Tag Archives: Slackpacker

Cederberg Heritage Route – first night

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0051

From the top of the last hill, Heuningvlei can be seen in the distance.  A small picturesque settlement of white, thatched houses in the valley. As we got closer the houses disappeared behind a rocky outcrop and we walked past plantations of buchu, vegetables patches and a few fruit trees before entering the residential area. We were greeted by the friendly wave and smiling face of Riaan, who would be our local hiking guide for the next few days. Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0055The village is a combination of beautifully renovated thatched houses and dilapidated white washed homes, patched up against the elements.  Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0047 (2)A typical country scene with dogs and chickens ran around everywhere and even a sheep with two lambs that could not have been an hour or two old. As we arrived at our accommodation we were greeted with a warm friendly smile by Maria (Nosie) at Nosie’s Place. Dusty boots were kicked off outside to prevent bringing in the dirt and he traditional pot of rooibos tea was soon presented with crispy homemade real ginger biscuits – memories of my grandmother and the well controlled biscuit tin.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0050

By the time we arrived it was already after 6 p.m., so with dinner at seven we did not have too much time to spruce up. The region had been experiencing some electricity outages, so there was some concern from our hosts about the meal not being warm enough. Dinner was in the home of Izak Koopman, retired Cape Nature ranger with many years experience of the area. Hungry after the days hike we tucked in to the simple but tasty meal of fried chicken, roast potatoes, a very tasty green bean and lamb combination with fresh vegetable and salad. To finish there was an old fashioned sago pudding. Replete, we headed back to Nossie’s Place, discussing the days walking as the light faded and stars started to appear. I regretted not organizing and up to date star chart to identify the some of the unknown heavenly bodies that appear in the clear skies of the Cederberg.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0048 (2)

Leave a comment

Filed under Cedarberg, Cederberg Heritage Route, Hiking, overnight trails, Slackpacking Trails

Cederberg Heritage Route Trail

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0008 (2)

Cederberg Heritage Trail

The Cederberg Mountains start about 200 km from Cape Town, are approximately 100km from one end to the other. The Cederberg Wilderness covers an area of 710 km 2 (275 miles 2) a region known for its unusual rock formations, spectacular views, fynbos, rooibos tea and an isolation that is good for the soul. It is a hiker’s paradise, with trails covering all grades of hiking from short easy walks to strenuous overnight trail.

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0036 (2)
The Cederberg Heritage Route Trails are a group of six trails that can be walked in true Slackpacker style: your luggage is transported and meals provided – you need only carry your day pack and a guide shows you the way. This does not mean that the hiking is not challenging, but the options mean that you can choose the level that suites you. Centred in Clanwilliam, it is a community based initiative where you are guided by a local guide, with hospitality and logistical support provided by members of the local community.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0014 (2)
The Wupperthal Trail (one of the six), was long on my ‘Bucket List’ of trails and in December 2014 I had an opportunity to join a group on this route. This particular section is known for the use of donkey carts as a means of transporting luggage and hikers if they so wish.

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0040
The start and Day 1 to follow …………………

Leave a comment

Filed under Cedarberg, Hiking, overnight trails

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Route Hikes, Hiking, News, overnight trails, Slackpacker, Slackpacking Trails, Tours, Trekking South Africa, Western Cape Hiking Trails

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Route Hikes, overnight trails, Slackpacker, Slackpacking Trails, Trekking South Africa, Western Cape Hiking Trails

Dolphin Trail – Day 1 (arrival)

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0006Day 1 (arrival)

Arrival at Storms River is required by six in the evening, where you will check in, followed by a trail briefing by SANParks personnel and then dinner in the restaurant. It is strongly recommended that you arrive a bit earlier to explore some of the shorter walks around the Park, possibly even the 3 ½ km Waterfall walk, which is the start of the Otter Trail. It is a rocky walk along the coastline, that will get you in to the feel of the rocky part of the terrain that you will be covering in the next few days. If you are saving your energy, you can just relax and enjoy the environment of the camp.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0001

The restaurant complex doubles as reception area and has a superb setting with views of the waves crashing on to the rocks close by, the river mouth in the distance and the cliffs beyond. Our experience of the check in was good with the staff being friendly, enthusiastic and Bruce Bryant - WT Oct 2013_0091knowledgeable. Check in was followed by the evening meal, which made up in quantity what it lacked finesse. Service was also a bit chaotic and was probably not the best first impression of the catering for my overseas visitors. The conversation was good however and after quite a long drive and in preparation for a good days walking the next day, we retired to be fairly early – no TV, just a copy of Wild magazine next to the bed.Bruce Bryant - WT Oct 2013_0075

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Route Hikes, overnight trails, Slackpacking Trails, Tours, Trekking South Africa

Dolphin Trail – Overview

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0035

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Route Hikes, News, overnight trails, Slackpacker, Slackpacking Trails, Trekking South Africa, Western Cape Hiking Trails

Tsitsikamma National Park hiking

Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_055Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_005Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_032Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_034Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_038Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_041
Wilderness Travel Day 5 April 2013_048Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_001Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_002Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_004Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_006Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_008
Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_010Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_013Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_019Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_021Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_022Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_023
Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_025Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_026Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_028Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_032Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_063Wilderness Travel Day 6 April 2013_064

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Day Hikes, Day Trekking, Day Walks, Garden Route Hikes, Slackpacker, Slackpacking Trails, Tours, Trekking South Africa, Western Cape Hiking Trails

Myburgh Ravine Red Disa Hike

Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_002Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_005Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_008Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_015Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_006Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_021
Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_011Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_001Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_017Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_019Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_018Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_014
Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_009Myburgh Ravine Family Jan 2012_010

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Adventure, Day Hikes, Day Trekking, Day Walks, Flower Tours, News

Cogmanskloof Jan 2013

Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_048Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_008Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_036Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_037Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_040Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_041
Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_009Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_042Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_011Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_013Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_015Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_016
Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_019Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_020Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_021Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_002Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_004Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_006
Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_024Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_026Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_027Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_028Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_029Cogmanskloof Jan 2013_031

Cogmanskl Jan 2013, a set on Flickr.

I was fortunate this weekend to have a day to spare in Montagu, while my clients were enjoying the luxury facilities and game viewing at the Sanbona Private Game Reserve. I had briefly explored the first part of the Bloupunt circuit of the Cogmanskloof Hiking Trail last year. This wetted my appetite to explore further, but I did not have time to do either of the full circuits at that time. The Bloupunt Trail is over 15 km, so as I was on my own I decided to do the Cogmanskloof circuit, the shorter of the two.

The rock formation and the majesty of the mountains of the area is quite overwhelming and although I don’t recommend walking alone, the experience of being by yourself in nature is always meditational. A permit is required (R20) and you do have to sign in and let them know where you are walking. You are also provided with a map and a printout of all the emergency numbers.

There is a short walk to the overnight hut and shortly after that the path splits into the two circuits. The Cogmanskloof circuit takes you quite quickly up on to a high point on the ridge, followed by a slower uphill trek that meanders along the side of the hills, slowly climbing to a point where a short scramble takes you up to the summit. The path is well marked with yellow feet ‘markers’ and yellow arrows.

All along the way you are taken by the awesome views and the twisted rock formations and the summit provides a magnificent vista of Montagu and wave after wave of mountains in the distance. The descent is down to the Cogmanskloof River valley is quite quick, but the path is good and as long as you watch your footing it is an easy walk down. As the path turns it takes you over a low ridge and then a very steep path down in to the river valley itself. Walking in dry rivers is not my favourite part of hiking, there is quite a bit of erosion and plenty of plastic debris lying around. I found myself fighting through the reeds in places where the path disappeared and it is certainly not accessible when the river is flooded. As far as I could see there is no higher level path.

Once out of the river bed the route is surprisingly gentle back up to the ridge. I found myself wondering where I was going to find the steep climb to the top, but the map is very accurate and suddenly I was back on the ridge overlooking the valley where the trail begins. It is a very steep descent to the finish and the path here, although easy to follow, is not easy to walk. It is quite slippery with a few loose stones. With care however it is a quick trek down with finish just around the corner.

It was quite hot and I was pleased that I had taken plenty of water and that there was an occasional light breeze to cool things off.

Leave a comment

Filed under Day Hikes, Day Trekking, overnight trails, Trekking South Africa, Western Cape Hiking Trails

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Information, News, Slackpacking Trails