Tag Archives: Ramble

Klapmutskop Hiking Trail – Klapmutskop

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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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Dolphin Trail – Day 3

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0128

Day 3

 The day dawned almost cloudless and any threat of rain carried over from the previous day disappeared. Marius appeared immediately we had finished our breakfast and we plunged immediately into the forest through a gate on the edge of the expanse of lawn.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0097

It did not take long to get down to sea level and the rocks below. Much of this day is spent close to the rocky shoreline with the walking varying from mostly rock hopping to sandy paths slightly higher up above the rock band. The rock formations are quite spectacular and the waves feel as if they are going to crash in to you at any moment as their energy is dissipated into the rock layers and pools behind. The blue of the sea Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0102contrasts dramatically with the green forest verge, which is only prevented from touching the waves in places, by grey-brown rock band. The layers of rocks are tilted and bent, hollowed out and shaped into wonderful formations, bearing testament to the power of the earth and sea over the millions of years.

We spotted many gulls, white breasted cormorant and black oystercatchers, out to sea however, the dolphins remained elusive. We stopped for a tea break on a flat expanse of rock, catch site of a pod passing by. We had to be satisfied with enjoying the bird life and the movement of the sea.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0155

As lunch time approached we climbed up away from the shoreline on a steep zig-zag path that took us through a sparse forest and bushy landscape up in to the bigger trees at the top. The hunger pangs from the mornings exertion were starting to gnaw, when a table appeared, set among the trees and groaning with a variety of breads, pates, cold meats, salads, fruit, juice and coffee. It did not take much invitation to tuck in.

Black oystercatchersAfter lunch the path meanders through the thick coastal forest and one realizes that without a guide and a clear path, that is would be very easy to get lost in this ‘jungle’ of trees. Eventually we emerged in to the pine plantation surrounding the Fernery. The name is derived from the main industry of growing and harvesting ferns from the surrounding forest and the more exotic varieties grown in the green house. These are destined for the cut flower markets around the world. There we were greeted by the Dolphin Trail team and after admiring the bright red flowers of the coral trees, teeming with double collared sunbirds feasting on the nectar, we were shown to our rooms.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0183 a

Set a little bit away from the plantation, the log cabins overlook a deep gorge that runs in to the sea close by. A stunning setting and a place where one could quite comfortably relax and spend a few days just enjoying the environment. There are a few short hiking paths and cycle routes around the Fernery, but we were all quite happy to settle for a cold beer and a hot shower and to relax until dinner time.

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0131The dinner that evening was nothing short of excellent. A choice of succulent fillet steak or stuffed chicken breast, preceded by starters and followed by dessert, all beautifully presented and served by cheerful attentive staff. The wine list is extensive and not overpriced. A fitting end to a wonderful walk.

The next morning we had to leave early to catch a flight from George airport, having originally dropped out vehicle at the venue and taken hotel transport to the start. The usual package allows you to leave a Bruce Bryant - WT Oct 2013_0111vehicle at Storms River and be transported back to the start on a morning drive in a 4×4 vehicle, using the old Storms River Pass road, that preceded the building of the spectacular Storms Rive Bridge. These days this road can only be driven in a 4×4 vehicle – a treat for next time.

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Dolphin Trail – Day 2

Suspension bridge accross the mouth of Storms River

After a hearty breakfast we were met by Marius, our guide for the next two days, ready to start walking by 9am. Marius is based at the Fernery and proved to be a really knowledgeable and capable guide.
The route takes you out over the board walk to the suspension bridge over the Storms River Mouth. It is a busy path with both bungalow residents and day visitors to the Park walking to the bridge for the scenic view of the river mouth. Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0057The image of a flimsy, swinging suspension bridge is dispelled on first sight of this structure, which is an engineered, substantial link made of steel and wood, anchored in concrete. Nevertheless it is flexible and rhythm of the steps of anyone walking across the bridge can be felt.

For most visitors the walk ends on the eastern bank of the river as there is a steep climb to a view point high on the cliff face above. Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0053For us on the Dolphin Trail, this is where it really begins and gives us a taste of the day to come. The path zig-zags up and from the viewing platform at the top you look down on the restaurant to the west, the river mouth and the waves below. Here we are met by a vehicle from the Fernery, with tea, coffee, juice and biscuits – ‘slackpacking’ at it’s best.

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0061From here we leave all other visitors behind, as the trail becomes a private trail for hikers on the Dolphin Trail. The trail passes along the cliff face through stands of fynbos where proteas, ericas and restios abound together with deep orange chasmanthes and bright yellow aspalatus. Suddenly we are winding down through the forest towards the shoreline, passing milkwoods, yellowwood, candlewood trees and many other species. Marius identifies many of them and explains features, flowers and legends surrounding them. There is a bit of light rain around but not enough to impact on the enjoyment, as we find a good spot next to a gurgling stream for lunch.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0073

We can see a glimpse of the path winding up the slope and disappearing high above us. It is not quite as daunting as it looks however and soon we are crossing a wooden bridge with open grass fields in front of us. This is a dairy production area and we have to cross the pastures and over a dam wall to reach Misty Mountain Resort. The boots are muddy but after stamping off the worst we are welcomed at the lodge with hot coffee and decadent looking chocolate cake.

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0089The wooden chalets are set along a boardwalk with views over the big open lawn to the coastal forest fringe and the sea beyond. Rustic, relaxing and comfortable after a great days hiking. Later we gather for pre-dinner drinks and an evening meal that was 100% improvement on the previous night, with good presentation and cheerful and friendly service.

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Dolphin Trail – Overview

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The Dolphin Trail

The Otter Trail is arguably the best known hiking trail in South Africa, with any South African who regards themselves as a hiking enthusiast having done it or planning to do it. It is however, a trail that requires a good level of fitness and hikers have to carry a full backpack for five days with food, equipment and clothing for the period.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0060

For those that prefer the less strenuous option of ‘slackpacking’, but want to experience this pristine coastline, there is the three night Dolphin Trail. The hiking, although not quite as strenuous as the Otter, is still challenging, with some steep inclines, cliff paths and rock scrambling along the coastline. The real advantage is that you are only carrying a small day pack with your warm tops, rain gear, lunch and water; the accommodation is comfortable to luxurious, the food is provided and you can get your choice of drinks in the evening. In addition to that you get a very efficient and knowledgeable guide who is able to point out details about the flora, fauna and geology of the Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0101trail that you might otherwise miss.

The first night’s accommodation is at the chalets at the Storms River Mounth in the Tsitsikamma National Park. Not luxurious, but very clean and comfortable. This is followed by Misty Mountains on the second night and The Fernery on the third. Both of the later offer luxury guest house accommodation in a rural setting with views of the coastal edge of Tsitsikamma Forest and the ocean beyond. While the evening meal at the Storm River Mouth restaurant would not rate in the gourmet category, it is reasonable and is more than compensated for by the dining experience at the other two venues. The Fernery is particularly excellent in this regard.

Description of Day 1 to follow …..Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0120

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Sept 2013

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Bloupunt Waterfall and Montagu Hiking

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Bloupunt Waterfall – Montagu, a set on Flickr.

A visit to Montagu is never complete without some hiking into the Cogmanskloof and surrounding valleys. I had the opportunity to spend a few days there while a client was enjoying the luxury of the Sanbona Private Game Reserve, so I took the opportunity to explore some of the trails and Montagu itself. I had passed through a few times and spend short periods there, but not enough to enjoy the hiking trails. Enough said, it needs a few days dedicated to hiking only, with the Cogmanskloof Trail and the Bloupunt Trail both a full days trekking. (My) photographs don’t really do justice to the overpowering cliff faces and twisted rock formations, as well as the sound of the waterfalls and continuous bird songs. I only walked as far as the waterfalls on Bloupunt Trail (3hrs return), having done a two hour walk to the ridge above the Cogmanskloof Pass (Aasvoël Trail) in the morning.

I’ll be back to make a booking for the overnight trek shortly.

Mountains, rocks and hikes – Montagu Oct 2012

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Marita & Joseph Cederberg Tour

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Marita & Joseph Cederberg Tour, a set on Flickr.

Tour to the Cederberg via the West Coast and returning through the Gydo Pass and Ceres

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Cederberg Tour with Marita & Joseph

A great four day tour, including some short walks and a trek up to the Maltese Cross. The sunset at Gecko Creek on our first evening was quite stunning and the rainbow on the second evening added to that.

On the second day, after the short hike along the Savilla Rock Art trail, the drive to Wuppertal was quite an experience with unequalled view of the Cederberg. The next day was for the longer hike up to the Maltese Cross, a visit to the historic Stadsaal and wine tasting at Cederberg Vineyards. We finished on the last day with a two hour walk through the amazing rock formations of the Lot’s Wife Trail.

More on this tour to follow.

Tour for Afruka Eco Tours: www.afrukaecotours.co.za ; info@afrukaecotours.co.za

Marita & Joseph Cederberg Oct 2012

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Lot’s Wife Trail – Cederberg

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These amazing rock formations are on the Lot’s Wife Trail, in the central Cederberg, near Dwars Rivier. On tour with Marita & Joseph, we were looking for a last, short walk before returning to Cape Town. I had bypassed this trail many times before, but always focused on the Maltese Cross & Wolfberg Cracks. It really a worthwhile diversion, as the photos show, but in reality, are even more impressive.

The trail is also very close to the Cederberg Cellars, where one can finish off the hike with wine tasting.

Tour for Afruka Eco Tours: www.afrukaecotours.co.za ; contact: info@afrukaecotours.co.za

Gallery for Lot’s Wife Trail – Cederberg:

Lot’s Wife Trail – Cederberg

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Shelley & Meier Tour Oct 2012

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Shelley & Meier Tour Oct 2012, a set on Flickr.

The first three days of the tour with Shelley and Meier Altman, from Perth, Australia.
A brilliant few days in the Cederberg, the weather was kind and we had some great hiking.

Tour organised by Afruka Eco Tours: www.afrukaecotours.co.za ; contact: info@afrukaecotours.co.za

Day 1

This was one of the most interesting and diverse tours I have done this year. It included three days in Maltese Cross, the Wolfberg Cracks and Wolfberg Arch and the Savilla Rock Art Trail, before heading down the West Coast to visit Bird Island at Lamberts Bay and finally heading home along the West Coast.

I met up with Shelley and Meier at their accommodation in Milnerton. We got off to a good early start from Cape Town and headed for the Cederberg via du Toitskloof, Slanghoek Valley, Ceres and the Gydo Pass. I had not done the southerly route before, so the Gydo Pass and the road between Op-die-berg and Matjies River Nature Reserve were new to me. That alone was a worthwhile experience as it is a most spectacular pass. The tar ends about 20 km outside Op-die-berg and it is not long before the fantastic rock formations of the Cederberg start making their presence felt. Being the end of a fairly wet winter, the stark Cederberg terrain is relieved by plenty of green patches and there are quite a few strongly flowing streams along the route. The patches of vineyards, fruit trees and olive groves in the deep valleys add to the add another dimension as the brown ribbon of road winds into the distance.

We arrived at Sanddrif a bit early for the room to be ready and decided to head off immediately to tackle the walk to the Maltese Cross, having lunch on the way. It is very easy to underestimate this walk as it is often regarded as a warm up for the longer walk through the Wolfberg Cracks to the Wolfberg Arch. It is quite deceptive and tougher than it looks as you are climbing roughly 600 meters, and the path is quite direct to the first ridge. With regular stops however and a bit of mutual encouragement we made it up the steepest section. Once on the ridge it is a bit easier going with the trek up the last section of valley to the plateaux temptingly revealing the top of the ‘Cross’ before it disappears again.

Suddenly you are on flat plateaux and the magnificent rock structure of the Maltese Cross dominates the path ahead. If you have not seen it before, nothing can prepare you for the size and uniqueness of this rock outcrop. We took a slow walk to the base, with Shelley shooting off the path to get a different angle for a photograph or seeing a special shot. If is only proper to spend some time here to appreciate the ‘Cross’ and the surrounding environment. It was also time to unpack the lunch that we had brought along and enjoy some refreshment.

The walk back is much easier and we were able to appreciate the magnificent views all the more. We were back at the car by 4p.m. and ready to head for our overnight accommodation at Sanddrif. The timing was good to get the fire going to cook some angel fish for dinner. After a long drive and great walk and the good company of Shelley and Meier it was a satisfying day, but did not take much to get to sleep once the head hit the pillow.

Gallery:

Cederberg Shelley & Meier Day 1
Cederberg Shelley & Meier Day 2
Cederberg Shelley & Meier Day 3

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Cederberg Day 1 – Maltese Cross

Cederberg Shelley & Meier Day 1

This was just day 1 of a most fantastic tour of the Cederberg and West Coast with Shelley and Meier Altman, from Perth, Australia. The tour was put together by Afruka Eco Tours and was a great combination of trekking and touring. Great hikes to the Maltese Cross and Wolfberg Arch, followed by tour to the Savilla Rock Art Trail and Lamberts Bay. More description and photos to follow.

www.afrukaecotours.co.za  : contact info@afrukaecotours.co.za

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