The Hoerikwaggo Hiking Trail
The original plan for the longer route from Cape Point to Table Mountain took a bit more time to develop. The concept was for a trail from the lighthouse at Cape Point and finishing at the lower cable station on Table Mountain. Altogether a six day trek, with five strategically placed comfortable, fixed tented camps. The trail was to be guided by specially trained guides, self-catering, but with luggage and food transported.
The site chosen for the construction of the first of the tented camp, was in the restricted area of Orangekloof. This valley was a bit of a mystery to many Capetonians as it was always a place with access by permit only. Originally controlled by the City, management of the area passed to SANParks with the establishment of Table Mountain National Park in 1998.
The camp, made up of fixed tents was opened in September 2006. The construction is on permanent wooden bases made from timber from cleared alien trees. There are four two sleeper tents and one four sleeper tent, with central ablutions and a communal kitchen and braai (barbeque) area. The kitchen is fully equipped with cutlery, crockery and cooking utensil, as well as a gas hob and wood burning Agar stove. There are electrical plugs in the kitchen. All buildings and furniture are of wood made from alien timber and the construction has been done on a ‘touch the earth lightly’ principle. Should the camp be decommissioned at any time in the future there should be little, if any evidence of its existence. The first trail on this section of the trek, took place shortly after opening. The route was from Silvermine to Orangekloof via Blackburn Ravine and Vlakkenberg (Day 1) and Orangekloof to Table Mountain via Disa Gorge and Echo Valley (Day 2).
The next camp at Silvermine was opened in April 2007, with the next section of the trail being from Kommetjie (Slangkop Lighthouse) to Silvermine. Located close to the Silvermine Dam, the camp has a similar configuration: four two sleeper tents, one four sleeper, a central ablution area and a communal catering area with gas hob, Agar stove and braai area. There is electrical lighting but no plugs.
It was expected by many that the rest of the camps would follow fairly quickly after this and that the trail would be open and operational within a year or two. This was not to be and the Slangkop Lighthouse camp followed only in 2009, with six two sleeper tents. This was the first camp to be fully electrified, with a gas stove and oven replacing the wood burning Agar stoves. Finally the Smitswinkel Bay camp was completed in August 2010, with six two sleeper tents with en-suite showers and individual kitchens. Each camp is unique both in design and décor, being built to blend in with the environment and adapted for local climate and environmental conditions.
By the time the final camp was built the concept of a regular trail between Cape Point and Table Mountain, managed and marketed by Table Mountain National Park had been abandoned. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but the long time-line between the building of the first camp and the last one, was probably a contributing factor. Most of the guides trained originally to lead the Trails had left SANParks or moved to other positions within the Table Mountain National Park. The planned camp at Simonstown has never been built and the walking route between Smitswinkel Bay and Simonstown has been excluded from the Trail.
Each of the tented camps can be booked as accommodation only, with no requirements to hike the trail or even do any hiking at all. The tents are sold per unit, with a minimum booking being for a two man tent. With the exception of Smitswinkel Bay camp, ablution and kitchen facilities have to be shared with other guests. Beds with comfortable mattresses are provided, but guests need to provide their own pillows, bedding or sleeping bags. Hikers wishing to trek the whole route need to plan strategically and book the accommodation according to their own itinerary and group size. It is important to plan well in advance to ensure the accommodation is available.
SANParks do not provide guides, nor do they provide logistical support, catering or any other support services. Hikers wishing to do the trail have to arrange their own logistical support, including road transport between Smitswinkel Bay and Simonstown. This route can be walked, but then private accommodation would need to be arrange in Simonstown, as TMNP do not provide facilities there.A fully guided and catered option for this trail is provided by Slackpacker SA, a minimum number of six people is required to operate the trail, with fixed departure dates being arranged from time to time.
The route that is promoted by Table Mountain National Parks, is:
- Day 1: Trek from Cape Point to Smitswinkel Bay along the False Bay coastal path.
- Day 2: Hikers arrange their own transport from Smitswinkel to Simonstown, starting the hike at Red Hill, via Kleinplaas Dam to Slangkop. There is an alternative start in Simonstown at the Klawer Steps, for a slightly longer route.
- Day 3: Slangkop to Silvermine via Noordhoek Beach, Chapmans Peak and Silvermine Ridge.
- Day 4: Silvermine to Orangekloof via Blackburn Ravine, the contour path, Manganese Mine, Vlakkenberg and Constantia Nek.
- Day 5: Orangekloof to the end on Table Mountain cable way via Disa Gorge, the Dams, Echo Valley and the ladders to the cable station. Descend via cable car or walk down Platteklip Gorge.
The trail can be done as one complete five day trail or in sections of two days or more. The route is marked with yellow painted HK posts at strategically important places; nevertheless there are still a few places where a wrong turn can be made at an intersection, particularly in adverse weather conditions. It is advisable to have at least one member of the party who knows Table Mountain and the route, hike with a hiking club or enlist the services of a trained mountain guide.Details of each camp and the description of the routes are provided on a separate page.