Monthly Archives: April 2010

Table Mountain Hiking – Cecelia Ridge

Waterfall wonder

Table Mountain hiking is always a pleasure for me and it constantly surprises me how few people there are on the upper reaches of the Back Table. It is not always necessary to go to the popular Western Table (the classic front face of the mountain) as this area has some fantastic paths with stunning views and with a reasonable fitness level there are routes that most people can manage quite easily.

Constantia Valley

Cecelia Ridge path is one of these and is a route that I often use for a quick afternoon or evening hike to keep my own fitness levels up. The Freedom Day holiday was a good opportunity to walk it at a slightly more leisurely pace and to take the path from Cecelia Forest parking up over the Contour Path to the

All the way to False Bay

Cecelia Waterfall. This is an pleasant and fairly quick hike on it’s own and Cecelia Waterfall is a magical place and worth a visit. The waterfall is only a trickle at the moment, but I am sure that it will be at it’s spectacular best once the first winter rains come.

After passing the waterfall the path climbs up

A couple of kings

to the ridge where the turn off to Cecelia Ridge is slightly hidden by the shrubbery, but if you know where to look it is clear. Care must be taken at one point on the path up to the ridge as part of the slope below has been washed away, leaving a short exposed section where there are a few exposed roots that would be easy to trip over. After the turnoff the path is quite steep with a few minor rock scrambles. Take it easily, stopping regularly to survey the views over False Bay, the Cape Flats and the

A couple more kings

ring of mountains in the distance.

The path comes out near de Villiers Dam and there are a few places where you can sit and admire the views while you enjoy a tea or lunch break. You can return by the same route or take the easier (but longer) route down the jeep track and through Cecelia Forest. It is a route that needs to be led by someone who knows the way and the usual rules with regard to water and walking in a party apply.

Web across the path

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Cape Point gate to Bordjiesrif

Braving the wind


It is always good to walk in Cape Point Nature Reserve. It is one of those places that you can walk all day and except for the occasional sight of cars and tour buses on the distant road to the point, you hardly see a sole – a real get away from everyone experience. At the same time there are spectacular views over False Bay, right across to Hangklip. 

Classic View of Cape Point


Saturday was a case in point, a beautiful, but slightly windy day and our party did not come across a single hiker during our 3½ hour hike. The wind seemed to have blown all the haze away and the mountains across the Bay were particularly clear against the background of a bright blue see. This section is a particularly rewarding one, as you can get quite close to the cliff face if you want to go to some of the viewing points and you have a view of both the Atlantic coast and the False Bay coast for almost the entire hike. 

The mountain and the sea


Leaving at about 9.30 after shuttling cars from the starting point to Bordjiesrif, we reached our lunch stop at Kanonkop by 12.30 and then the end by 1.30. A great morning excursion. Thanks Sue & Eugene for organising. 

Rocky shoreWho's for a swim


Who's for a swim

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Newlands Forest Ramble – quiet natural forest

Once there were pines

This is a gem of an area to explore, particularly once you get away from the pine forest and into the natural vegetation. The nice thing is that you can make it an hours walk or a five hour hike, depending on how much time you have and how much you want to explore.

Before I discovered some of the upper paths I thought of it as just a stroll through the pine forest, suitable for dog walkers or a short afternoon breath of fresh air. Dog walking is popular and unfortunately not all have been ‘trained’ to pick up their deposits, so you have to be a bit careful until you get away from the popular areas. Table Mountain National Park are to be congratulated on the measures that they have put in place to educate and encourage people to pick up after their dogs as this situation has improved.

Green moss

You should go with someone who knows the area to start with as the paths are a bit of a maze. Like all hiking, never go alone and get a good map. Once you have this and have explored a bit to understand the geography, it is very special. Describing the routes is too complicated, so it is enough to say that if you can find your way up to Woodcutters Path, on the north side of the forest (right hand side if you are facing the mountain) you will discover a quiet and pristine route through natural forest, with a couple of clear side routes up to the contour path. From here you can walk through to Skeleton Gorge and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens or you can take one of the alternative routes back down to the car park. There is a good, fairly direct path back from Kirstenbosch to the Newlands Forest car park.

Place for a break

If you don’t know the area, paths on the south side (left hand side facing the mountain) can be very confusing and you can end up far from where you expect to. There is a deep ravine at the upper level between the two sections and although there are a few ways across it is easy to become disorientated and get lost. If you are exploring, give yourself plenty of day light hours. I am still getting to know this area and will write more about it.

Twists & turns

The usual rules apply – don’t walk alone, take plenty of water and make sure someone knows where you are going. The area is a bit isolated once you are on the upper paths and it is surprising how few people you meet. You are close to the

suburbs however and there is good cell phone reception throughout.

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Great Hiking in Cape Point

 Afruka Eco Tours & Safaris

Taking a break

 Here are some photos of our Cape Of Good Hope 2 day hike that we did this week with Bryan and Bridget Proctor, along with Morne and Quinton. Great hiking weather both days.   

One of the best Cape ‘slackpacking’ routes

On a clear day you can see forever


Showing the way

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The Glorious Protea

Take my breath away

Colour Contrast

South Africa’s national flower is a reflection of the depth and beauty of the whole country. It is worth a hike into the mountains to see them growing in their natural environment and this is the best time of the year to do it. I have seen quite on various routes in Table Mountain recently.

You could not find better examples than these anywhere. These stunning photographs were taken by a friend hiking in the Kromrivier area, du Toit’s Kloof. No wonder they made it our national flower.

What a feast

Of course if you can’t make it into the mountains you can see them in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Pink Perfect

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Special Spider in Kirstenbosch

Nephila fenestrata

Adding detail to the information on the spider in Kirstenbosch (see Skeleton Gorge) Norman Larsen sent me one of his pictures of the Nephile fenestrata, apparently only seen on this side of the mountain since 2002. Pic taken on Sunday with male on the abdomen just after mating. The female on the leaf with egg sac has not got the swollen abdomen as she has just laid her eggs.

The smaller spider is Cyrtophora citricola, family Araneidae, with all attending webs of juvenile spiders. 


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Skeleton Gorge

After recovering from my back injury in November I feel as if I am rediscovering some regular routes on Table Mountain all over again. Skeleton Gorge yesterday was typical of this. A beautiful day in Cape Town (again) and I had planned to get some work done at home, after hiking in Muizenberg yesterday. The temptation was to great when a friend asked if I would like to do a short hike from early afternoon.

Kirstenbosch Visitor

The start was delayed by fascination with two huge spider webs in the parking area of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and a chance meeting with Norman who was taking photographs (Google Ask Norman’ for anything you want to know about spiders in South Africa).

Close Up

Hiking up ‘Skelies’ was as inspiring as ever, cool, quiet and great exercise – I could feel the legs by the time we got to the top. There was a little bit of water running in a few places after Friday’s rain and with winter arriving soon it probably won’t be long before it can’t be done without getting feet wet.

We decided to take the open route down and hiked across to Overseers Cottage and with light starting to fade, down Cecelia Ridge. There are some stunning King Proteas out on this route and of course the brilliant views. By the time we got back to Kirstenbosch it was almost dark and completely deserted. Nice having it to ourselves but after being told by Norman how far the spiders can throw their webs were very aware of hidden strands across the path.

Fading Light

Two concerns:

There are signs that more people are taking short cuts, creating erosion potential in the winter, both in Skeleton Gorge and coming down Cecelia Ridge.

Coming across a lone woman tourist walking down Skeleton, who was very relieved to see us as she really was not too sure if she was on the right route. Never hike alone on Table Mountain – especially if you don’t know where you are going.



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!Khwa ttu – San education centre

This must be one of the most innovative and interesting projects developed in recent years, within easy reach of Cape Town. Established in 1999 with the purchase of the farmland that became !Khwa ttu, it is likely to become a ‘must’ experience for anyone interested in exploring the history and culture of the San people. The Ubuntu Foundation has established a cultural education centre here, that provides an insight into this complex history without trying create a false façade that pretends to be a completely authentic recreation of living conditions of a time gone by. Once a working wheat and sheep farm, the land is gradually being restored to it’s natural condition, with the introduction of antelope such as Eland, Bontebok, Steenbok, Duiker and Springbok. There are also Zebra and small game that is mostly nocturnal.

 The centre boasts a craft shop, restaurant, conference centre and accommodation, as well as a photo gallery depicting some of the recent history and background to San people. There are a number of alternative hiking trails, from a short stroll to a walk that could take three hours or more. There are two guided tours:

  • An walking route focusing on plants, there traditional uses and medicinal values
  • A tractor & trailer ride to view the game, take in the views over the Atlantic Ocean and do a short interpretive walk to the recreation of a San ‘village’.

 Our group elected to do the guided trailer ride with a short interpretive walk. Hold on tight, this is not a smooth ride and the tractor is not quiet. The game are obviously used to it and we were able to get very close to a group of Burchell’s Zebra and fairly close to a small heard of Eland and watch a group of Springbok off in the distance, before getting off the trailer to follow the short track to the village.

 Andre, our guide gave an excellent explanation of the basics of tracking skills, using plaster casts of Eland, Bontebok, Steenbok and Springbok hooves, as well as one of a Porcupine paw. It was an innovative method for showing how different imprints could be interpreted without having to seek out the genuine article. Also fascinating was the demonstration of a very clever trap designed to catch birds such as francolin and guinea fowl. Easy to set up and effective in showing how material available in the natural environment would have been used in providing for daily needs.

 There was plenty to slow our progress to the village itself, from the description of the medicinal values of the cancer bush to the properties of the wood of the wild olive tree and many other snippets of information. At the village itself we were treated to a demonstration of jewellery making using ostrich egg shells, the use of skins for clothing and the making of fire using rubbing sticks. There was never any pretence that the guides had been brought up anywhere but in the modern world and that the skills they had developed, although handed down through generations, had been perfected within the controlled environment of the village. The grass huts, set around a central fire pit, showed both the settled nature of the people, while at the same time demonstrating that it would have been easy for them to pack and move if drought, scarcity of food or other climatic conditions dictated a move.

 After completing the tour, we returned to the museum and photo exhibition. The charts and photographs demonstrated a sad and inspirational history that few people get to understand and experience. One could spend many hours looking at the sometimes shocking photographs and reading the accompanying descriptions and explanations. One finishes the tour on this note, wondering how people could treat others as these people were treated.

 Andre summed up his own experience with the explanation that he was not completely aware of the history of his people when he first arrived. His first impression created doubts in his own mind as to whether he wanted to show people how his ancestors had been treated. After initial doubts however he had decided that he ‘would dig a hole in the earth and bury the past, covering the hole with a light layer of sand’. He said he needed to ‘always acknowledge that it was there and how it had affected his life and those of his family’. But now he needed to move forward by acknowledging the past but not allowing it to influence him in the future.

 Tour arranged by Afruka Eco Tours & Safaris

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