Category Archives: Information

I Drink Beer, Dammit

I Drink Beer, Dammit.

I’m a bit of a craft beer person myself, but not all craft beer is good beer. I can tell you that there is nothing like a good beer after a day hiking in the mountains. On most of our ‘slackpacking’ trails we will make sure there is a ‘cold one’ at the end of the day, if that is your preference. It will usually be ‘Big Beer’ but if there is a local craft beer available we will try to source it.

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Simonstown to Smitswinkel section of Hoerikwaggo Trail

By no means the longest or the toughest section of the trail, nevertheless it is a good five to six hour walk with an uphill pull at the beginning and a steep downhill at the end. A word of warning, although the path is good on the descent to Smitswinkel, there is some easy down hill scrambling (hands need to be used) and there is some mild exposure on a narrow ridge, that may be challenging for those who suffer from severe vertigo. There are no ledges or cliff faces however.

Hoerikwaggo – Simonstown to Smitswinkel April 2011

It was a cool day with a slight breeze, ideal for hiking. Looking up from the start, the ascent to the top of Swartkop looks steep, but the zig zag path up from the mule track to the Blockhouse, makes the going reasonably easy. The path is good, although overgrown by stands of magnificent proteas in places. It is a bit steeper from the Blockhouse Gap (437m) to the highest point of the peak (678m). This was a good place to stop for tea, in a sheltered spot slightly down from the ridge.
The views from the top are quite stunning, overlooking Simon’s Town and False Bay on the one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. From the top there is a fairly sudden descent into the valley below and you can see the path stretch up on the other side. The path is clear and although it is steep, it is a reasonably easy walk, follow by a long slow trek up the other side. The views are changing constantly and the flora is wonderful, with some outstanding examples of both pink and white King Protea and plenty of sunbirds and sugarbirds around on the day.
The path undulates up and down until the final short plateau provides a vista over the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and beautiful view all the way to Cape Point. Just after this you start the very steep descent down to Smitswinkel Bay. The wind had come up a bit at this stage but we were able to find a sheltered spot to sit and admire the view and enjoy our lunch.

Hoerikwaggo – Smitswinkel to Simonstown

The path is good all the way down, although overgrown with proteas in places. You need to be careful as there are some places where you need to use both hands and feet. We took it fairly slowly and I was lucky to spot a Table Mountain Beauty butterfly that sat still just long enough for me to photograph. At the bottom there is a stand of huge protea bushes and the presence of the long tailed sugarbirds was particularly noticeable. The path ends at the superb Smitswinkel Bay tented camp. Although we were not staying overnight on this occasion it is certainly the most luxuriously appointed of the camps and well worth a visit.

For guided Table Mountain day hikes and overnight trails contact Frank: frank@slackpackersa.co.za

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World Cup Safaris and Tours with Afruka Eco Tours

With the World Cup Soccer come and gone it is good to record some of the activities, sites and scenes that we were able to offer our visitors in addition to the soccer. The overwhelming comments from the people that I came into contact with were the amazement at the diversity of the tourism product that South Africa has to offer, including game safaris, wine tours and tasting, whale watching, fantastic scenery and more. Although hiking is my particular focus, not many of our clients have made the time for this, this time around and most were not sure what to expect. I was fortunate to in being able to host visitors from Brazil, Mexico, U.S.A, England, Canada, Russia and France over the four week period and I am sure many will be back to experience this and more of what we have to offer. I have put together an album of some of the tours, the sites and the people, including a few of the Cape Town games, the Fan Walk and more. Afruka Eco Tours

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The greater flamingoes – Cape Town bird tour

What amazingly beautiful birds. These flamingoes were one of the many species we saw during a tour of the settling ponds adjacent to Baden Powell Drive on False Bay. The walking tour of Rondevlei was equally rewarding in spite of the rain. Thanks to Mariana of Cape Eco Tours for her knowledgeable guidance.

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Walking in Constantia – sensational wine walk route explored.

Another stunning wine walk

This was not planned as a walk in the Winelands, but when you look at the views from high above the Constantia Valley and the experience wine tasting at Groot Constantia at the end, this has to rate up there with the best in the world.

Saturday was a stunning early winters day in Cape Town, ideal hiking weather. This, plus the planned route up to Vlakkenberg Peak and the end point in Groot Constantia attracted a big group of Meridian Hiking Club members, plus visitors from Germany (Thomas & Katrina) and the USA (Trika & Kim). The short trek up from Constantia Nek up to Vlakkenberg Nek needs a bit of effort but once into the natural fynbos vegetation higher up the slope it is a real pleasure. The sound of grassbirds, sunbirds and sugarbirds is endless. After the rain and mist of the previous two days, the birds were ready for a bit of sun. Less than an hour up to Vlakkenberg Nek and the one of the three rocky peaks for a tea break and the view overlooking Hout Bay – what a treat. There is a bit of scrambling up there for the more adventurous, but you need to know where to go.

Back to the main path to join the route to Vlakkenberg Peak and the traditional group photocall. The fairly level section from there to join the path down Vlakkenberg Ridge has some stunning Proteas and a display of flowers & fynbos. The real treat (and surprise for those who have not done this route before) is the view over the Constantia wine farms from the top and forest of Silvertrees on the way down. It is a fairly steep path down, a bit tough on the knees but firm underfoot and well maintained. Once in the Silvertree forest it is a real pleasure. Back into Groot Constantia it is short walk past the historic swimming pool and on to Simon’s Restaurant for a drink and a snack. Wine tasting is available and a cellar tour is an option. For those with an interest in history there is an excellent museum in the old manor house.

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Skydive Cape Town 2 http://bit.ly/9GL07p

This set was taken from the air. Amazing sequence showing the complete high and enjoyment. Scary for most but if you are up to it, it must be amazing. Just 30 minutes from Cape Town.

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Skydive Cape Town http://bit.ly/9GL07p

The heart beats a bit faster when you see this little dot falling from an aeroplane and you know that it is your own son of 26 years. It falls for what seems an eternity and then slowly above him the chute billows out and as you become sure that it has opened fully you let out a sigh of relief and then watch as they descend slowly to earth. This was Malcolms birthday gift from his sister. Not sure whether it proves that she really loves him or not – but judging from the next set of picture taken in the sky, he was on a high.

Once he had landed it made me feel that I want to do it as well – definitely some day.

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Boesmanskloof Hiking Trail (Greyton-McGregor)

Greyton-McGregor Hiking Trail

The Boesmanskloof Trail winds through the only gap in the rugged Riviersonderend mountain range. It is in the Robertson Karoo region of the south-western Cape. The trail links the small towns of McGregor in the north to Greyton in the south. It has become on of the most popular trails in the Western Cape, especially as the beautiful colonial-style town of Greyton lies at the one end.
The length of the trail is approximately 15,8 km and may be hiked within one day. It can be started from either McGregor or Greyton . While the trail lies just outside Greyton , it only commences 14 km to the south of McGregor at Die Galg .
Hikers may often choose to walk the trail there and back (a total of 28 km) and overnight in either of the two towns. Another delightful option is to
begin the trail at McGregor and walk to Greyton
McGregor(Onverwacht Flora Accommodation)

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Platteklip Gorge – the classic route to the top of Table Mountain.

This is the only route that is recommended for groups not wanting to employ a qualified mountain guide. Warning: Individuals – never hike alone – even on this route, use a guide or find someone to walk with. All other routes should be led by someone who knows the route and knows the mountain. (See Safety)

The way up

Platteklip Gorge is certainly the most popular hiking route to the top of Table Mountain – sometimes known as the ‘N1’ highway to the top. The term Platteklip means ‘flat rock’ and is named for the smooth flat rocks that are found in the lower part of the gorge. It is also thought that there was one particular area of flat rock further down the Gorge where in times gone by slaves and servants used to come to do washing for their masters and employers.

The reason for its popularity is not hard to understand – it is the most obvious and clear way up the mountain, with a path that is very easy to follow. On a busy day you’re likely to meet a wide range of people, from local families and youth groups on a day outing, to international tourists, determined to be able to say ‘I climbed Table Mountain!’. There are local fitness fanatics who treat the route as a running track to the top, as well as those who plod up slowly, stopping often to admire the views. It is not unusual to hear as many as ten different languages on your way up or down. You’re also likely to interact with the full spectrum of colourful South Africans. Perhaps the ‘social highway’ to the top would be a better description. People are friendly and ready to greet – they offer encouragement, curse the steepness of ascent on their way up and cheerfully tell you how far to the top on their way down.

Although the path is clear, the climb is steep. There is no getting away from the fact that you have to get from 350 metres above sea level (on Tafelberg Rd.) to 1 020 metres at the top – a climb of just less than 700 metres, from the start, to the cairn at the top – your indication that you have made it.

A closer look

On a hot day it may seem longer and steeper (temperatures can get up over 35 degrees C in Cape Town), on a cold and misty day it may be damp and slippery. It is also true that what can start out as a fine warm day can turn into a cold and rainy day very quickly – and the other way around. Cape Town weather is unpredictable and the weather on the mountain even more so.

The route is also not all easy going, with some rough and rocky sections where you will need to watch your footing. You should have good walking shoes or boots and a hiking pole helps. Start early, particularly in hot weather. Take plenty of water, sun block and a hat. The temperature is always a few degrees colder at the top, so take a warm jacket with you in a day pack, together with your water, food and a few energy snacks for the route. Don’t go in wet weather unless you are with an experienced group or a guide who knows the mountain – even clear paths can be dangerous in these conditions.

About half way

Many people take this route because you can walk up and take a cable car ride down. A word of caution – weather conditions can change quickly and may stop the cable car from running: you could have to walk down again. Wind conditions at the top are not always the same as those at the bottom – check weather conditions before you go. Light rain or mist will not normally stop the cable car operation but windy or very wet conditions will.

 If you are not sure, arrange for a mountain guide to accompany you. A guide can also add interest to your walk; history, people, stories, geological features, local flora and much, much more.

Route summary.

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A Safari close to Cape Town

Safari close to Cape Town

This one calls for an early start. The Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve is situated a 230 km drive from Cape Town, on the edge of the semi-desert Karoo. The route includes some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the Western Cape, winding past towering peaks, through vineyard covered valleys and over passes originally constructed over 150 years ago, breaching the barrier to the hinterland. The clear morning air highlights the crags and crevices, giving them a daunting and impregnable presence.

After leaving Ceres, the tar road ends, replaced with a good gravel surface as the hills fall behind. The drier, flatter scrubland stretches out ahead. The turnoff to the reserve appears suddenly and within minutes you are being welcomed by enthusiastic staff, clearly ready to make sure you have a good experience. It may be a good idea to pack a costume as quick dip in the sparkling pool might be welcome after the hot drive. Breakfast is served on the buffet, with Cape Bunting and Cape Canary hovering in the trees behind, ready to peck on the muesli, toast, croissants and fruit on the table as soon as there is no one to chase them away.

Soon after breakfast, the game drive vehicles depart. The rangers have already done an early morning drive and have a good idea of where the game can be seen. First stop is the cheetah enclosure – part of the reserves cheetah breading program (read more http://bit.ly/4NtQ4b). It is difficult to believe that these beautiful, but lazy looking cats can accelerate up to 120 km per hour in less than 60 seconds.

There is open scrubland and bush, herds of eland and springbok are plentiful. More elusive on the day are other antelope such as the blesbok, red lachwe, kudu and impala. The ranger tells excitedly of a leopard kill nearby, obviously made the night before . Unfortunate for the zebra, but this is good as the threatened cape mountain leopard are indigenous to the area and it a step towards restoring the natural balance.

In the shadows of the bush the striped shape of a zebra appears, sheltering from the harsh sun. As the vehicle moves closer the herd materializes and then moves off, deeper into the bush. The rhino teases with views of tracks, but they are hiding in there somewhere. Blesbok, buffalo and black wildebeest show themselves at the water point and one of the hippo shows it’s head above the water before disappearing with a mouth full of something growing on the surface. A few minutes later the dark outline reappears for the next mouthful.

The elegant giraffe poke their heads above the trees and two walk arrogantly across the open veld in front of the vehicle, before breaking into a slow gallop to join the rest of the herd. On to the lion enclosure, where three lion, rescued from a ‘canned lion hunting’ facility (now illegal), spend their days at leisure. Having been born and reared in captivity these lion can never be released back on to the wild.

Back to the lodge for lunch – laid out under the trees. This feels fairly colonial, with attentive staff and colorful table settings. The lunch is simple but tasty, chicken casserole with fresh salads and fruit salad for dessert – an excellent finish to good morning. There is time to relax and have a quick dip in the pool before heading back to Cape Town.

Of course there is the option of staying overnight and doing an evening and morning game drive. 

See itinerary details Cape Town – Day Game Safari

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