Tag Archives: Western Cape Hiking Trails

Table Mountain Fires

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The area of Table Mountain between Noordhoek & Clovelly in the South and Muizenberg and Tokai in the North have been badly devastated by fire over the last week. The area covers approximately 6000 hectares and stretches between the Atalantic Coast to the False Bay Coast. Many of the hiking paths and trails have been badly damaged and are effectively closed for the foreseeable future. Although access my not be completely controlled we do not recommend hiking in these areas until Table Mountain National Park have done an assessment and reported on the safety or rehabilitation on the paths.

There are a great many photographs in the social media and we will publish appropriate photographs as the situation becomes clear.

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Tranquilty Cracks

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This is a special place in Table Mountain that has a reputation for being difficult to find. At one time, people who knew the route kept is a closely guarded secret. Although today it is still easy to miss the turnoff, once you know where to look it is not difficult to find.

Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0001When the day starts with amazing numbers of beautiful sunbirds and sugarbirds feasting on the newly opened yellow pincushion  Proteas, you know it is going to be a good one. It was a perfect Cape Town spring day, with only a bit of high cloud around as we headed up Kasteelspoort. Unfortunately one of the party discovered that his winter hibernation had caught up with him and wisely decided to turn around, accompanied by his concerned family. This left only four of us.

Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0003One member had never been up the route before, so we stopped a few times to catch our breath and admire the view. A visit to the old cableway docking station and diving board viewpoint is a must, with it’s stunning vista over Camps Bay and the Atlantic Coast.Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0042


From there it is an easy walk down the Twelve Apostles path, past the turnoff’s to Woody Ravine, the Firs and Slangolie before coming to the Tranquility path. A short walk and scramble and we were up above the Cracks, where we put our packs down and spent a bit of time exploring.

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There was time also just to sit and enjoy the environment, watch the cableway ascending and descending in the distance and have an early lunch.

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It is a really short walk from there to the Corridor Ravine path, marked by a large cairn. The route is steep, but short and apart from a few places where there are loose stones, a relatively easy path down.

Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0031A slip on the slope nearly saw me putting my hand on a baboon spider hidden under a rock.Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0035

The views from this path are magnificent, as it joins up with the Pipe Track that leads back to Camps Bay. Another beautiful day in Table Mountain.

Meridian - Tranquility Cracks Sept 2014_0021

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Reclaim Roodeberg

The Roodeberg is a low peak between Fish Hoek and Kommetjie. There are four sections of land spread over about 5 or 6 km, three of these have already been incorporated in to Table Mountain National Park. The forth section  is private land that used to be part of the Selole Private Game Reserve. SA National Parks are currently trying to raise funds (R9.5 million) to purchase this portion to link all four sections for inclusion in Table Mountain National Park.  Roodeberg - August 2014_0023I did a walk in the area with Meridian Hiking Club in February and then again over this last weekend (10th August). It is really an extremely rewarding area for hiking, not too strenuous, with a great variation of flora. Hold thumbs they can raise a sufficient amount as it is worth preserving. Roodeberg - August 2014_0001

The walk has some interesting surprises and once you have ‘bagged’ the peak, there are a few different optional routes to follow, including areas such as Kleinplasie Dam, or a circular route back to the car park. This weekend the spring flowers were making an early appearance and the yellow pincushion proteas are starting to show signs of flowering.Roodeberg - August 2014_0005Roodeberg - August 2014_0044

Silvermine Panorama Route

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Also known as the Skyline Route, the unique aspect of this circular route, is the views it provides, of both False Bay on the one side and Hout Bay on the other. This combined with extensive stands of proteas, one or other of which seem to be flowering at most times of the year. Much of the lower part of the area was once covered by pine plantation, with the natural fynbos being re-established after the extensive fires of 1999 & 2000.

 

IMG_4306I have done the path twice recently, once in the anti-clockwise direction and once clockwise. Both are equally spectacular, but for some reason the clockwise route seems to be faster. Ideal hiking for a warm winters day.IMG_4308

The trail starts at the Silvermine Dam, at the end of the tarred road that leads in to the reserve, with the first part of the walk along the edge of the dam, before a short winding path leads off a jeep track to the plateaux above. The path meets and follows the jeep track in few places and one has to be careful of mountain bikers who also use this route. Eventually the path leads to the viewing platform at the top of Blackburn Ravine, with a much photographed view over Hout Bay. IMG_4321The circular route branches off shortly before the platform, leading up to the ridge above. It is a walk of about an hour from here to the highest point at Noordhoek Peak. The views over the Atlantic coast are quite spectacular and include a designated viewing sight of the nesting place of a pair of black eagles (the nest can only be seen, not reached).

IMG_4311From Noordhoek Peak the path follows the jeep track for while before the path branches to Silvermine Ridge and back to the dam and car park. The hike takes about 3½ to 4 hours.IMG_4310

 

 

 

 

How to book the Hoerikwaggo Trail.

Read our summary of the Hoerikwaggo Trail on the Table Mountain Hiking Trails blog and decide how you want to do it. For additional information you can also read the background History & Present development status.

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1. You want to do it all yourself

Contact the SANParks booking office and book the accommodation directly. Rates, availability and on-line booking of the various tented camps can be checked on-line via the SANParks – TMNP web site.

Table Mountain National Park do not provide logistical support, guiding or catering and you need to ensure that there is accommodation availability at each of the tented camps in the sequence in which you want to use them. The trail is planned to be walked from South to North, but can be walked in the opposite direction.

2. You want us to provide one or more of guiding, transport or catering services

You do the booking, but you want one of the above services, look at our Slackpacking Rates under Individual Services, fill out the TRAIL ENQUIRY FORM and tell us what you want.

3. You want us to do everything

Option 1.

Make up a party of between six and ten of your friends, tell us when you want to do it and whether you want to do all or part of the trail. If you want to do one or two nights only tell us which part. We will do the rest.

Option 2.

Plan your holiday or your hike well in advance around one of the fixed departure dates. This means that you will join a group that is leaving on a specific date, usually a Mondy. We only do this about four times a year and departure is subject to a minimum booking by at least six people. In the case of individuals, there may be a single supplement if you want your own private accommodation.

See Trail Departures on our blog or ask about dates on the TRAIL ENQUIRY FORM. These dates are fixed 6 to 12 months in advance and have to be confirmed at least three months in advance in order to secure the accommodation.

Option 3.

Book a private trail on a date that is convenient to you. This is a more expensive option if the party is smaller than six and price would depend on the number in the party. We would quote for this on an individual basis.

Option 4.

Give us a date, or range of dates, that is convenient to you, together with the size of your party and we will try to market it as a fixed departure date. The further in advance this is done the higher the chances of success, but we can never be sure that we will get additional bookings.

For more information:

complete the TRAIL ENQUIRY FORM or e-mail info@slackpackersa.co.za

The Hoerikwaggo Trail History & Present (part 2)

The Hoerikwaggo Hiking Trail

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Cape Point – where the Mountain meets the sea

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.

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Tented Camp – Orangekloof

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.

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Woodhead water tunnel on Disa Gorge

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).

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Disa uniflora – end of January & February

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.

Silvermine camp kitchen & braai
Tented Camp – Silvermine

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.

Looking in to Hout Bay from Chapmans Peak path

A hikers view of Hout Bay

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.

Current situation:

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Tented Camp at Slangkop

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.

The diving board at Kasteelspoort

The diving board overlooking Kasteelspoort

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.

Platteklip Gorge the steep trek up

Platteklip Gorge – the end of the trail

For information on guiding, catering, transport and logistical support services visit Slackpackers SA, complete the TRAIL ENQUIRY FORM or e-mail info@slackpackersa.co.za

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 finish (or start) on Platteklip Gorge

The finish at the bottom of 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.

For more information complete the TRAIL ENQUIRY FORM or e-mail info@slackpackersa.co.za

Hoerikwaggo Trail History & Present (part 1)

Hoerikwaggo Trail – History & Current Situation

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Hoerikwaggo Trail start – Cape Point

The idea for a hiking trail running the down the spine of the Table Mountain chain was probably dreamed about by many enthusiastic hikers over the years. It was first seriously thought about during the nineties and finally planning started in the early part of the new millennium. The original idea was to create a backpacking trail supported by a series of strategically situated camps.

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The goal – Table Mountain

Further investigation resulted in the proposal to establish four different trails:

  • the first, a guided trail adhering to the original plan, with the trail starting in Cape Point (Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve) and finishing on Table Mountain;
  • a second, unguided trail using the same route in reverse;
  • a third, shorter, three day trail aimed at the top end ‘slackpacking’ market, using refurbished accommodation at the Platteklip Wash House and Overseers Cottage and the existing paths to finish in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens;
  • finally a two day one night, educational trail for community, youth & school groups using the Peoples Bungalow on the Back Table.
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The finish – Platteklip Gorge

Although the trails were to be separate trails, with separate routes and separate accommodation facilities, they were all to be marketed and operated under the name Hoerikwaggo Trails.

Hoerikwaggo is the original Khoi Khoi name for Table Mountain, meaning the ‘Mountain in the Sea’ or ‘Sea Mountain’. The Khoi Khoi were the indigenous inhabitants of the Cape at the time of the establishment of the settlement by the Dutch East India Company in 1652.

Table Mountain Trial

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Platteklp Wash House – luxury hiking

The third option, initially named as the ‘White Cloud Trail’, was the first to become operational, with the refurbishment of the Platteklip Wash Houses, above van Riebeeck Park, on the boundary of the Cape Town city bowl suburb of Oranjezicht. The venue has great historical significance and was tastefully refurbished and redecorated to provide comfortable accommodation for up to sixteen hikers. The original trail started in the V&A Waterfront and included an historical guided tour through the Waterfront, the City, the Company Gardens and the suburbs on the lower slopes of Table Mountain, finishing at the overnight venue in time for rest, drinks and dinner.

Overseers Cottage

Hiking trail comfort – Overseers Cottage

On the final day, included an exploration of the Back Table and the historic reservoirs, with a visit to the site of the original construction cable way docking station at Kasteelspoort. This includes magnificent the views over the Atlanitic Coast and Camps Bay. The finish was in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

This trail was opened in 2005 as a fully catered trail, with guiding provided by specially trained ‘Hoerikwaggo’ guides. The accommodation was fully serviced, with white linen, warm duvets and hot showers. Unfortunately it did not attract quite the attention it deserved and after undergoing various adaptations the accommodation was converted to self-catering facilities at some stage during 2009.

Current situation

This trail is no longer operated in this form by Table Mountain National Park. The facilities are still available, fully serviced and can be booked on a self-catering basis through SANParks booking system. Guiding services are no longer offered directly by TMNP. It is not necessary to hike the whole trail in order to use the accommodation, but groups do have to walk up to the facility using one of the various routes from the Southern Suburbs, Table Mountain (City) or the Atlantic Seaboard. Transport of luggage and food is provided by TMNP, by arrangement.

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Hike through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

A fully catered and guided version of this trail is also available through Slackpacker SA. We refer to this as the Table Mountain Trial, which usually starts in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and finishes at the lower cable station on Table Mountain. The walk up through the Gardens makes an interesting start and the route to the Cottage is an easier option than that up of the trek up Platteklip Gorge. A minimum number of six hikers is required to operate the trail as standard rates. The guided city tour is no longer offered as part of the this package, although guided walking tours of the city can be arranged as an optional extra. All our guides are fully accredited mountain guides and tour guides.

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Group and trail guide – Overseers Cottage

For more information complete the Trail Enquiry Form or e-mail info@slackpackersa.co.za .