On the last day of the school holidays, our environmental educator, Catherine Kühn, took some of the Huis Andrew Murray children to Paarl Rock for a new trail exploration outing. Despite the rain throughout the day but this did not deter the excited participants as you will see as she shares her experience:
I collected the group in the morning and drove to the start of the Klipkershout trail at Paarl rock. I explained the process of how granite outcrops are formed, and each child was able to pick up pieces of granite amongst which we identified the quartz, feldspar and the tell-tale dark mica minerals that you find in the granite. We continued along the trail and walked passed multiple holes clearly dug by a porcupine in search of a juicy root or bulb. Our suspected hole digger confirmed its presence by leaving some of its quills behind, these were spotted by some of the children and I explained that porcupines do not shoot their quills as is believed by some, but that the quills may become loose and drop off.
We passed beautiful pin cushion proteas, sugarbush proteas, the bearded protea - Protea nerifolia and Protea ntida (the Waboom), I also pointed out the Klipkershout tree which is adapted to fire and will re-grow or coppice after being damaged by fire. I explained fynbos/fire dynamics to the group and, while doing this, I noticed that the group was greatly fascinated by the fact that fynbos plant species need fire in order to survive, but if fire occurs too frequently, the plants will be negatively affected, damaged and often die. I pointed out some lichen on the rocks and explained that this is a complicated organism and is in fact a plant and an animal at the same time, this boggled their minds.
We continued towards the bat-cave trail which had a rather ominous looking entrance... I had come prepared with headlights so each child could have one to wear. I could see while most were eager to enter the cave, a few were hesitant. I explained that there was nothing to be afraid of, and that the worst that could happen would be an earthquake and the rocks may 'cave' in on us – quickly adding this was highly unlikely! Once inside I gave a brief lesson on bats, and of course after this they all wanted to see one.
We entered into the granite cave which was formed long ago due to boulders rolling on top of each other into a random heap, creating a cavity beneath them. Water flowing beneath the boulders has opened the cavity up even more thus creating the space for us to enter into and explore. A cave formed in such a way is called a Talus cave.
We excitedly explored the ins and outs of this cave and eventually someone spotted a bat sleeping upside down. We all got to have a good look at the bat close up and I was particularly intrigued by the way it was clinging by its claws to the tiniest granite crystal. I asked the group to be quiet for a minute, we switched off our lights and spent that time appreciating our surroundings. We got to experience for a brief moment what is like to live in that cave, just like the bat, although we didn't hang upside down!
After this experience we went back out into the light, had lunch and started our journey back to the bus. It was all in all a great experience for everyone and for many of the children it was the first time exploring the insides of a cave. The participants were also amazed at how big Paarl Nature Reserve actually is, and that if you just explore a little bit you can find unexpected things like granite caves and a bat or two.
I had no complaints from the group about the weather that day, and the participants only had good things to say about their outing… I hope to take the group back and explore even more of the treasures that Paarl rock has to offer. Thank you to Raymond from Huis Andrew Murray for accompanying the group, I know that he too, learned about many things that day!