We had heard from many that Cape Town was a beautiful city. In order to satisfy our desire to be outdoors, we decided to explore the area on foot by embarking on a five-day four-night trek. This was a fantastic and memorable experience! It was wonderful to see such a beautiful part of the world from varying altitudes and spend time together simply walking and talking.
Overall the trail was well marked. During some sections there was ample signage and at other times additional signs would have made navigation much easier. The four park maps that we purchased were very useful during our trek. It was not as if we could ask others for suggestions, as we were the only overnight hikers that we saw the entire time.
Along the way we stayed in the four different tented camps provided by South African National Parks. They were all terrific accommodations with canvas tents, fully stocked kitchens, toilets, hot showers, and boardwalks. There was also an effort to protect the environment with vegetation restoration, solar power, biodegradable soap, use of natural light and careful use of natural resources. A host was there to greet us each afternoon when we arrived. Surprisingly, all four nights we were the only ones staying at the tented camps. (Before and after the trek we stayed at a beautiful B&B, Parker’s Cottage)
In terms of food, we relied on dehydrated food packs with extra rice for our dinners. We purchased these from a camping store in Gabs beforehand. We had to plan our meals carefully as we needed to carry all of our food. We ate oatmeal and fruit for breakfast and buns with nutella for lunches. Almonds, dried fruit and granola bars served as good snacks in between meals. After Day 2 we were able to stop at a small grocery story to replenish a few basic items.
Considering we hadn’t completed a mulit-day hike in over a year, we were a little worried about hiking fitness levels. The gradual increase in difficulty helped our body adjust to the demanding use of leg muscles and the sore hips and shoulders that come from wearing a large backpack. Our feet were sore after the first day, but the Merrell barefoot shoes held their own during the hike. Extra ankle support from our hiking boots would have been helpful at times but we did appreciate the light weight and comfort of the shoes. We left our poles behind in Ottawa and these also may have come in handy during the trek.
We had great weather in general! We really appreciated the many hours of sunlight so that we could enjoy the terrific coastal views. At times, however, it was very windy. Day three was especially difficult as we had to complete two tough climbs in extreme winds (we had to use our entire bodies to fight against the sideways winds and gravity as we climbed). Day five it rained a little and the low cloud cover made navigating the top of Table Mountain challenging. Despite the cooler than expected weather, we were quite content with the clothing and gear that we we brought and we were able to handle all the elements well. The terrific pictures Andy took will definitely show what nice weather and scenery we enjoyed. You can also read his post here.
Day 1 – Friday, Sept 30, 2011
Cape Point Lighthouse to Smitswinkle Tented Camp
15 km – Easy – 7 hours
– before hiking we walked up to the old lighthouse where we could look down on the most southerly and southwesterly points in Africa
– we saw ostrich, whales (likely Southern Right Whales), baboons, tortoise, ibises (loud birds in trees), antelope
Day 2 – Saturday, Oct 1, 2011
Red Hill to Kommetjie
12 km (wrong turn!) – Easy – 5 hours
– Drove to Red Hill from Switswinkel camp as there is no trail open yet in between (pre-arranged with driver Chris)
– our tented camp was close to Skangkop lighthouse and boardwalk with ocean views. We were less than 100 m from ocean!
Day 3 – Sunday, Oct 2, 2011
Kommetjie to Silvermine
21 km – Tough – 8.5 hours
– ridiculously windy all day!
– trail started along Kommetjie and Noordhoek beaches for first 2 hours.
– at the end if the beach we couldn’t find the trail to start ascending Chapman’s Peak. After being halted by private property signs and path closures, a lovely woman with two dogs agreed to take us up to the main road where the main ascent started.
– steep and windy climb up Chapman’s Peak with 360 views
Day 4 – Monday, Oct 3, 2011
Silvermine to Orange Kloof
15 km – Tough – 7 hours
– clear skies, bright sun, and little wind provided us the opportunity to really enjoy the views of the bays and mountains.
– the fairly flat multiple ridge walks provided some needed relief for our legs and feet (although the final downhill towards camp was difficult).
Day 5 – Tuesday, Oct 4, 2011
Orange Kloof to Table Mountain (upper cable car station)
9 km – Medium – 4.5 hours
– nice hiking through forest and gorge
– we felt lost at one point before the last big ascent as it was hard to tell where we were with the clouds and fog
– we needed to use ladders during final climb up to the Western Table
– we ended the trail at upper cable car, which saved us hiking down another 90 mins of killer downhill
– it is not as flat up top as Table Mountain would seem from below
– for lunch we had warm food at Table Mountain cafe and a latte!
UPDATE: We have also decided to release the full unedited details of the trek (the notes we took each night). Anyone who is interested in more details can find them here.