Hout Bay to Llandudno Traverse. Table Mountain Top Ten Trails #6: the adventure is out there. 

It is not often that I start a trail run at the civilized hour of 8h00 on a Saturday. But we were waiting for the tide to be out.

I was lucky enough to be invited on this route by Mark Preen. This ranks as one of the best adventure trails in Cape Town.

‘But that was easy’

Could quite easily be the response of one of the other runners in our group. Not so fast! The first time I did this trail which is a mere 10km it took us the whole day! Yes as in a 8h whole day! Ask around and you will hear stories of epics, getting lost, scary scrambles, groups being benighted, rescues, and people being washed out to sea – never to be seen again.

I am not kidding. This is serious!

However on Saturday we were lucky with very calm seas and Spring low tide! Richard planned well and we even had an hour to go before the lowest tide – just in case.

Route direction

I have done this route in both directions and I prefer the anti clockwise. Either option is doable. I just prefer it.  Here I will describe the clockwise direction though as this is the way we did it last.

A good start spot is Mariner’s Wharf. Run through the harbour towards the Sentinel. This is along tarmac. You will pass underneath the Hangberg suburb. You will quickly emerge onto some level single track under the cliffs of the Sentinel and towards Seal Island. This section is very reminiscent of the first bit of the Otter trail.


looking back towards The Sentinel with Chapman’s Peak Drive in the distance

Once you turn the corner things get a bit more serious in that you need to think about route choice. Staying low and close to sea level is best until forced up. It initially seems like you need to traverse over a steep gully with a path visible on the steep far slope. Don’t try this but rather drop into the gully and back down to sea level.



dropping into the initial gully

A few sections of scrambles over damp, slippery rocks follow. Going is slow as one needs to take care.


looking back at some of the scramble sections close to the water’s edge

This is a great great friction testing lab for shoes as adhesion to a variety of surfaces is tested to the max. Some you walk, others you need a bit more upward momentum…


There are often several options available and you don’t always need to scramble.

However at some point you will be faced with this sight. Spot the tatty rope. It ascends the black crack onto the platform above the water. The first step is the hardest. I would encourage you to take a rope – in case.



Mark Preen making it look easy, Richard Sutton in the background

There is a little section of easier going after which you will face another gully.  Once again don’t be tempted to traverse above but rather drop down past the little granite blob onto the floor of the gully and out the other (less steep) side.


granite blob can be seen between the two girls in blue

Eventually you will do a slow rising traverse on a fair path. This pops you onto the slabs above the Bos 400 which went down in 1994. This is the same bay where the SS Maori is also located. From here it is a fairly straightforward navigational exercise across the burnt sandy slope to the blockhouse at the end of Rocket Road. Find your way to the dunes above Sandy Bay. From here you are pretty much on tarmac back to the start and some welcome fish and chips at Fish on the Rocks.

I can not stress this enough. This is a serious route which requires respect. You will need to go in a group with enough scrambling experience and somebody who knows the route. Also carry a couple of mobile phones in waterproof pouches.

You will struggle to complete this in under two hours. But a fairly competent group should be done in under four. Come prepared for a truly special adventure.



I started doing breathing exercises a few months ago. Every morning.

First thing in the morning. To get my day started the right way. While everybody is still asleep.

The basics are pretty easy. It is called Square Breathing.

Breathe in for the count of seven. Hold your breath for the count of seven. Exhale for the count of seven. And finally hold for the count of seven. Repeat. Seven cycles.

I was keen and wanted to prove that I could do it. However reality was quick and humbling. I started with a count of four. I got distracted often. More often than not actually. Almost always I lost my track somewhere along the line. Thoughts took over my mind while I counted in the dark.

I persist. Not because I have got it right but because precisely I have not. I persist. That is the point. I am slowly getting better. More consistent. Less distracted. More focused.

It has taken months and will continue as do I. For actually I have no choice. I must get better.

I take breathing pretty much for granted, maybe you do too. Why not spend a little time every day doing it consciously?

“When is enough, enough?” Ian asked

I close my eyes in the crowd, in that town square, in that time. Vangelis is playing – Chamonix town square at the start of UTMB

I can still feel the tears now, many years later.

The point of life is to grow and to have fun. If you can have fun while growing then all the better.

So we need to push and do bigger, and better, and further, and more dangerous, and push the boats further from shore…

Or do we?

We confuse doing with growing.

Doing is busy, doing is filling our day.

Growth is deeper.

Growth stays with you, doing does not. This is the acid test.

Growing is internal. You probably have nothing to show for it, nothing to tweet about.

Only you will know the difference.

So when you tackle your next adventure is it to grow or to do?


A tale of two braais

IMG_3406Two weekends in a row now I have braaied for dinner.

That is pretty unusual for us.

When I get the opportunity I do love it but it does not present itself that often.

The contrast of the two last weekends made me think.

The first we were camping in Porterville at 22 Waterfalls.

I went back to my Boy Scout roots and used a piece of paper (collected from the trash) and one match. Kindling is the crux, you can never have enough. The flame needs to build heat in order for bigger logs to catch. You build the size and volume of wood gradually until you can use the real heavy stuff. Logs that eventually turn into good coals. This takes time, patience and a lot of practice.

The meat was exceptional and we gazed up at the stars as we sipped wine. Life was good.

Only a few days ago I threw meat on the fire made in a Weber in suburbia. [But for the sake of this argument let’s discard the setting for a moment]

Firelighters were arranged, briquettes of identical shapes poured from a bag. A gas lighter provided the flame and the rest is really just a waiting game. Half an hour later dinner was served. But somehow the steak just did not taste the same.

This got me thinking.

Is it possible that in order to get truly great results we need to go through the work. The real work.

We can take short cuts and at some point we all do but we should be honest enough (with ourselves) and look in the mirror. Only then can we see where we are lacking, where we have added petrol to the flame to speed the process. The irony is that most of the time we still end up with a medium rare steak at the end but somehow it does not taste the same. Or put differently a steak done the proper way tastes better. It might take longer and require more attention: that is exactly the point.

Build a good foundation and your fire will never go out.

Shortcut your training and you may have good results for a while but eventually you will be found out. Shortcut your foundation and your house might look pretty but the cracks will eventually show

Gradient: the secret to learning

We were made to walk up stairs the other day. First one step at a time then back down. Then two steps at a time, back down. All in a long snake we walked, round and round. Some of us managed four, some had to grab onto the hand rail to manage, others gave up… I happen to have long legs so I managed 5 steps at a time, just. (I am not saying this to brag just that in this particular situation I have an advantage.)

Now I am not sure if I hurt my hip…

That there is gradient at its finest.

We all want to grow and improve (for the sake of this argument let’s call taking more steps improvement).

The thinking goes that if we are not improving then we are going backwards. Mainly because the world is growing around us so we need to do something to keep up. (Humor me for a moment here.)

Compared to whom?

We all run races, get marks at school, compare salary packages and compare cars. The problem with races is that ultimately there can only be one winner and by extension everybody else is a loser. OK marketing has sold us that you too can be a winner “in your age group” or that 50% is still a pass. But ultimately we are comparing ourselves to the dude who gets 7 A’s. (Is that even still the benchmark?)


The problem is if we try to improve purely on sporting times and positions we ultimately are forced to accept that unless we win, we lose. So winning becomes everything and inevitably we end up with a sport full of cheats from the top down.  And not many nice people left.

So what does this #winning mean to you?

At the end of last year I did a race series of 6 events. I slowly refined my strategy and technique every week. I mostly lead from the gun (or tried to) and then would get dropped in the last third. This was the fourth race. I was right on target, my target. 500m to go and I was still in the lead. It was working. I was in the zone. I was winning. Then he came past me. My parachute opened and I was done. That Friday afternoon I did the best I could and still got beaten by another athlete. I hope he heard me congratulate him as he disappeared into the distance. I never went back to toe the line. I had been in the zone very briefly but that was enough, in fact I think I had my perfect race and I was super happy with that. I did not hit my target time either but all I had was that feeling and that was enough for me.

Even if I broke the tape I would probably not have a better race so I stopped.

Few understand why I have not been back.

For me it is on to new horizons and hopefully onto new learning.

We forget to compare ourselves only to our former selves and get caught up in trying to outdo our neighbours and not improve. The problem then is that we lose ourselves in other’s agendas.

I am not immune to this and I catch myself trying to keep up with the Jones’ on a daily basis.

The real trick is to work out who I am, where I am and then plot my trajectory from there.

I encourage you to do the same!

Imagine if

So I drive out to the Atlantis Road just after New Year armed with black rubbish bags and a set of garden gloves. After all I had put my intentions out there so I had to do it.

Within a minute of starting to pick up rubbish a young girl appears and asks if I “clean up around here”

“Today I am” I reply

She asks if she can help.

Just like that she fills up a rubbish bag. I am blown away.

The point is not that I did something good. My intentions were not pure. The point is by putting something good out there it came right back and with force.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” a misquote I know but relevant non the less.

Today, this weekend, this week: put positive out there




She appeared in her white angle dress.

Said they called her a naier in the forgotten city.

She filled a bag with bottles, plastic and condom packets.

“It is funny that you are sticking your bum in the air picking up rubbish” she said

Or was she talking about herself?

And then she walked down the long road.

Home or to her next job?