Saturday, January 3, 2009

Table Mountain Hike: the walk

We walked from Kirstenbosch, one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, up Skeleton Gorge, along Smuts Track to the Aqueduct, took a left to follow it down what is called on the map the Furrow, but which deserves a more scenic name, down between the Hely-Hutchinson and Woodhead Reservoirs,back round past the Victoria and Albert reservoirs on the Jeep Track, and into Cecilia Plantation to walk back to Kirstenbosch.

The whole thing took a little over six hours with many stops for panting (me), up Skeleton Gorge, photographs and a picnic at my favourite little mossy, sweet water waterfall.

The view from - almost - the top of Skeleton Gorge, just as one emerges from the indigenous kloof forest and sees what has been achieved after the long, shaded slog. Last year in late January we had already seen three disas at this point and this year I found the plants again but it is too early. They have buds, though, and in two weeks will be open.

Below. We were entertained and incredulous again at the complete lack of preparation made by some walkers encountered. The girl in the middle was making it down with slippery flip flops, but she didn't beat last year's blonde in high heels.

The guys surrounding her were resting, one with cramps, not having realized that Skeleteon Gorge goes straight up. They were headed for the Cable Station, without a map, and were under the impression that the mountain is flat at the top. It is not. We found them again at the top of the Gorge, asking how much longer it was and how difficult. I tried to persuade them to go back down Nursery Ravine, an easier walk than the way we'd come up, as two of them were very tired already and had a long way to go. The cable station had in fact been closed early due to wind (news given by other hikers, returning) so they were now planning to walk down Platteklip Gorge on the front face of the mountain. I'd like to know how they fared.

Boring Lecture, if you are reading this and are planning a hike on the tame mountain:

take a map
take water
take a warm/waterproof jacket: the weather at the top is not like the weather at the bottom.
take a high energy snack - local biltong and dried fruit are perfect!
Boring and oft-repeated cautionary tale: Table Mountain claims more lives than Everest.

Above, looking over Cape Town towards False Bay and the mountains to the East, SE.

The path taken. This leads to a sweet little wooden bridge which is perfect for breakfast if you are early. Or lunch if you are late - but we were pressing on a little. It crosses a pool and stream of typical Cape Coca Cola or tea water...something Vince is still uncertain about, coming from his turquoise British Columbian cataracts.

The aqueduct: this beautiful stone course cuts through the wild vegetation, making a lovely horizontal line across the fynbos. This is the place for the red disa, Disa uniflora, known as the pride of Table Mountain. But not yet. Give it another two weeks. Lots of buds.

One of my favourite places, anywhere. A little dripping water fall with ice cold, moss-filtered, clean water. We stopped here for our sandwiches (leftover roast lamb with arugula) and lychee dessert. And saw two very special and unexpected drip disas. Not the red ones. See next post.

Carrying on, the path moves quickly lower between two peaks, Junction and St Michael. The landscape has changed from open and windy to very green gorges, lots of ferns, water beside and below us.

I found buchu here in flower, and crushed its aromatic leaves for Vince to smell. I think it might be nice for cooking. It is drunk as a curative tea and tonic.

Pools formed as we descended, clean and clear and the colour of rooibos tea.

The kloof we'd come down in the background, having leveled out to the reservoirs in the middle of the mountain.

Complete surprise. The Hely Hutchinson Reservoir was empty. Still don't know why. We walked on the Jeep Track that starts between the two reservoirs here, an easy hour or so along it to where its start going down the mountain again. The wind was fairly howling at this point, and the last two reservoirs, quite full, had lapping waves.

Taking the jeep track down, skipping Nursery Ravine, we were now down above Cecilia, a local walk quite close to home, we still had plenty of juice in us to perform acrobatic floral feats.

Six o'clock saw us just entering Kirstenbosch again, with my right knee complaining loudly at all the downhill. Fern Buttress is in the foreground, with Devil's Peak behind.

So, I am in still in awe of this national monument of a mountain. Entirely city-surrounded and quite wild. We will be back, soon.

Next installment: the flowers

For Namib updates, check Vince's blog.


  1. Was happily drinking my rooiboss tea as I read your beautiful post. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  2. Wonderful pictures, Marie. Thank you so much for posting. I am so happy to see you and Beence are walking in beauty.

    Must be the day for rooibos tea-drinking. Yum!



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