, thinking it to be stagnant or contaminated. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Table Mountain’s water is basically fynbos-infused rainwater (fynbos being the indigenous shrub of the Western Cape). The mountain’s upper and lower plateau serves as a catchment area, feeding numerous streams that cascade down the mountain, where the steep terrain hardly allows for the water to pool and become stagnant. And with the streams all rising on the mountain itself means that the water is never far from its source – no real opportunity to become contaminated – with the exception of lower Platteklip Gorge in the summer months and streams in the vicinity of the upper cable station (human contamination). despite the dubious color, the water has no aftertaste and contains no harmful chemicals, and gets its color from tannin that leaches from dead plant material dropping into the water. The presence of tannin in fynbos serves as protection against predation by making the plant unpalatable to grazers.

Hiking Table Mountain in winter is a great way to see many of the streams in full spate and rock pools overflowing. During that time, the tea-colored water makes for a distinctive feature in the landscape, adding a splash of color.