In Your Stride
By Fiona McIntosh
The sheer cliffs of Kasteels Buttress glow in the late, golden light. Below me the sun glints off the Camps Bay houses. I’m at one of my favourite viewpoints in the whole world. The ruin of the old cableway on Postern Buttress was used to carry passengers and supplies during the construction of the Woodhead Reservoir in 1893.
Having hiked up Oudekraal Ravine and along the 12 Apostles Path, I’ll now descend Kasteelspoort, take in the sunset from Breakfast Rock and be back home in half an hour.
Living on its slopes, I hike Table Mountain most days. It’s my gym, the place that I find inspiration. I sling my head torch round my neck and start down. Long-tailed Cape sugarbirds are still extracting nectar from the bright yellow flowerheads of Protea nitida that line the track down to the trailhead on Theresa Avenue. The sky is streaked with pink and the head torches of hikers on Lion’s Head look like fairy lights. The only noise is the twittering birds and the sound of the sea. It’s magical.
Part of the Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site, Table Mountain National Park is one of the New Seven Wonders of the Natural World. It stretches some 60km from the city centre to Cape Point. The mountain is very special to both visitors and locals, many of whom follow its contour paths to and from work in the city.
The Slingsbys, who produced their first Table Mountain map in 1973 and are now on the 12th edition, estimate that the park has over 400km of trails. The highest density of footpaths of any park or reserve in South Africa. There is a conservation fee payable (free with a Wild Card) to access the spectacular trails of the Silvermine (R40 adults, R20 child aged 2–11) and Cape of Good Hope sections (R125/R65), but at numerous entry points hiking is free and easy.
The network of footpaths changes constantly as the park acquires new land and carries out maintenance. The development of the Hoerikwaggo Trail in the last decade was a major undertaking, which involved the construction of kilometres of new path to link older paths, which were upgraded at the same time. By employing over 420 unemployed people from townships around the peninsula and on the Cape Flats, the project also had a far-reaching social benefit in accordance with the ethos of “building paths, building people”.
Nowhere else in the world is there an urban park with a kilometre-high mountain as its focal point. Inevitably there are safety issues, the trails are rugged and the weather can change quickly, resulting in unprepared hikers getting into trouble, particularly if the cable car closes.
“I was struck by the amount of time rangers spend carrying people with sprained ankles down the mountain,” commented Lesley-Ann Meyer when she was appointed park manager in July 2016. “So we’re looking into new technology that will improve safety and enhance the tourist experience. Perhaps a code that you scan at access points like Platteklip Gorge that will translate important information such as the need to wear suitable footwear and carry sufficient water for your chosen hike.”
Spend the night
Looking to escape the city? These are some of our favourite multi-day hikes in Table Mountain National Park.
1. The Hoerikwaggo Trail offers tented camps at Orangekloof, Slangkop and Smitswinkel.
2. Hike up from Kirstenbosch, Constantia Nek or Camps Bay to the luxurious Overseers Mountain Cottage and sleep under a star-studded sky.
3. The Cape of Good Hope trail is another gem. Over two days you hike over mountains, along the beach and through pristine fynbos, often spying eland, bontebok, zebra and ostrich and constantly thrilled by spectacular views. “An hour from the city of Cape Town, this should be on all hikers’ bucket lists, yet it’s seldom booked out,” says Saskia Marlowe, Hospitality Services Manager of Table Mountain National Park.
Contact: Hoerikwaggo Trail 021-712-7471, SANParks Central Reservations 012-428-9111 www.sanparks.org
Source: Wild Magazine