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Hike Reports dd July-Oct 2008
WILD COAST HOTEL HOP - Sep 2008
Reporter: Rosemary Paul

Leaders:  Mary Holland-Ramsey and Anthony Sneath

Hikers:     Denise Hopkins, Rosemary Hilton and Rosemary Paul

This was my first trip to the Wild Coast and now I know why it is so called. Us Capetonians are complacent and think only we have the magnificent views and scenery. Well I now know how wrong that is. I saw beauty and wildness that I have not witnessed before in all my years in Africa. Thank you Mary and Anthony for taking us there to see for ourselves such amazing sights. And thank you too for your kindness and consideration and the many laughs we shared during our week together

DAY 1

Denise, Rosemary and myself (the other Rosemary) flew up to East London on Sunday 21 September. Mary and Anthony met Denise and I at the airport and Rosemary was met by her family and we were transported to Haga Haga. What a bad 13km of gravel road. Nice for 4x4 owners! We were impressed with the hotel, ground floor rooms opened onto a deck and from there onto the lawn and down steps to the beach. The bad weather from the month before had wrecked havoc to the beach. In fact the whole trip presented damage everywhere. No holding back nature! Once unpacked we walked on the beach and were amazed at the pavement marks on the flat rocks. All squared off like a chess board, I think its called crenellated, but maybe I am wrong? We all opted for a pub meal dinner which was good and wholesome.

DAY 2

Next morning we were collected from the hotel by the East Coast Shuttle Kombi and driven to Mazeppa. The main road was fine and our driver very talkative and informative. But once we hit the bad gravel road it was shake rattle and roll and nobody could hear a thing. I was appalled at the poverty we passed. Some of the villages were well run some downright slums. I think I saw one bicycle on the 18km stretch of gravel. Lots of skinny cattle and dogs and people though. At the end of the 3 hour drive we were all very happy to arrive at the Mazeppa Bay Hotel. Once shown to our rooms we immediately set off for the Kob Inn where we were booked to have lunch. Our first excitement was all fitting into the small rowing boat to be ferried across the river to the Inn. We had a plain but ample meal with lovely home made bread. Then it was back to Mazeppa with a strong wind in our faces but our dinner was worth waiting for. So many courses and we ate them all!!!

DAY 3

A day I think all three of us hikers were dreading as it was a 22km hike through to Wavecrest Hotel. Good weather, which we were very grateful for. Packed lunches and porters to carry our heavy packs for us plus a guide. The porters were mostly very loud talkative ladies who were often dwarfed by the packs they carried, but always cheerful and smiling. Because of the washed away sand the beaches we walked were rather sloped so we wished we could add a couple of inches to the left leg. The views were stunning when you dared to take your eyes off where you were placing your feet. Lots of boulder patches to cross but also some nice sandy stretches. Our guide and porters were changed at the half way point. We eventually arrived at the hotel only to find the river flowing strongly. Our ferry man had a real battle to fight the current with his oars to get us across to the other side. We were very tired but exhilarated too as we had 'made it' in one piece. Once again lovely front rooms with amazing views over river, estuary and sea. Three of us went off for leg and back massages, wonderful after a long walk. Good food too and once again we went through the entire menu.

DAY 4

Another sunny day thank goodness. Off to Seagulls Hotel today and only 14km to hike. Rather windy but we made good time and only had porters, no guide. We were to stop at the Jacaranda for lunch. I pictured a lovely cliff top cafe. Was I wrong - it was a ship wreck LOL. We managed to find a place out of the wind for our lunch stop and the adventurous ones inspected what was left of the ship. We made good time to the hotel and after a shower we explored the place and then relaxed with a drink in the bar watching the sun go down. The hotel had an entertainer so we went back to the bar after dinner and listened to him playing his guitar and singing. Seagulls has just been taken over by a very enthusiastic lady who says she is soon to start renovating the place. Hurray, hope she does the bathrooms first!!!

DAY 5

Off to Morgan Bay today and weather still good for us, 12 km so a short hike! Just porters again and they took us along a very long stretch of gravel road which was not nice, terribly tiring actually. The hotel was stunning. I think the best one yet as it has been recently refurbished and was still sparkling and fresh. A family hotel with plenty of stuff for children to do. The main beach full of large rocks from recent storms and plenty of fishermen catching nothing!!! My dad used to say a fool at one end and a worm at the other when he saw a fisherman. On the whole trip we only met one man who said he had actually caught a fish, so maybe my father was right after all!!!

DAY 6

Our last day. Rather sad even though we were walking wounded by now. Rosemary H had a sore knee, Rosemary P a bad blister and Denise a wonky hip. None of us three had walked every day for so long it was catching up on us. But we were still game and hobbled on to Haga Haga, our full circle of the Wild Coast complete. We were anxious as a 65km hour gale was forecast for the arvy. So we needed to set a good pace over the 14km, which we did even though it was rather rough going in some places. Those of us interested in shells collected some beauties along the way which are not seen on our CT beaches. The gale hit about half an hour after we arrived and it was a sight to see. The people behind us weren't so lucky and had to walk into it for their last km.

See pics at::

http://trailsclub.atspace.com/wild%20coast%20hotel%20hop%20sep%202008/index.html

and

http://trailsclub.atspace.com/Wild%20Coast%20Hotel%20Hop%2022-26%20Sep%202008/index.html


Alexandria Trail & Hogsback (Eastern Cape) : 5-13 July 2008
Leader: Mervyn Henderson

Participants: Marie-Paule Henshall-Howard, Gesine Pasche, Carol Coetzee, Gudrun Oberprieler, Julie Ward, Robin & Victoria Cooper and Deborah Shearing-Cooper

We left Cape Town the week of the floods, loading the trailer from under an umbrella. Once over the mountains, the weather improved dramatically and we saw no more rain except for a light overnight shower after the Alexandria Trail.

Part of the journey involved a coffee shop crawl and the much talked about sweet potato cake at the Tsitsikamma Restaurant, and the wonderful delights and roosterkoek of Nanaga farm stall and café.

Harkerville overnight ended in a 4 am awakening as the cyclists arose for their cross country race. Gudrun earned her snorers stripes on this night and was isolated for the rest of the trip, often to the best single quarters.

The Alexandria Trail is a tale of contrasts, from forest to farmland pastures, to pristine shore and dunes, next best to Sousosvlei. The gasp of wonder at our first sighting of the dune field was noteworthy. Climbing the dunes led to faster gasps of a different kind! Ascending from the beach to the top of the dune was our first challenge. This entailed a C grade climb, with full pack, to hoist ourselves along the rope and up the ladder by whichever undignified means worked for one. The view from the top was a wonderful excuse to collapse in the sand and catch up with yourself. The grandstand view from the deck of the hut made a very pleasurable sundowner evening!

The start of the second day was tough as we had to haul ourselves over the first dune using a rope. On top we had to negotiate the due field where the way was vague with few markers in sight. Robin thought he knew a better way through the bushes and persevered for some time, eventually turning back to the dunes with his legs cut to pieces by the dead bushes.

It as a 'Lawrence-of-Arabia' experience not to be missed. A photographer's paradise presented itself with wonderful curving dunes with ripples in the sand and miniature plants, undulations and abstract combinations. A tiny lone figure wandered in the distance.

The long trudge back through the dune forest was punctuated by exciting bird watching opportunities. However, viewpoints were lacking and made it a reward less climb to the top of the hill. The temperature plummeted at lunch, but the rain only arrived that evening. We were very grateful for the idealic weather we had for crossing the dune field.

Trans locating to Hogsback via Salim was very scenic. Hogsback seemed to have collapsed into an uncooperative winter slumber and nothing complementary can be said. However, we made it a joyful experience of hikes and good cuisine. The highlights were hiking to Tor Doone via Fort Michell, the Madonna and child waterfall and the frozen landscapes in the early morning.

The return journey was highlighted by Mervyn nearly flattening a pig that ran across the road just outside of Fort Beaufort, and the wonderful scenery on the Overberg with tongues of  mist spread over the land. Distant snow on the mountains with yellow canola fields completed the picture!

Reporters: Mervyn, Marie-Paule, Carol and Gesine

Click to see the pics!


Cross the peninsula from Simonstown to Slangkop on the new section of the Hoerikwaggo Trail.

Karen Watkins

The Hoerikwaggo is set to become the iconic trail of not only South Africa but the continent when it is completed in two years' time. On Monday September 1 bookings open for the latest section of what will be the third day of the Tip to Top trail, from Cape Point to Cape Town.

When complete, the five-night, six-day trail will follow the spine of the Peninsula within the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).

This new section of the Hoerikwaggo is the easiest and, coincidentally, falls mid-way offering a more relaxing day.

From Red Hill, above Simon's Town, the path is flat and sandy with views behind of what will be the previous days' hike, crossing peaks from the old forest station at Smitswinkelbaai.

Reaching Kleinplaas dam, beneath Grootkop, the path follows the northern edge of the dam through pristine fynbos. From here the path has been purpose-built for the trail and is testament to the skill of path-builders who come from informal settlements surrounding TMNP.

The path dips into Bokramspruit before contouring the mountain above Ocean View with the next days' hike unfolding. Following Noordhoek beach, hikers pass the remains of the Kakapo before climbing another section of purpose-built footpath on Chapman's Peak. After lunch, there is another ascent towards Noordhoek Peak before joining the Amphitheatre Path above Silvermine reservoir and the final stretch to the tented camp at Silvermine.

Back on our path, we gently descended to cross Slangkop Road to what must have been an old farm, marked by graves.

The ascent to Cobra Camp, a disused radar station in World War 2, passes through pristine fynbos.

At the highest point, hikers look down onto Kommetjie, where they try to make out the Slangkop tented camp, almost hidden in vegetation.

The path zigzags to the road before passing through dense milkwoods and reaching a boardwalk, crossing a wetland next to the beach and below the lighthouse, built in 1914 and at 134 feet, the tallest in the country.

Entrance to the tented camp is from the beach, following boardwalks and embracing the philosophy of "touching the earth lightly", conveying the principle of the relationship between man and the earth.

All structures are hidden in dense undergrowth which will eventually cover the entire camp, including the surrounding fence (electrified to keep out thieves and baboons).

As with the other camps, the site is a celebration of wood in its colour, grain and glory, expertly crafted to fit together.

Each tented camp has a theme and at Slangkop it is the sea, with whale bones used as light fittings and over tent entrances, as well as information boards explaining sea themes and the surfing history of the coastline.

At Silvermine, the theme is mountain fynbos, marked by plants in the wooden and rock walls of the lapa and outside the tents, while Orange Kloof is almost concealed in afromontane forest.

Next to the lapa area at Slangkop, a dead tree has become a feature with a toilet being built around it. The domed tents are named after things hikers are likely to see in the area: Galjoen, Southern Right whale, Black Oyster Catcher, Milkwood, Cape Clawless Otter and Cape Cobra.

After a hot shower hikers can enjoy a braai in the lapa and then fall asleep to the oceans' rhythm and the reassuring flash of the lighthouse.

After a restful night on thick mattresses, woken to bird chorus, follow the coastline on day four of what will surely become another Otter Trail of SA.

For Capetonians, there is no longer the need to travel for hours to escape the rat-race, and with the high price of petrol. The luxurious 'slackpacker' Hoerikwaggo is on our doorstep, sleeping on thick mattresses with fully equipped kitchen, braai wood and facilities, guide and porterage.

For more information and to book visit: www.hoerikwaggotrails.com or call 021 465 8515/9 or email: hoerikwaggobookings@sanparks.org

DETAILS: The trail is professionally guided and portered with hot showers and self-catering in a fully equipped kitchen with gas cookers, fridges and braai facilities.

For more information visit http://www.hoerikwaggotrails.co.za, for Wild Card visit  www.wildinafrica.com

For previous hikes written by Karen, go to http://www.uncoverthecape.co.za

TIP: Call now because, although the trail is not officially open, bookings have been made.

Hike Reports from Yvonne Hiscock
July - Oct 2008

PORCUPINE RAVINE: 20 JULY 2008

Every couple of years, Tommy leads this one, the last time being a year after my hip job. It’s still as awesome as ever, with views almost to Oz. The upward haul no longer bothers me, the trick being pace, pace, pace and with this leader, I can call the shots! Our “fast four” pushed ahead, and then patiently waited on each saddle, so everyone was happy. The path on the summit is always under water, but more so this year after all our recent rains, but no one fell in the mud nor complained, hey, the sun was shining!  A hop and a skip down KP and another wonderful hike under our boots.

See the pics @  http://mareas.atspace.com/Trails%20Club%20Hikes.html

KOGELBERG: 24 AUG 2008

We had never done this one before, but being one of Mervyn’s last hikes in sunny SA, we definitely had to join him. There are just not enough adjectives to describe this great hike. The terrain, views, fynbos accompanied by chilly but invigorating weather. One we’ll certainly do again, perhaps spending a couple of nights in the reserve bungalows and exploring more of the area – all and more 1 hour from Cape Town. We shall miss you tremendously Mervyn, but you’ve introduced us to all these magnificent country hikes which no doubt other Club leaders will continue in the future, while thinking of you “down under” in the hot sandy desert. Totsiens & good luck till January.

SMITWINKELSBAY/SIMONSTOWN: 21 SEP 2008

I quivered and quaked in my hiking boots at the thought of doing this beautiful blighter, but we thought we’d support Conrad as it was to be Mervyn’s very last hike with us.  But, everything changed, neither of the previously mentioned gentlemen could make it (C – swollen knee, M. plain busy).   So Tony stepped in as leader (also nursing a sore knee) and opted to start at the Smitwb.end which got me even more anxious!  As it turned out, it was the better, easier choice up. There were only 4 of us (Tony, Margarethe, Tommy & I) and oh how we ambled up, with lovely rock scrambles for good measure, ticking off the meters on Tony’s pedometer as we went.  No stress, high blood pressure, palpitations, just sheer pleasure. I kept saying over and over “so glad we came”. There are very gentle ups and downs at the top from where we could look across to the snow capped peaks of the Boland Mts., Hangklip and as far as Gansbaai.  An incredible sight was looking DOWN upon a jet performing at the Ysterplaat air show (but had forgotten to brake!).  Again a perfect pace and weather. Thanks Tony. This one could be tackled annually, and everyone within my range of unfitness could manage – at that PACE.

BOSS 400 - 12 OCT 2008

The path on this route  has vastly improved since last time thanks to the unsung silent heroes, the hackers. Thanks guys. The spring flora was colourful and varied and I always think of this area as a mini Otter Trail. One hugs the coast, yet still goes in and out of the indigenous Milkwood and other tree tunnels. The old barge is still there but for how long? A couple of workers aboard were slowly dismantling the rusty scrap, but we reckon not in our life-time! Do all join us in a few years time to check on their progress. Thanks to Anthony, Mary, Tony, Alison and Tommy for another great hiking day. We finished off at the Look-Out Restaurant in Hout Bay Harbour for refreshments while watching the unhealthy yuppies devour prawns, linefish, steaks, pizzas, etc. Absolutely disgusting!!!!       

Arniston, Skipskop and ander skop: 17 Oct 2008
Reporter: Peter Phillips

Even if this was a non-hiking weekend, it was still exhausting.

   

On Saturday morning we amalgamated at the Overberg Test Range run by Denel and were ushered into buses built for amputees, people with no legs. We first visited the control centre and were shown the consoles behind which the Denel staff directed operations tracking jet aircraft from the local airforce base testing missiles and keeping a check on shipping out at sea using radar in case they wandered too close to the testing area. They showed us an explosive video of what damage their missiles could do and explained that they operated strictly to ecological and environmental standards. What they destroyed they rehabilitated or recycled. After the missile testing demonstration we felt well informed and felt safer in the reserve than on the N2.


We saw different species of buck and ostrich throughout the journey. The ostriches were magnificent in flight and matched the busses for speed. We stopped for a refreshment break opposite the De Hoop Nature Reserve near De Mond and at lunch time stopped at Skipskop (Skepskop to rugby followers), an abandoned settlement of houses where fisher folk lived, some with thatched roofs. These houses were abandoned about 30 years ago when Denel came into being. A huge marquee tent was erected for our comfort containing tables and chairs and lit braais for those who couldn't see their feet from a vertical position. Entertainment was in the form of kontrei musiek or sakkie-sakkie boeredans. All the more reason for a long walk along the beach. There was a fishtrap down below at the water's edge built with little rocks and sand which had been there for many decades to trap fish when the tide ran out. Fishing rods I take it hadn't been invented then. We stopped at another abandoned seaside resort with only one derelict cottage in evidence and had another stroll along the coastline. This cottage, now with a sunroof, was built extremely close to the beach and in fact was already beginning to disappear under a sand dune. One could walk up the sand dune and onto what was left of the roof.

  

On Sunday we (7 of us) visited Kassiesbaai, the old fisherman's quarter of  Arniston or Waenhuiskrans well known for their limewashed cottages with thatched roofs and had some coffee at a local coffee shop while waiting for the tide to go out before going to visit the Waenhuiskrans cave. At the little coffeeshop, we watched a 9 year old boy giving a ride to three 6 year olds on a quad bike. There was no speed limit and the pilot opened throttle threatening to lift the vehicle (a ground to air missile) off the ground.


We had lunch in the Waenhuiskrans cave and then visited the ship-wreck museum in Bredasdorp before driving to Napier for pancakes and coffee at a very nice farmstall run by an extremely friendly hostess. Our official club press agent then proceeded to take photos of the farm stall from every angle almost causing traffic on the main road to come to a standstill. We were given permission to act as extras but one of us had to remove our vehicle from the filmset as it gave the farmstall a scrapyard look.

      

Thanks to Maré and others for organising this weekend and we look forward to many more such excursions.

See the pics @  http://mareas.atspace.com/Trails%20Club%20Hikes.html


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