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.

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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.

 

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dropping into the initial gully

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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Oorlogskloof Rock Pigeon Route 5 day Hiking Trail outside Nieuwoudtville, Northern Cape – Quick Guide

Oorlogskloof 030Deserves to be one of the great hiking trails in South Africa! Remote, authentic and adventurous. You are continuously confronted with little rock scramble detours which highlight a kloof, waterfall, rock arch or just spectacular view. There are many, many signs naming local plants throughout. This is a real treat and everybody will get a better sense of our local plant life.

There are shorter trail options available too and a couple of day hikes too.

Pretty but super busy in flower season (Aug and Sept)

Overview stats:

Distance: 52 km

Total Ascent: 1800 m

Total Descent: 1800 m

Style of route: circular

Normal Duration of hike: 4 to 5 days

Landowner: Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve. For permits and further info call (027) 218 1159

Events: Ugene Nell holds the Oorlogskloof Trail Run here in April and this is a fantastic way to experience the terrain for those that like to move fast but don’t necessarily see much of the surroundings.

Description:

We collect our permits in Nieuwoudtville at the Nature Conservation Office. Nicolette is helpful with maps etc. We check into the Wapad Guest House in Nieuwoudtville and sort kit for tomorrow’s early start. It is super basic but a roof over our heads (and a roaring fire) is all we need for the night.

Frost awaits as we drive to Groot Tuin (6 km back towards Vanrhynsdorp you see the turn off to the left, then it is another 10 km on the good dirt road).

Day 1: 12Oorlogskloof map day 1 km Groot Tuin to Kameel se Gat

The last mobile reception is in Nieuwoudtville or close to the escarpment overlooking Vanrhynsdorp. We park our car under the pine trees as instructed and start our walk. There is a perennial stream 87m into the hike. Don’t rely on this in summer though. The 4km to Brakwater takes us 2 h at an easy pace. The hut looks amazing. We decided to do the first two days as one so this ended up in a pretty long and tough day. It was the hardest day of the 4. I would probably do it again in that way though.

Oorlogskloof 009A short while after the Brakwater hut we cross the stream while still on the jeep track. The two logs that symbolise a bridge are not confidence inspiring enough so we slide across like crabs anticipating a cold plunge. A short sharp hill and we turn off onto pleasant single track. Views are great and we see the Kareebos hut below us. The trail descends and then the tough boulder hoping section starts along the base of the river. You wind in and out of boulder fields which makes going slow and tough. Finally the climb up the slope to the Driefontein waterfall. We were told that unfortunately the hut’s roof had a leak (more like it did not have a roof) so we descended to Kameel se Gat back at stream level. Glad we did not have to do that on cold legs, first thing in the morning. Having said that the sun set views from the top must be amazing.

The night proved to be pretty cold and it took us a while to get going in the morning. Glad I had packed porridge for breakfast – quick and easy to make a warming meal on my MSR.

Day 2: 12km Kameel se Gat to Doltuin

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sun touching the rim of the canyon early morning

We cruise a few minutes down to the river and cross the smart bridge to the far bank. The ascent up the far bank take us 45 minutes or so. It finishes with an amazing chimney and rope/ladder combination which spits you out on the escarpment. Staying left we cruise on easier going that the previous day. As we descend down into the valley we pass some graves close to the path under a bunch of trees. I can’t imagine a better place to rest in peace. The path continues a few km to reach the Doltuin hut at what seems to be the head of the valley.

 

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water at Doltuin

Here it is possible to take the escape route which cuts out the last day. We take a stroll around in the evening to loosen the legs. The river is full but the water is cold so we decline a swim in the river.

 

Enjoying the last few rays of light on the stoep we settle in for soup and an early dinner. Tomorrow is a long day.

Day 3: 15km Doltuin to Pramkoppies

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Granaatdraai with the hut in the far distance

The early section meanders up the valley. You can see the path from the hut as it ascends the head of the valley. We fill up water bottles under some trees which is a really pretty spot.

 

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chain securing a rocky descent

The climb up Granaatdraai is not too bad and we quickly find out selves on top. A cool wind is blowing so we walk in long sleeves all day. Today is the day of 10 rock arches and we start counting. We make good time and have lunch at the turn off to Arrie se Punt. We leave our bags here and scamper along the loop to quickly reach the outlook. You get mobile reception here and I respond to some birthday messages. Weird being drawn back into that seemingly foreign world. We take photos and admire the view of Gifberg, Vanrhynsdorp and the VanRhyns Pass (another Thomas Bains masterpiece). The walk back to the junctions takes us through some interesting kloofs and rock formations, well worth the extra little loop.

 

We continue our count of rock arches as you can see here.

A bit of open ground and then we start to descend along the side of Pramkoppie. The path shows signs of erosion and needs a bit of TLC but we manage it quickly in the afternoon sun. A short stroll along the valley floor to the most beautifully located hut below red cliffs and close to some trees and a stream. We soak up the rays. A great way to spend my birthday.

The water spot is among the bushes behind the hut and is marked so are the toilets at the huts. No roof, just au Naturel long drop.

The next day is our last so we plan to leave a little earlier to accommodate the drive home too.

Day 4: 9 km Pramkoppie to Groot Tuin

Oorlogskloof map day 5A short distance from the hut we visit rock art in a cute shelter. The path ascends the valley slope and we hear baboons announcing themselves. Today the path skirts across the top of the fairly flat escarpment and we get great views. The grey skies add to the scene and bring out the colours of the land. When you are almost at the junction to Groot Tuin you are led into the heart of Spelonkop. Narrow Rock passages turn this way and that until you are spat out on the path you came in on. A short up hill and a stroll through the initial grove of Poplars lands you back at the car.

Recommended Tactics:

The Rock Pigeon Route is comfortably completed in either 4 or 5 days. Day 2 (on the 5 days schedule) is the toughest going as you have a long section of navigating through a boulder field which takes its toll. This was the second section of our Day 1.

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huts are comfortable

Huts offer bunk beds and wooden tables and benches to house between 12 to 16 pax. Huts all have solar electricity for lighting and you can charge your electronics. A three prong socket is available. Bring your adapters.

 

I recommend that you drive to Nieuwoudtville on day one and get sorted in accommodation there and then start the hike. This leaves enough time to combine day 1 and 2 of the hike. The quoted times are conservative but not overly so. Going is generally slower than on other trails due to the path weaving in and out of boulders, gullies and interesting features.

There is no reliable mobile phone reception along the trail except at Arrie se Punt and the edge of the escarpment at Pramkoppie.

Water could be a problem in summer and it gets pretty cold in the middle of winter so in between season are probably best for hiking.

Nutrition / Hydration availability:

It is quite a good idea to carry a few extra water containers to fill up at the overnight huts. Generally the water source is about 50 m to 100 m away from the hut.

Other info:

Closest Food Retailer: Clanwilliam has a pretty good Spar, butcheries and bottle stores. Otherwise  sparse resources can be obtained in Van Rhynsdorp.

 

Ringing the Bell:

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approaching Orange Peal Gap, Cathedral Peak left of center, The Bell further left

I leave the Hikers Parking at  6h00 sharp. Scouting the first river crossing last night helps so it goes quickly and I gain altitude. I see two lights below me. They have chosen a different path. We all have.

I am walking out of the darkness into mountains cast in shadows. As in Magic and Loss there is an equal part hope too.

It is what ever it seems.

‘I was thinking of a series of my dreams’

Patter of my feet on the trail.

‘Was not thinking of anything specific’

Lyrics running my head

I shut them out

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looking back up Bugger’s Gully

I am surprised to reach Bugger Gully in 2:40. The other side has snow and I follow imprints in the snow trying to guess how long they have been there. I meet them later. The owners of those feet.

You can’t listen to metal with the volume low. I drop into the wave.

 

The line between shadow and light is distinct. But we all follow our own line. Some have rumble strips to warn us, others come unseen and deadly. Some are crossed and recrossed, skipped over even? Without a care in the world. Others scare us. Right now one side is sun and heat. The other biting cold. I can’t understand why anybody would choose the suffering unless to learn and ultimately emerge. I carve my own way and leave only a faint sign of my passing. My passage however leaves a huge impression. Not the act but the meaning we give.

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looking back towards Cathedral Peak

I come across white tufts, not snow. Flags waving I the breeze. I shat here! I wonder if we will ever learn.

I stumble upon Twins Cave quite unexpectedly.

And suddenly it is done.

I find a spot in the sun and out of the wind and eat my old school sandwich.

The descent down Mlanbonjwa is less fun than I thought. Typical berg pass which is too steep to run but I lose height quickly. The obligatory bush whack does not last long.

I am unkind. I enjoy running the flatter sections and catch up to the footprints of three days earlier.

I have to commit to running where I can. Walking always seems so much easier. But then I don’t want easy. There is nothing of interest there. There is interest (and learning) I suffering perhaps?

‘I walk by tranquil lakes and streams’

I don’t have the commitment to break 8h (or 7 for that matter) I arrive at my lone tent in the camp site and think back on one of the best days in the mountains I have ever had.

The lone dear makes its rounds later. I say ‘Hi’ and observe for a very long time.

‘The hard thing is to hold on to what I learn there in those high and wild places – those fleeting glimpses of the truth of reality – and to live it when I am back in my everyday. That is the real challenge.’

Lizzy Hawker

 

Several lines above are quoted (and misquoted) from the below. Thanks for the inspiration.

 

Soundtrack:

Moxica and the horse – Vangelis

Series of dreams – Bob Dylan

Link 2-3-4 – Rammstein

Tell ol Bill – Bob Dylan

Mothers of the disappeared – U2

The medallion calls – Klaus Bandelt

Someday baby – Bob Dylan

Track 5 More Melon – U2

Things have changed – Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler I believe in you – U2

99 red balloons – Nena

Here comes the pain – Farmer Boys

Pa Pa Pa Palavas – Triplets of Bellville soundtrack

Urban Trail – Constantia Greenbelt – Table Mountain top trail run #7

GReenbelt loopThis great loop does not wonder more than 50 m from houses at any point. Despite this it feels like you are in nature. The temps are generally cool under the green canopy of trees. Almost equal mix of single track and pavement makes this a real gem. There are no major hills so really gentle to get into a nice pace. Many shorter loops and variations are available. Just go and explore! otherwise you can use the map above and follow this loop.

The Constantia Virgin Active Gym offers a great base to start from.

Water can be found at three points along the trail in fountains sponsored by VOB running club. Some sections feel a little remote so I would recommend that women run in groups. There are many shorter loops available as I am sure Dion will confirm. This is a great place to play and marvel at this piece of nature in our city. Each section of trail is broken up with a section of road. Most notably Southern Cross Drive (that bastard hill of the Two Ocean’s Half Marathon).

Die Hell is pretty special. Go and have fun here between session of Turkey!

You are more than likely to get sections of this trail wrong the first few times but that is part of the adventure. You will never get very lost.

11,5km 100% runnable. Ice cream trucks can not be guaranteed.

Enduroman race report

I was fascinated by road kill. There it was, I had seen the blue gel packet in the same spot twice before and a little further on I would find the orange jelly baby just to my left on a flat rock. Discarded but now a friendly supporter on each of my three laps of the run course. And then he was not there….

I ran on wondering if somebody was desperate enough to pick him up and eat him. I had thought about that often (today and at previous races) in the closing stages of a triathlon. Where the hell was my little friend?

I climbed two of the three sandy hills and almost forgot about him when suddenly next to my left foot he cheered me on. Glowing bright orange in the sun.

I was a few hundred meters from the finish line of Enduroman SA and my race had gone to plan. In fact better than expected.

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seconds before the start

Just over seven hours ago I had to work hard against the cold, black, swallowing too much water. Not enjoying it much. The water temperature was 15*C but it felt colder. The darkness pulled at me while I tried to maintain form and I had to try really hard not just to call it a day. Then the rainbow appeared. Rain left little dimples rainbowon the surface and all became better. I waved at M and friends as we started lap two and then I found my rhythm.

Why are they all still in transition? It seemed like half the field was just standing there taking their time. Getting dressed. So different form the usual rushing madness. And off we rode up the first hill. A few passed me and I knew it would not last long. Over eager on the technical section. Then one of them fell. Frustration has to be held back so early on.

Spectator point one and I was ahead of schedule. Glad to see M and friendly cheers. I burnt a match trying to catch a draft. All in vein as they disappeared into the distance a little while later. A lesson in caution and patience. I ate meat and real food and fueled the machine. Spinning, spinning all the time. The monster hill and I let them go. Down the mudslide and front wheel was tracking well.

Easy down the cobbles and then I started to gain some places.

Pit stops went like clockwork thanks to fantastic support.

Get the speed up on the final approach.

Then Transition two and I heard them announce the winner. I knew I would walk the monster hill. But anything other than that was to be run. I stuck to the plan. Attack the downhill and then push on the sandy bits.

And so it was over. Just like that. Like a dream.

Thanks to organisers: Glyn, Geddan and crew; sponsors: Orca, 32Gi and Oakpics for making this possible. I certainly hope that this will become an annual fixture on the calendar.