Category Archives: Day Walks

Cape Point – Day Walk Alternatives

Cape Point - Meridian June 2015054

The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is one of our favourite areas for some reasonably easy but very rewarding hiking. The views down the False Bay side of the coast are quite extra-ordinary and the Atlantic Coast has some beautiful beach and the special interest of the Shipwreck Trail. Our regular, shorter, easier, circular routes are on the Atlantic Coast, with the slightly more strenuous options being on the False Bay coast.

A spate of recent fires in the greater Table Mountain National Park did not leave this area untouched, with a freak lightening strike igniting a fire along the Atlantic Coast, just at a time when the Silvermine fires were being brought under control. For the short term, this means that most of our Atlantic side trails are closed.

Cape Point - Meridian June 2015180With this in mind we have been exploring the options on the more spectacular False Bay coast. The best known and most used of these is the linear route from the gate of the Reserve, near Smitswinkel Bay, to the Rooikrans view point – a distance of abut 13km. This forms part of the Cape Point Trail, but when done as a day hike, requires the transport logistics of a car at each end. Our best option is a circular a circular route that starts at the Buffelsfontein visitors centre and follows the same  route to Rooikrans, before turning around and dropping down to the coast for the return trip. Here there are three options:

  1. For a short hike – about three hours – from the Buffelsbaai Cape Point - Meridian June 2015112picnic area, take the tar road back to the visitors centre.
  2. A slightly longer option – about four hours – to carry on further along the coast to Bordjiesrif before taking a short section of the tar road to Booi se Skerm and joining the short cut path back to the visitors centre.
  3. Carry on further along the coast to Booi se Skerm and taking the path up to Kanonkop. From Kanonkop it is about an hour’s walk back to the visitors centre. This route takes about six hours.

Cape Point - Meridian June 2015157A fourth alternative is to walk from the visitors centre up to Kanonkop and then back to Booi se Skerm before joining the short cut path back. This is also about three to four hours. Times can be delayed by the temptation to stop regularly to take photos and to enjoy the spectacular scenery. The photographs tell the story.

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Klapmutskop Hiking Trail – Klapmutskop

Klamutskop - Delvera June 2014_0002

This is a wonderful trail for a short outing in to the Cape Wine Region of Stellenbosch, for those who want a bit of outdoor activity to wet the appetite for wine tasting or other activities in the area. The hill leading up to the ‘kop’ (peak or head) is also extremely interesting from a botanical point of view, encompassing the three biomes of the region – renosterveld, fynbos and afro-mountain forest – all in a very small area. It forms an important part of the Greater Simonsberg Conservancy area.

Beautiful winters day

Looking back on the Simonsberg Mountains towards Stellenbosch – beautiful winters day

The walk starts at the Delvera Wine Estate, where you will need to purchase a walking permit (R30 as at June 2014) from the reception area. The first part of the hike meanders through the vineyards, marked with the various cultivars that you are passing by.  It is interesting to see the differences between the various vine varieties and how they are trellised and pruned or maintained as bush vines. The path is well marked, taking hikers over wide farm tracks with clay underfoot conditions.

As the path approaches the hill it enters the renosterveldt band the circles the ‘koppie’, zig-zaging gently up the slope. It is an excellent example of this severely threatened biome, with only 6% of the original area still regarded as sustainable. About half way up the hill the path skirts vineyards again, where the Greater Simonsberg Conservancy information board explains the importance of the area.Klamutskop - Delvera June 2014_0008

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View from the renosterveldt band. Cool overcast, slightly misty conditions on the day

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Transition from renosterveldt to fynbos

The path then climbs slightly more quickly through the renosterveldt band up to the fynbos band above. The transition between the two is quick and quite dramatic, suddenly hikers are in amongst proteas, restios and ericas, among others, putting the route firmly in the Cape Floral Kingdom. The fynbos band is quite short, before suddenly the forest at the top appears. Even when you know it is there it is a surprise – beautiful Breede River yellowwoods perched on top of this unlikely hilltop.

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The path tunnels in amongst the yellowwoods

 From the top, the 360 degree views of the Stellenbosch Mountains, Simonsberg, DuToitskloof and the Paarl Mountains are unmatched. On a fine day Table Mountain is also clear in the distance.

 

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View from the top

 The path back circle the hill on the other side, before joining the vineyard tracks once more and zig-zagging back to the farm. The hike is about 3 to 31/2 hours, allowing for photography and tea breaks.

 

 

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Devon Valley – Vineyard Trail

Devon Valley – Vineyard Trail description

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The Vineyard Trail is a circular route of approximately 11km. It starts and finishes at the Devon Valley Hotel and meanders through vineyards and the wine farm of the area. Although the paths are clear, the signposting is Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0002confusing in places and a wrong turn or missed marker can take hikers off on the wrong route. A map is provided at the hotel, although it is important to make sure you are given the correct one, as one of the alternative trails (green route on the map) is closed. Not all the hotel staff are properly briefed on the alternatives.

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0082The trail starts from the parking area behind the hotel, follow the tarred exit road to the gate and turn left up the hill. Head up the tar road, to where it becomes a dirt track, passing buildings on your right, to a line of pine trees. At the pine trees there is a trail marker, turn right down the hill, keeping the vineyards on your right. At the bottom of the hill the path does a right turn before you pass between two posts on your left and on to a short tar road opposite the Protea Heights flower farm.Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0005

Note: At this stage the trail used to go up to the left. With the Protea Heights farm being fenced in, it now goes to the right. It can be confusing, as the old direction marker has not been removed and the new one is easy to miss.

Turn right down the tar road for a few metres, before following the sign at a left turn in to the vineyards, following a clear track. At the end of the track there is a sign pointing out a path between the rows of vines. Here there are two options:Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0010

  1. Either follow this path until it comes out on a T-junction with a farm track – there is no sign here – turn left up the hill until you come to the electric fence border of Protea Heights. Here you will see a very confusing sign with arrows pointing in different directions.
  2. Turn left and follow the farm track until you come to the electric fence border of Protea Heights and turn right, following the track along the fence until you come to the confusing sign pointing in both directions.

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0076Follow the track along the electric fence until there is a fork. Follow the sign along the left hand fork. From here on most of the signage is fairly clear, although it is easy to miss a direction marker.

Shortly after this the track descends gently, with views of the outskirts of Stellenbosch and Simonsberg Mountain. Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0019As the track descends, there is radio mast is on the right at the highest point on the trail. Half way down the valley there is a marker showing the track that turns right up towards the FM radio mast at the highest point.

After passing the mast the track descends once more with a small farm dam in the valley on the right. Before a row of pine trees follow the marker to the left and then right to where there is a marker on one of the trees. Follow this row of trees to the left along the track until there is gap in a group of low trees.Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0032

There are wine cellars down in the valley to the right and the trail is well marked here with the track twisting through the vineyards, before coming to an old concrete water tank structure and a large stone pine, where the path turns right and then left passed the farm labourers cottages. Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0043This track comes out at Middlevlei Wine Estate, which is a good place to stop for a rest, wine tasting and their regular ‘Boere Braai’ lunch (this should be booked before departure to avoid disappointment).

After leaving the farm along the paved exit road, past the large farm dam, the track leads past a small cottage and towards a smaller dam. This is a good place for a picnic lunch if hikers do not want to take advantage of the Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0046Middlevlei offerings.

The path continues between the small and large dam, just below the main farm homestead. This is not clearly marked but it is easy to pick up the track through the vineyards on the opposite side by following the track close to the dam. The track through the vineyards is clearly marked after this.

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0052Follow the track to a fenced off area surrounded by security wire, before turning right down the hill. This track is very clear and eventually comes out at the Aaldering Estate. If you are interested in wine tasting this is also a great stop, with an interesting Pinotage Blanc that is really worth tasting, among others.

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0061 After leaving the estate via the main entrance, the road passes a small dam with the path turning off over the dam wall towards some cottages. The sign showing the way is in place, but easy to miss if you are distracted. After the passing the cottages head down a paved track between a row of olive trees and the vineyards. Half way down this path is a turn off on to a track between the vineyards. There are various twist and turns but the signage is all in place and the path clear up to the end of the farm track where it leaves the vineyards.Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0064

Follow the sign to the left before passing a group of cottages, where you are likely to be greeted by friendly wave and greeting by the inhabitants and excited children. Pass by two large green water tanks and then left again on to a farm track leading behind the cottages and the farmVineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0066 buildings. Now you should be able to see the track that leads up to the fenced Protea Heights property. Shortly after this it is a back on familiar territory and you cross the vineyards back to the confusing ‘backwards / forwards’ sign and then follow the farm track to tar road and that passes the Protea Heights entrance. Pass through the two posts Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0058 the left and the return route back to the hotel follows the same track as the as the start.

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0070

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Tsitsikamma National Park hiking

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Tsitsikamma National Park, a set on Flickr.

A visit to the Tsitsikamma National Park is an essential part any Garden Route tour. It is the start of the iconic Otter Trail and the more luxury, slackpacking style alternative, the Dolphin Trail. With the Wilderness Travel group,we were staying at the Fernery, the final overnight stop on the Dolphin Trail. Starting with an easy walk, we took the opportunity to visit the 1000 year old yellowwood tree in the Tsitsikamma forest, before walking over the suspension bridge at the Storm River mouth. The next day we hiked to the waterfall on the Otter Trail. This is as far as you are allowed to walk if not part of an overnight group on this trail. It is not easy walking, with plenty of rock scrambling, boulder hopping and uneven ground. There are some sections of good path, but it cannot be rushed and takes a bit longer to do the 5 km there and back, than one would necessarilly anticipate. A ggod moring’s hike before we headed up to the Drakensberg the next day.

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Skeleton Gorge with Meridian

Skeleton Gorge and the Aquaduct – Red & Blue Disas and more

Meridian Skeleton Gorge Feb 2013_046

Red disa – Window Gorge Stream

Saturday was a perfect Cape Town day for a hike up the southern side of Table Mountain, in search of the Red disa (Disa uniflora). These magnificent flowers only show themselves towards the end of January and usually fade away around the end of February. How quickly time flies when one wants to do something like this, before you know what has happened they have disappeared for another year. This year I have been lucky to see them in two different places, Myburgh and Disa Ravine, but they are always most prolific in the Window Gorge Stream and Aquaduct areas.

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Meridian Hiking Club on Aquaduct Path

The weather was a bit cooler than it has been lately, with a little bit of cloud around to bring the temperatures down. From Cecelia Forest we headed up to the Contour Path and on to Skeleton Gorge. It was a fairly strong Meridian Hiking Club group, so the pace was reasonably good. We soon reached the top where there were a few of sort after flower hanging from the cliff face. Further down Smuts Track, at the Window Gorge stream there was a much more abundant display, with their red reflections in the water doubling the effect.

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King Protea on Nursery Ravine

Along the route we were lucky enough to spot quite a few Blue disa (Disa graminifolia) and the occasional display by the red Cluster disa (Disa ferruginea). Up in the Aquaduct there was evidence of what must have been quite a magnificent exhibition of the Red disas, but most were now past their best. There will probably still be a few around this coming weekend, but that will probably be the last opportunity of the season.

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Crossing the Aqueduct – Disas below

We continued our walk down the valley towards the reservoirs where we had our picnic lunch, before heading back through Nursery Ravine. About half-way down Nursery there is the most wonderful show of King Protea (Protea cynaroides). Even though this is not my own favourite route down (or up) the mountain, it is worth the effort just to see this.

It was good to get on to the contour path and head back for Cecelia Forest and the inevitable cold beer at the finish.

Meridian Skeleton Gorge Feb 2013

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Orangekloof, Blue and Red Disas

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Walking in the rain is ok as long as you start in the dry. Saturday was different. Karen had organised a permit for Orangekloof – limited to 12 people per day and very much in demand at this time of the year, with the Red disas in bloom. It was raining as we started – not too heavily but clearly not likely to lift any time soon. But with permits in short supply and looking like a hardy group we put on our waterproofs and set out anyway.

At the start it was not too bad, just a few drips and plenty of mist, with more moisture generated from inside the rain gear than from outside. It certainly was not cold. We had planned to do Hell’s Gate and climb up to the Woodhead Tunnel, but with the wet it was going to be too slippery, so we turned off the jeep track on to the Disa Ravine path. The idea was to get too the Woodhead Tunnel, possibly see the disas there and then on to the top of the ravine and return via the concrete road to Constantia Nek.

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Group at Woodhead Tunnel

As we got closer to the Disa Ravine path, the mist closed in, but the Blue disas decorating the path were superb. The rain got heavier but by now we were pretty wet, so decided to at least reach Woodhead Tunnel for ‘tea’. We were rewarded with a beautiful cluster of disas just above the tunnel and I was mad at myself for forgetting my newly repaired camera. I think Rodney was the only one who had actually brought real tea and we watched with envy as he poured a steaming cup.

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Blue disas in Orangekloof

There was not shelter and have achieved the initial objective of seeing the Red disas, it was a unanimous decision to return via the same path and head for the dryer lower slopes. By this time we were all fairly well soaked but as we neared the parking area the rain seemed to disappear and we started to dry out. The idea of a warm fire and a cold beer enticed Karen, Keith and myself to the Constantia Nek Restaurant, while the others headed for home. Thanks to Karen for organising the permit – always worth it in spite of the wet.

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Myburgh Ravine Red Disa Hike

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Myburgh Ravine Family Hike, a set on Flickr.

With my sister out from Canada and Lindsay about to start a new job on Friday, we decided to take the opportunity on Wednesday to hike up Myburgh Ravine to see the red disas (Disa uniflora). These beautiful flowers are only seen between the end of January and the first few weeks of February and only in few locations on Table Mountain and some of the surrounding mountains. Inevitably unless you make a plan and get out and see them, the time passes quickly and they fade and are gone before you get there.

It was a misty morning, but cool and beautiful for walking. I had not done the route for quite a while and was pleased that Peter, who had done it the week before, had decided to join us. Starting in Hout Bay we had initially planned to hike up to the point where we had already established that the disas were blooming and return the same way. Getting to the start of the ravine is an easy and pleasant walk of about an hour through high stands of proteas. The start of the ravine is shady a shady section of afro-montane forest and there is a short scramble out of the ravine at one point, to get around a rock face, before returning the main path in ravine. This was a bit more challenging than anticipated, particularly having made the mistake of bringing dogs with us.

Once past this point it is a climb up over a boulder strewn section, not difficult, but uneven and a bit of a scramble over and around the rocks. With the mist and even light rain at times, it was quite slippery in places. Suddenly we were at the point where the disas were blooming. There must have been about thirty or more blooms of the delicate red and pink flowers. Most of the party had not seen these iconic Western Cape flowers before, so it was very rewarding and well worth the effort. We spent a bit of time just enjoying the spectacle and taking the obligatory photos of flowers and family.

The earlier scramble had proved more difficult than expected and we decided rather to continue up the ravine and return over the top, past Judas Peak and down Llandudno Ravine. The walk up through the rest of the ravine, is quite spectacular, with high cliffs either side. At the top, the route out itself is not that easy, with a very steep, sandy and rather degraded path. It has to be climbed very carefully and although there is a rocky alternative, on the day this was wet and slippery and not a viable option. Once at the top it was a stunning walk through the misty surroundings before heading down the steep Llandudno Ravine. Unfortunately the mist stayed down until we got quite close to Hout Bay, so we did not see the views of the Atlantic coast that you always get from on this route. Quite a tough day for family members not used to hiking, and a few sore legs the next day.

Warning: Not a hike to be undertaken without someone who knows the way. There are some fairly challenging scrambles where a head for heights is needed. The path at the top is quite badly eroded with a steep drop below. Not a route for dogs – a mistake that we made – adding to the challenge.

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