Hiking Christie Prins Trail – Prince Alfred’s Hamlet

Some time ago we were planning on going to Prince Alfred’s Hamlet near Ceres.  It never happened.  But in my preparations I discovered a hiking trail maintained by the local Primary School – Christie Prins Hiking Trail.  This weekend we did go to Prince Alfred’s Hamlet for an excellent weekend and experience.  And the Christie Prins Trail was on the To-Do List.

At the Togryers Museum in Ceres I learn who Christie Prins was.  A man appointed to control varmints, but a nature lover with extensive knowledge about the environment.  A man who worked hard to repair the damage done to the Fynbos by Eskom when they trekked up the Gydo Pass.  I assume the trail is along part of this area.

When leaving Port Alfred’s Hamlet you travel up the Gydo Pass towards Oppiberg.  On the right is the Koelfontein Farm Stall, At Source.  About 100m further you will see the sign to the left:  Christie Prins.  Park here, study the information board and notice that you need hiking fitness.  You can get a map and info at Togryers Museum, or you can download the map on the board here.  Or use the GPS track at the bottom!

There is a space where you can climb through the fence, so do not climb over the fence (my Dad always had serious problems with fence climbers and I have a few scars after fence climbing went wrong).  The trail goes over the dam.  Before you turn left, there is another info board telling you more about the geology and fynbos.  The trail is marked by conical blocks with footprints and rock cairns.  Some places is fairly rocky, then the trail is not very clear on the ground, but the cairns will lead you.

We lost the trail at the pipe, early on.  As you cross the pipe with the valley on the left, keep right.  Lookout for the footprints higher up to the right.  There are a number of trails here and it is easy to take the wrong one.  You just follow the trail up the ridge, up and up.  Uphill (remember the warning about hiking fitness?)  When we came to the bridge over the ditch (taking water from the mountain to the dam) I took off my boots and walked both ways in the water.  It was a hot day and the cold water was refreshing.  But it was also about seeing what is to be seen!  That is the spot marked on the Map as “Fresh Water.”

Uphill again to a jeep track.  If you are tired, go right to the parking area.  We continue uphill.  The valley on the left is beautiful with a waterfall clearly audible, but not visible.  And in the deepest part you look down on a forest that just beckons.  But it far below you and not on the trail.  So there is only one way – up.  The view over the Ceres Valley is astounding.  Every now and then you see the Gydo Pass.  Finally you come to a T-junction.  left is to the swimming hole.  Naturally we go there.  The water is so clear, I think the river is dry!  After lunch I skinny dip.  A brave effort and afterwards I speak falsetto!

This is where I take the photo of the Snotrosie that caught the moth.  At this point you are very close to the top of Gydo Pass.  But the only sound is the birds and the water gurgling over the rocks.  This is why I hike.  Where else can you get peace and quiet like this?

Unfortunately you can’t stay at the mountain tops, so we start back.  On the downward part I pick up litter.  Up to the T-junction there were no litter at all.  No tissues or sweet papers.  Nothing.  Then suddenly there is a Boxer bag, empty plastic bottles, biscuit wrappers.  Could it be people throwing it down from the pass?  The wind blowing it?  The trail is really very well maintained and a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the people working on it.

Going down had two extra special moments:

The first is that you walk on the old Bain Pass – you can actually see the typical Bain stonework in some places.  Bain and Son are two of my heroes.  Unless you have lots of time, don’t get me talking about them!

The second is a Poplar forest.  When you drive up Gydo Pass there is a sharp bend.  You drive through a Poplar forest.  If the window is turned down, it is always cool here.  To me it is one of the prettiest scenes ever.  I never pass here without feeling some joy and excitement.  Today I look down on this wonder.  Sadly, it is a very small forest.  But when we drive here in the car the next day, I enjoy it even more!

According to the GPS the trail is 8.5km.  It took us just under 4 hours of very leisurely hiking (including a relaxed lunch.)

I would love to do this again in springtime.

 

 

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Myburgh’s Ravine Table Mountian and a Visit to Grootkop

Saturday somebody asked me:  “Do you often repeat hikes or go to the same places?”  My answer was that life is too short to repeat everything, but there are some places that deserves repeat visits and some hikes just calls you back.  Myburg’s Ravine is such a hike for me.  Even as I was doing it, I was thinking of coming back.

Myburgh’s Ravine is not on the normal tourist circuit.  The trails are not marked.  It is not even always well used.  Saturday our group was almost on our own.  We met one individual on Grootkop and 2 ladies near Judas Peak.  There are not the tell-tale signs of used tissues and sweet wrappers to show that too many people pass.

The trail starts at Ruyteplaats between Houtbay and Llandudno.  There are signposts that keep you away from the Ruyteplaats estate.  Follow the signs and along the fence.  Turn right towards Orange Kloof and follow the trail.  The trail bends left into Myburgh’s Ravine almost naturally.  Just follow the trail.  Mostly you are above and to the left of the river.  We had tea at the waterfall.  Getting above the waterfall is a bit tricky, especially if you are short.  Then we went down to the top of the waterfall to look down.  Up again and eventually in the river bed.  And this is why it is a dry season hike.  After rain the rocks will be extremely slippery.

You get out of the river to the right and then cross to the left.  This always makes my tummy turn.  You are fairly high above the river when you step across a gap.  When it is wet, this part of the trail will be dangerous.  The trail tops out in a lovely valley that shows signs of marshyness and joins the trail that runs over the 12 Apostles to the Cable Car.

To go to Grootkop, turn right.  It is about 2 km’s to Grootkop.  It is a bit of an uphill but not too much.  The view from Grootkop makes it worthwhile and the terrain at Grootkop is special.

Come back in your footprints.  The trail to Judas Peak is to the left, but first take an earlier trail to the right and look down along the 12 Apostles to Lion’s Head. When you come down Judas Peak, a few meters on is another trail to the right to another view point.  Don’t miss it.

Now the descent starts.  Keep right and keep the “lookout” mountain close to your right hand.  This is the beginning of Llandudno Ravine.  Steep, lots of loose gravel. Mountain on the right, small hill on the left and bigger, lush green, outcropping in front of you.  It feels like stepping into the void.  At the worst part there are four staples to help you.  By now it is afternoon and the sun is blazing while you follow the trail down the face of the mountain where you sometimes wonder where the trail will go.  Three more staples.  Another opportunity to look down on Llandudno and Apostle Battery, dating to World War II.

The trail joins the trail that you were on at the beginning and soon you are back at the vehicles.

This is not the easiest hike on Table Mountain.  If you do not have a head for heights, stay away, because there are a lot of exposure to heights.  And do not attempt in winter after rain.  Although I do want to go back to the waterfall after we had good rain.

The GPS called it a 17.9km hike.  

 
 

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Hiking Platteklip Gorge Table Mountain

After more than 20 years I decided that I should do Platteklip Gorge again.  And no April’s fool joke either.  It was the day that there was the Platteklip Gorge Marathon going.  While I was blowing, panting and sweating up Platteklip Gorge I was overtaking by people going up for the second and third time for the day!  Platteklip Gorge was busy.  Mostly locals, but way too many people for my liking.  As always, though, there was a good spirit between people sharing an objective and some suffering. 

My idea was to park close to the Lower Cable Station.  The first parking available was on the other side of Platteklip Gorge.  So that is where I parked.  I sort of fell in with 3 youngsters (at my age almost everybody is a youngster) who were hiking Platteklip Gorge as it was the end of the cricket season and they “wanted to do it while they were still fit.” I thought I am unfit, but only one cricketer kept pushing me, but then had to wait for his mates to catch up.  I decided he had to be the fly-half on his team.

It was cloudy and misty and the wind was actually very cold and in some places very cold.  My idea was to get to the top and then do the perimeter of the eastern table.  When I did get to the top, it was very misty and cold and the wind was rather strong, so I decided that coffee at the restaurant was a better idea than messing around on Table Mountain in the fog and becoming another statistic.  If anything should happen to me while I am hiking alone people will have enough to say without me adding more stupidity!  

By the time I got to the restaurant, the fog was clearing up.  After having a leisurely coffee on the porch, the fog has cleared up and the wind had subsided.

Platteklip Gorge has endless steps and steps are bad news for my knee, so I took the Cable Car down.  At the bottom I felt that I have cheated!  So I went back to the contour path and the bottom of Platteklip Gorge and from there back to my bakkie.

As you ascend up Platteklip Gorge, the view stays the same and is forever changing.  You look out over the same part of the City Bowl, but the view changes as the light changes and as you look down from higher and higher.

It is a good idea to start Platteklip Gorge as early as possible.  When the sun catches you here, it will take dead aim and there is no escape!

 

 

The Platteklip Gorge – Upper Cable Way Station = 4.5km.  Took me about 90 minutes.

The Lower Cableway Station Contour path trail – 3 km’s took me about hour.

 

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Smuts Track Table Mountain

This is a “tick-the-bucket-list-hike.” I have been thinking of doing the Smuts Track for a long time, planning my route so that I do a circle hike.  In my head I estimated about 20km’s.  I ended up doing just about 18km’s.  

Apparently former Prime Minister of South Africa, General Jan Smuts, hiked this trail (Smuts’Track) daily late into his seventies or eighties, depending on the source.  He must have been fit.  Anybody who does the Smuts Track daily will become fit.

I did not sleep well Friday night.  I had funny dreams, almost as if I had fever.  But that was forgotten when the alarm went off and I got up, had coffee and breakfast.  06:30 I was on my way and when I drove down Durban Road (I always drive this way, because it gives me a good view of Table Mountain and False Bay) Table Mountain was bright and clear.  Splendid in her beauty.  The promise of a lovely day.  I wished there was somebody who could share the excitement!

I started hiking at the Rycroft Gate at about 07:20.  The Rycroft Gate is not the main entrance to Kirstenbosch and opens a lot earlier for the early bird hikers and trail runners.  Nursery Buttress was clear and welcoming.  I followed the signs towards Nursery Ravine and the Contour Path.  This is a longer route, I think.  But there is method in this madness.  It makes the climb up Skeleton Gorge “shorter.” If you tackle Skeleton directly from Kirstenbosch, it becomes a very long uphill trek in one go.  So I prefer to do shorter uphill, enjoy the forest along the Contour Path and then turn left onto Smuts Track into Skeleton Gorge.  

Not far into Skeleton I realised I am running on low octane fuel and I remember the restless night I had.  My legs were not tired, I just did not have energy.  I was suddenly glad I was on my own.  I would hate to 1.) Keep fellow hikers back and 2.) I would not go on with fellow hikers feeling the low octane, as I did.  I did consider turning back, but on the flats I was OK.  I promise you, the thought of lots of sparkling water, a beer and coffee at the restaurant on top was serious motivation!

The Proteas were breathtakingly beautiful.  At Window River there was a last Disa!  In total the climb is just over 1000 meters.

Maclear's Beacon

Maclear’s Beacon

 Maclear’s Beacon is 1086m and the highest point on Table Mountain.  Some people say the Radio Tower on Constantia Peak is higher.  I would settle for something made of stone.  Because I was craving water and the thought of my Oros was not very appetising (although I drink litres and litres of it) I did not spend the time here that I planned, but pushed on for the Restaurant.  I did stop for some more Protea and Blue Disa photos, though.  

Top Of Platteklip

Top Of Platteklip

Table Mountain is really flat, but there is a gap between the two front tables, formed by Platteklip Gorge.  I dip down towards the top of Platteklip and steeply up to the Restaurant, again.  

Life Savers - Drinking and Hiking

Life Savers – Drinking and Hiking

Did I enjoy the water and my CBC Pilsener!  After my coffee I felt revived and started the return journey.

The return journey was towards Echo Valley, Valley of the Red Gods and towards Kasteelspoort.  This route takes you over some of the 12 Apostles.  I love this part of Table Mountain above Camps Bay.  More Proteas.  Down three ladders and between Blinkwater and Echo Valley.  Time to recall some memories of the times we came up Blinkwater when we were still students.  Good memories with good friends.  Today Blinkwater is unstable and closed, although I did meet a group who came up with Blinkwater.  I go uphill to descent into Valley of the Red Gods.  There I sit in the shade and enjoy an apple.  It feels as if I am all alone in the world. I think of a fellow hiker long ago who would escape the group with the excuse that he “can hear the Red Gods calling” and came to “The Valley of the Red Gods” to spend some time in peace and quiet by himself.  A reference to a poem by Rudyard Kippling, The Feet of the Young Men, where the refrain says “I can Hear The Red Gods Calling.”   I wonder if he were like me?  I like people, but not too many at a time?  Did he also feel lost amongst too many voices?  I certainly enjoy the tranquility of this spot.  Until I give a young lady a fright when she comes around the rock and sees Buddha sitting there. 

Only a few steps and I am away from the spell of the Red Gods.  Kasteelpoort Butress looms over Camps Bay and I have to turn left towards the dams.  I pass the beginning of another trail that I did with my wife a long time ago.  I wish she could see all this, but, alas, a back injury means she would have difficulty with this distance.

Waterworks Museum, Table Mountain

Waterworks Museum, Table Mountain

Waterworks Museum, over Hely Hutchisson Dam.  The dams are full, and this during the terrible drought!  Around Hely-Hutchison.  Turn left away from Nursery Ravine this time.  Top of Skeleton Gorge.  How many times have I walked up Skeleton Gorge?  Who knows.  For the first time ever I go down Skeleton!  On my way down I decide that I have to come up Nursery Ravine at least once before I kick the bucket.  It is a self-respect and pride thing.  To proof I am not a Sissy.  I have never climbed up Nursery Ravine!

Bottom of Skeleton I cross the contour path and go directly down to Kirstenbosch.  By now I do not feel too well.  I am running low on low octane!  

I am really glad to see my bakkie.  

I am already thinking of doing this trail again.  In the opposite direction?  Down Echo Valley?  Watch this space and I will tell you when I have done it.  Before I repeat this, there is Myburgh’s Ravine scheduled for 22 April 2017 and a Kasteels Poort – Platteklip circle I have in mind. 

Route in Pictures:

 

Some picture of what I saw:

Facebook Photos

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Where My Strassies Took Me Today – Wolwekloof – Franschhoek

Today was the third time I did the Wolwekloof hike.  This quote from Louis L’Amour describes something of this hike:

“I love the stillness.  Somehow it seems to soak through me. Smoothing out all the rough places. Making all my troubles feel like nothing.”  That is what I experienced in Wolwekloof today.

Let me warn you:  Wolwekloof is a lovely hike, but you have to be fit and agile.  It is rock hopping all the way.  In fact, yesterday, when I was swinging down between two rocks, I once again said this is the best full-body workout available.  You need good balance on the rocks.  Also a rock-hopping sense?  Some people always remind me of myself whenever I try to dance.  I always end up in a knot of arms and legs!

Having said that (and I trust you will ensure you are fit before you go),  to me this is a repeat hike.  In the midst of a terrible drought, the river gurgles and flows strongly.  In one pool I had a wonderful water back massage.  The shower at the top waterfall, our destination and place for lunch, was, as always, an exhilarating experience – energising.  

The group, today, was fit and we savoured the moment – we swam a lot, marvelled at the mountain and the trees and nature in general. I love that.  We hiked with intend, but did not rush.  Waking up on Sunday I said to my wife I am going back on my own.  Or I will take a few special people who can enjoy the stillness.  Wolwekloof, to me, is a really special place.

There is no marked trail.  You don’t really need it!  You just follow the river.  So let me try to give you a few pointers.

Permits are available at Franschhoek Tourism.  By they time they wake up, you should be on your way.  It is a frustration if you are not from Franschhoek, but hopefully they will have an online booking system soon, or realise that one can work with emails.  

Get onto the Robertsvlei Road, either just after La Motte or from the Monument.  This will bring you to the guard at the gate.  This is a very friendly and helpful guy.  Always smiling and ready to assist.  Do the admin and visit the loo, it is the last one until you are back and feacies and ablutions in the river is just not on!

You need a vehicle with high ground clearance to get to the start of Wolwekloof.  Drive through the gate and turn right over the bridge.  Follow this road that will take you high above the Berg River Dam.  It is a sight for the wrong reasons at the moment – the water level is extremely low.  I will make a point to go back just to see the dam when it is full.

Keep driving – it is about 7 km’s from the gate.  You drive up a valley with the dam behind you.  The parking area is just beyond the pump station in the river.  Leave the vehicles behind and follow the track into the mountain, almost as if you are not going to Wolwekloof and then turn right.  I call it a trail, but there is no definite, demarcated trails. Just find the easiest way down into Wolwekloof.    

The entrance to the Kloof is littered with dead tree stumps.  These are rotting and in various stages of decay.  It was interesting to see how this maze changed from last year!  The point is, be careful of stepping or walking on these stumps.  The are soft and break easily.  And you could easily break a leg, too!

Not far after the stumps the river (the trail) is “blocked” by a very nice pool.  Twice before I have gone wrong here.  This time I got it right.  It is a spot where the lovely indigenous forest grows right to the river, lots of ferns.  Go right and follow what looks like a water course or erosion.  Do NOT follow this to the top.  About half way up this “track” the trail takes a sharp left around a tree and back down to the river.  Back in the river, you will soon go up again, once more a sliding sort of track.  Here are the two pools where we have our breakfast swim.  Upper and lower pools.  Nice swimming.

From here you have to go on hands and knees under the rock to the right of the waterfall.  You cannot really miss the trail if you look for the overhang.  Shorter people have a difficulty going up to the next level.  Foot and hand holds are difficult and if you lose your footing, it is far down to the bottom of the waterfall.

Now you follow the river, always upstream.  Soon you will come to another very good spot for snacks (as an excuse to swim).  Do stop here and look at the trees that grow to the right of the pool.  

Onwards again.  From here you will go through a type of basin.  It is as if somebody drilled a huge hole in the mountain and you are sitting at the bottom.  Look at the mountain towards Franschhoek.  Take time to see the trees and the forest.  It is one of the most beautiful natural forests in the Western Cape.

The “trail” will take you out of the riverbed to the right and then back across to the left and you will find yourself in a type of corner, once more with the forest right at the edge of the river, a pool with a waterfall, visible through some branches (now that is an almost useless description) on this hike!  The trail angles up through the forest.  Instead of going round the bend (which I think you could only do if you swim) you cut across the mountain.  Be careful of loose rocks and gravel and tripping over Tarzan’s Bobbejaantou.  Just follow diagonally across and up and wait for it.  You round a corner, you are on a level with the bottom of the waterfall.  There is another big (and deeper) pool if you turn your back on the waterfall and walk downstream about 10 meters.

This is Wolwekloof.  One of my special hikes.  Going back is just the reverse! 

Trail Pointers:

High Above Berg River Dam:

High Above Berg River Dam

High Above Berg River Dam

View from where you stop:

View From Parking

View From Parking

Will they still be here next time?

Look for these trees on the right of the trail

Look for these trees on the right of the trail

Wolwekloof:

Wolwekloof

Wolwekloof Entrance

Rocks. Boulders and Tree Maze

Boulders and Trees

Boulders and Trees

Obstacle Coarse

Obstacle Course

 

 

 

 

 

Where I tend to go wrong:

Turn right to get around the pool

Turn right to get around the pool

Lower Breakfast Pool:

Bottom Breakfast Pool from the top

Bottom Breakfast Pool from the top

Upper Breakfast Pool – from here crawl under the overhang

Upper Breakfast Pool

Upper Breakfast Pool

Snack Pool

Snack Pool

Snack Pool

Snack Pool Trees

Snack Pool Trees

 

 

 

 

 

Veer left through the forest

Left through the forest

Left through the forest

This is for over the hill ...

This is for over the hill …

 

 

 

 

 

Useless Descriptopn Pool

Useless Description Pool

This is IT – Wolwekloof Waterfall

Wolwekloof Waterfall

Wolwekloof Waterfall

Total Distance approximately 10 km’s.  But don’t be fooled, it is not a Sunday afternoon stroll!

My Strassies have come to the end.  We have done an excellent and wonderful 422 km’s.  I was scared of meeting a speed cop on our way back, because I think I have used the soles beyond the legal limit.  

I will now send them back where they came from, Strassbergers Shoe Factory in Clanwilliam, for resoling.  

My Strassies did Wolwekloof 3 times!

First time we went to Wolwekloof

Second time we went to Wolwekloof

 

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Where My Strassies Took Me Today – Nuweberg Poele – Grabouw

You know how it is?  Hikers talk about hikes and trails.  I am subscribed to newsletters of a few hiking clubs and religiously read the Buite Burger every Tuesday to see who is hiking where.  That is how I heard of Nuweberg Poele.  I searched the internet, but Google was not of much help!  I missed a few opportunities to join different groups on this hike. 

Finally, today, I did it with the lovely people of SANLAM Hiking Club.  I will definitely do this hike again.  We started off in a very light drizzle and the temperature was not warm.  Ideal for hiking, but the wind was blowing too cold to swim, although a few tough people did swim.  Obviously I am not tough!

Part of the trail is along an old “braille trail.”  Somewhere in the past a trail was made with pole borders for blind people.  They would follow the trail by tapping the poles with their sticks!  There are one or two braille info boards left.  I do not know what it says!  I wonder if any blind people ever used the trail.

The trail starts at Nuweberg Forest Station between Grabouw and Villiersdorp and it is on Cape Nature land, so you can use your Wild Card.  Many activities start here.  The Grabouw Canopy Zipline starts here.  It is also where you go for Kloofing in Suicide Gorge and Riversonderend.  From here you also access the Landroskop and Boesmanskloof Huts on the Hottentots Holland Hiking trail.

The admin took some time.  The gate guards have never heard of Nuweberg Poele and have never been there, so it cannot exist!  Fortunately our leader could show them on a map where we are going.  It is on the Boesmanskloof trail before the bridge that does not exist anymore!  Or you can say it is part of the Palmiet Trail.

From the gate you drive to the parking area where you can leave the vehicles.  Cross the road onto a trail and start hiking.  Soon you are on the jeeptrack again.  Enter the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve through the remnants of an old Stone Walled gate.  Not too far after this gate is the start of the Braille Trail.  Take this trail (going left) and just before you join the jeeptrack again, there is a very nice pool, but no swimming allowed.  Continue with the jeeptrack, up the hill and round the corner.  After crossing the ridge the road splits to the right into two trails.  Take the left hand trail towards Boesmanskloof.  Follow the trail and as you pass the hill on the right you will see what you have come to see.  On a hot day it will be a ball!

The hike leader warned us that there will be ants where we sit and have lunch.  He was right.  Lots of big black ants that bite.  So take some insect repellent.

We had a leisurely lunch (or brunch) and then hiked back on the jeep track.  Afterwards I had a craft beer and coffee at the Orchard Farm Stall.  Not that I think I really deserved a beer!  But who cares!  It is a good place to stop after a hike.

The distance is about 10km’s and it is fairly easy.  The uphill is not too steep or too long.

After today my Strassies have done  412 km’s   My Strassies have done very well and I cannot think of any reason why any hiker cannot support a South African company when buying hiking boots!  Strassbergers is a family business that started in 1830 and runs from Clanwilliam.

The Entrance Gate:

Entrance to Nuweberg Forest Station

Entrance to Nuweberg Forest Station

The Trail from the Car Park:

Nuweberg Begin Vanuit Parkeerarea

Nuweberg Begin Vanuit Parkeerarea

Start of the Braille Trail

Nuweberg - Start of Braille Trail

Nuweberg – Start of Braille Trail

Right and left to Boesmanskloof

Nuweberg - Turning off to the Nuweberg Poele

Nuweberg – Turning off to the Nuweberg Poele

 
And this is IT!

Nuweberg Poele - This is your destination

Nuweberg Poele – This is your destination

 

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Where My Strassies Took Me Today – 2017 Disa Hunting Table Mountain

This has become an annual tradition and ritual – to go to the Disas on Table Mountain.  This time, I was on my own and I did not enjoy it as much, because sometimes shared beauty is just more beauty and sometimes a shared experience is exponentially bigger.  And I think the memories also made me more aware of my loneliness.  Thinking back to the first time I did this hike with my daughter, where we stopped to have a photo “competition” and what she taught me.  The time when we walked by a man who probably had a heart attack and died.  The joy of seeing the first Disa right next to the trail in the bend of Skeleton Gorge,  the exclamation when you notice the abundance at Window Gorge River!  And then even greater amazement when you get to the aqueduct! So I relived the previous hikes while enjoying the coolness of the breeze after Skeleton Gorge.

As always I start at the Rycroft Gate at Kirstenbosch, then go to the contour path to reach Skeleton Gorge, the gateway to Disas.  The trails are very well marked in Kirstenbosch.  This is part of the Smuts Track used by former Prime Minister Jan Smuts on his hikes to Maclear’s Beacon.  That is something to do – soon.  Who is joining me?

Up in Skeleton Gorge.  It is beautiful with sunlight filtering through the indigenous trees, the early morning smell of the forest and the river gurgling over the rocks, the birds chirping.  This is peace.

I take a breather at the waterfall where the ladders start.  Just a sip of Oros and a sweety.  Normally I relax here, but somewhere on the way up some water (I suspect condensation from my water bottle) fell on my camera.  When I saw it, I dried it with my handkerchief, but here I have to admit – today I will use my cell phone to photograph the Disas!  What a disappointment!

Up the ladders I go, behind the members of CUM-Hike.  I stop for breakfast at my normal breakfast nook (just look out for the trail going to the right as you go up after crossing the river).  I am still lamenting my camera and battle to get back into the hike.

Then I see the first Disa where the trail makes the sharp bend to the left.  I know I am almost at the top and pass the CUM Hike group at Breakfast Rock.  Where the trail tops out is one of the typical Table Mountain Cairns with a stainless steel map.  Unless you know your way, take some time to study it.  Left take you to Nursery Buttress, straight to the back of Hely Hutchison Dam.  I follow in the steps of Jan Smuts and go right.  Once again I take a photo of Giant Protea (how many times have I done that?).  

Finally I get to the narrow ledge where I get to the level of the aqueduct.  Here you need to take care.  If you simply follow the trail, you could end up on top of the Table and Maclear’s Beacon.  You need to veer to the left.  The path goes around an outcropping on the edge of the valley – your direction should be towards Camps Bay.  Over the outcropping you are onto the aqueduct.  Not very far you will find my shower.  After the rain of Friday I have a strong flow in my shower – not a low-flow shower head.  Refreshing!  I am early this year.  Lots of budding Disas.  Those that are in bloom are fresh and bright.

After the wooden bridge I descent into the river, but do not shower at the next waterfall.  I just take my time to enjoy the beauty of the Disas.  Out of the river bed onto the trail, down steeply to the river again.  Brunch and a decent bath in the pool.  This is what it feels like to be alive!

I do not stop at the Waterworks Museum, but do spend some time there to see how our ancestors built the dams!  I cross the wall of Hely Hutchison Dam and then take the Skeleton Gorge/Nursery Ravine trail (there is a stainless steel map).  I stop in Fairy Land (Lister’s Arboretum) amongst a plantation of European trees.  Here time goes slowly.  The wind in the trees, the birds serenading, the eroded sandstone where the fairies have their homes.  I dream of bringing my granddaughter(s) here when they are big enough to imagine fairies, like their mothers did years ago.

Fellow hikers break the spell and I continue towards the top of Nursery Ravine.  But sissy that I am, I turn right towards the Jeep track.  Loneliness catches up with me and I do not visit my secret spot, but rather turn left onto Cecilia’s Ridge.  Some uncomfortable spots to get down, swinging between my arms, careful of gravel and slip-sliding to the bottom (that will not be a song!).  Finally I am back on the contour path.

Disa hunting in 2017 was an experience to savour.  Memories for the days when I will be too old to steam up Skeleton Gorge, not lithe enough to come down Cecilia’s Ridge.

Today my Strassies passed the 400km mark!  Pity that they need new soles, as they now fit like a glove!  These Strassies and I had wonderful times over many trails.  I can really recommend the Strassberger boots.

 

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Where My Strassies Took Me Today – Berg River Dam

This is a hike that I would prefer to forget, but never will!  But that I will explain at the end.

As it is, while I was hiking I asked myself:  will I come back?  And the answer is “no,” this is a hike that I do not have to repeat.  We entered at the gate to the Berg River Dam (permits at Franschhoek Tourism,  which opens 08:00 in the week and 09:00 on Saturdays, when we need them to open at 07:00!).  We left the vehicles at the gate, hiked up the mountain to the left and followed the contour.  And down to the river, a circle and back to the river and then lunch at the new bridge.

Nothing strenuous.  Nothing really spectacular.  BUT, I was impressed with the mountains that surround us, which reminded me of a fellow hiker who once commented:  the mountains are like the pages of a book standing on end.  And the pristine river water gurgling over the rocks in the midst of a terrible Western Cape drought, even running down the trail in places, was amazing.

We planned to stop for lunch and a swim at the new bridge.  Then tragedy struck and one of the group fell down the culvert and had to be taken to hospital with very serious injuries.  She was a very experienced and fit hiker, too.  Obviously this incident was a very bad ending to the day.  But it also goes to show that outdoor activities, even easy hikes like this, is not without risk, so do be careful.  I was really impressed by the efficiency with which the leader treated the situation and with the response of all the emergency personnel.

My Strassies have now completed 387 km’s!   My Strassies came from Strassberger’s Shoe Factory in Clanwilliam and I can really recommend them for hiking.  The history bears testimony!

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Where My Strassies Took Me Today – Lion’s Head

We were having breakfast at Eden on the Bay, Table Mountain was picture pretty (it always is, but that Sunday morning it was extra special) and I realised it has been years and years since I last hiked on Lion’s Head.  I decided to do it the following Sunday, today.

Four of us left home at 06:00 and started the ascent at 06:30.  I would never have believed how many people would be on this route at that time.  It was a crowd coming down and another crowd (including us) going up!  It really is very crowded, but everybody is in good spirits and there is a camaraderie.

The route spirals upwards, so the view is always more or less the same.  Table Mountain towards Deveil’s Peak, Twelve Apostles and Camps Bay, Sea Point, Blouberg and Melkbos, City Bowl.  You just see it from a higher and higher point.  

Beacon top it is good to have something to eat while looking out over the splendor that Sir Francis Drake aptly called “the fairest Cape of them all.” 

Going up is a steady climb with the steepest part after the chains.  We went up the chains, but came down with the alternative route.  Because of the number of hikers, we had to wait at many places, including the chains.  I have never done the alternative route before and don’t like waiting.

I am not bothered by heights, but there is a lot of height exposure.  The trail is narrow and people do fall off Lion’s Head regularly.  Often they are dead, sometimes they end up as  a quadriplegic.  What I am trying to say is – Lion’s Head is in our backyard, so to speak, it is very easily accessible, it is not too difficult and going there has become fashionable.  But it is still a mountain!  Treat it with the respect any mountain deserves.

There is very little shade or protection from the sun.  Carry enough water.  I used very close to 2l on this hike!  

Once more my Strassies took me to places that fills my souls with joy.  My Strassies comes from Strassbergers in Clanwilliam, a truly proudly South African product!  Together we have now done 377 km’s.

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Where My Strassies Took Me Today – Dassieskasteel – Silvermine

Table Mountain (Hoerikwaggo = the mountain with its foot in the sea) is one of my favourites.  I have done so many hikes on Table Mountain, some I do repeatedly, but there are always another trail, another area, another peak that I have not yet done.  I always end up thinking:  so many trails, so many things to see, so little time!

Today we started at the second entrance to Silvermine and hiked to the (dry) waterfall.  It is summer and Cape Town is in the midst of a serious drought.  We did not really expect water!  We cross behind the waterfall and turn left towards Muizenberg peak.  Then we go left, cross the (dry) river again, short distance to the jeep track and then left again.  We go beacon top to Kalkbay Peak and then we traverse to the Amphitheater where we have lunch.  Lovely area with amazing rock formations.

After lunch we go back to the vehicles via Dead Man’s Path (Dooimanspad).  Total Distance 12.8 km.  

I suggest that you invest in a Slingsby Map for the area.  Order directly from Slingsby or available at outdoor shops, such as Cape Union Mart.  It is a good investment in hours of joy.

There are many caves in this area.  We saw at least two.  They are dangerous.  Beware!

Mostly the trails are marked with stainless steel plaques.  Where the trail splits, arrows will show you where each trail leads.  At the beginning and where there are a lot of intersections, you will find more detailed stainless steel maps.  Take the time to study them!

This is not a difficult trail.  There are some ups and downs, but nothing serious.  That does not mean that you should try it if you are not fit!  My Strassies (all the way from Strassbergers Shoe Factory in Clanwilliam) has now done 369 km’s!

Why will I recommend this hike?  It is not too difficult or strenuous.  You have good views over Noordhoek/Kommetjie at the start, then you have views over Muiszenberg Beach, False Bay, Kalk Bay, Fishhoek away towards Cape Point in the distance.  There are beautiful rock formations and, as you will see in the photos, lots of lovely Fynbos.

A nice, relaxing hike.

Where is Dassieskasteel?  I could not fine it on Slingsby’s map.  But if you look on the map between Klein Tuinkop and Bertie’s Balcony, you will see “Sculpted Rocks.”  We decided that those rocks must be Dassieskasteel, as it looks like a group of Dassies, and with some imagination, a castle!

As always on Table Mountain, water is not in abundance (and I do not drink Table Mountain water – there are way too many visitors).  So take enough water, especially in summer!

 

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