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Three Sisters Trail

Kogelberg-Three sisters trail

Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve

The Kogelberg-Three sisters trail starts on the north western side of the car park at the Kleinmond Golf Course. Kogelberg-Three sisters trail hike is an 8 km circular route, and one has the choice of going either way, my wife Gill or I decided to go anti-clockwise, which we later discovered is the better option because the first half of the trail is the most strenuous. It’s a long gradual climb to the third of the three sisters, and some of the climb is up near vertical faces with good foot and handholds, so it’s safe enough for the elderly. The Kogelberg-Three sisters trail is graded as moderately tough on the Kogelberg Nature Reserve brochure, there are fantastic views of the Kleinmond coast line with the Palmiet River mouth’s tannin stained water leaving it mark on the amazing blue coastal surf zone. The climb to the top of the Kogelberg-Three sisters trail consists of new displays of Fynbos magic around every turn and boulder. We found a reasonably flat area with a great view for a well deserved coffee break. For our coffee/tea breaks we have a MSR (Mountain Safety Research) Butane and Propane gas cooker that sounds like a jet engine when its burning and heats water very quickly. We use the mountain water, colloquially called Fynbos tea because of the tannin colour imparted into the water by the decomposing Fynbos vegetation. The Table Mountain Sandstone that makes up the Cape Fold Belt Mountains where the Fernkloof and Kogelberg reserves are located is made up of nutrient poor soil, lacking in Nitrogen and Phosphorous.

Nutrient poor soils lack nitrogen and phosphorous required for protein synthesis. The predominant Fynbos vegetation is Proteacious and because Nitrogen and Phosphorous needed for protein synthesis are lacking excess organic carbon is produced from photosynthesis. This excess carbon is channelled into the production of non-proteinaceous compounds such as woody fibres and tannins.  Protea leaves are Sclerophyllous, which means the leaves are hard and leathery (ligneous) snapping rather than bending. Their heavily lignified tissue stops them from wilting when water is scarce. This may slow down photosynthesis but continues to photosynthesise long after other leaves have wilted. Longer lived than ordinary dorsiventral plant leaves – considered an energy saving attribute. With their high ratio of carbon to nitrogen Sclerophyllous leaves are indigestible to most insect larvae because insects require nitrogen for protein synthesis. Similarly few animals eat protea leaves as a high carbon to nitrogen ratio is compounded by low levels of trace elements which are essential to a herbivores diet. High levels of tannins impair the action of digestive enzymes in the gut making digestion inefficient. After our coffee break we set off to have a packed lunch and some more coffee on the peak of the third and highest of the sisters at 360 meters. After our trail we visited the Stony Point Penguin colony, see pics attached.