Hiking The Table Mountain National Park And Breaking In Our New Walking Shoes

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Hiking The Table Mountain National Park And Breaking In Our New Walking Shoes

Assembling at the start point.

Assembling at the start point.

MOUNTAIN MEANDERERS | Sharon Henry

So today we are hiking the Table Mountain National Park. A somewhat misplaced reputation as ‘intrepid’ walkers led to an invitation from the ‘Mountain Meanderers’ of Cape Town, South Africa, to join one of their weekly Friday hikes; so here we are. Our new walking shoes need breaking in as do my legs again after five languid days on the ship from St Helena.

Today’s excursion has been arranged by our friend, Billy Leisegang. The Mountain Meanderers are a group of retirees refusing to succumb to the ‘old age’ stereotype preferring instead to maintain their fitness with weekly jaunts up the local mountains.

Constantia Nek, part of the Table Mountain range, is being assaulted today by the group of nine, plus Darrin and I. We start at moderate pace, following a neatly cut path that is soon heading upward quite steeply. It’s a beautiful day and getting acquainted with everyone as we walk helps the climb.

The ascent begins to get steeper and we're still at the bottom.

The ascent begins to get steeper and we’re still at the bottom.

Table Mountain wildlife showing off beside the pathway.

Table Mountain wildlife showing off beside the pathway.

This is Ian. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

This is Ian. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

From the get-go the group proves that 60 and 70 is obviously the new 40. Ian, a quiet 77 year old, tells me he runs ultra marathons; races that go beyond the traditional 42k. He is also an active member of a Tuesday walking group, so he hikes twice a week.

The African sun is a bearable 23C today with no wind, in complete contrast to the sizzling 42C temperatures a few days ago, the hottest day on record in almost a century.

Hiking The Table Mountain National Park

After about 30 minutes we take a breather overlooking the thriving Constantia vineyards. Sadly, a feature across the distant landscape is the smoke from wildfires which have been plaguing the Cape Peninsula for a few weeks, closing many walking trails as a consequence.

Taking a water break on the way up. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Taking a water break on the way up. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Rest stop one.

Rest stop one.

Having only recently hiked Constantia Nek, the group decides to split: the main group will continue on the scenic route via a concrete jeep track, but Darrin and I will go with Billy on an adventurous trek via Eagles Nest and Camel Rock. We agree to meet at the summit in two hours.

Our alternate trail is a much more vertical climb up large boulders and through brush. I hardly have time to take photographs; both hands are required for grip. These new trainers are getting well and truly tested.

Somehow after each section we climb, there seems to be another above us, each offering magnificent bird’s eye views. We can see False Bay in the distance and the Constantia valley, the tip of Hout Bay in the opposite direction and ‘table cloth’ cloud formations clinging to the mountains. Although the route is more of a vertical climb than we’re used to, the terrain is firm so it doesn’t feel as perilous as some of the Post Box walks on St Helena.

Climbing the trail up from Eagle's Nest. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Climbing the trail up from Eagle’s Nest. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

The view toward Hout Bay. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

The view toward Hout Bay. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Vegetation up here in the Eagle’s Nest area is similar to St Helena; geraniums, reedy grasses and a cabbage-like tree. A variety of Cape Town’s tropical and exotic protea flowers are growing along the pathway, colours ranging from dusty pink to bright fuchsia. (No, we didn’t see any eagles)

Billy tells us there’s a threat of muggings and other crime whilst hiking on the mountains. He carries mace or pepper spray as a precaution. Park rangers routinely patrol the area. Encounters with baboons are also possible and we’re advised that if they show interest in backpacks, it’s best to hand them over. They’ll rummage through for food and move on. Yikes! Other hazards on the mountain are snakes; cobras and adders. Hopefully these critters will keep well away from us.

Could never tire of the view. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Could never tire of the view. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Darrin and Billy climbing up through the rocks. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Darrin and Billy climbing up through the rocks. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Exertion from the steep climb is taking its toll and I’m starting to flag. Desperate for a sugar fix we stop in a shady area where I devour an energy-boosting Snickers bar. Feeling like Popeye once he’s swallowed spinach I practically sprint up the last giant boulders to reach the summit.

We’ve climbed approximately 560m in an hour and 45 minutes. The views from the top, approximately 730m above sea level, are spectacular as we take one last look back in the Hout Bay direction before heading off across the green plateau that is strewn with large rocks of all shapes and sizes.

It looks like we’ve stepped into a stony Jurassic Park. The rock formations resemble weird sculptures that could resemble exotic creatures –with the use of a little imagination.

Camel Rock is appropriately named and the light is superb for photos.

Trail leader, Billy. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Trail leader, Billy. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

The top of the walk was grass and rocks. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

The top of the walk was grass and rocks. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

The large rock formations were great to look at. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

The large rock formations were great to look at. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Camel Rock. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Camel Rock. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

me posing on the other side of Camel Rock. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

me posing on the other side of Camel Rock. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Soldiering on we finally rejoin the main group who are having lunch at De Villiers dam. It’s taken 10 minutes short of two hours since we split up. My shoes performed brilliantly and legs are still working.

There are five reservoirs on top of Table Mountain, constructed between 1896 and 1907 to supply Cape Town with fresh water. De Villiers dam is the smallest; we also walk to Alexandra Dam.

Exploring the dams on the top of the mountain. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Exploring the dams on the top of the mountain. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Protea flowers are everywhere. These are the national flower of South Africa.

Protea flowers are everywhere. This is the national flower of South Africa.

Walking the Jeep track between the reservoirs. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Walking the Jeep track between the reservoirs. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Having taken the ‘easy’ route up, the group decides to take the ‘not so easy’ route back down. With magnificent views of Constantia below, we make our descent. Full concentration is required as we delicately pick our way down over smooth boulders. I often find walking downhill worse than going up; it’s a strain on joints and increases the chances of slipping.

Totally unfazed is 76 year old Delene Stamper, who only four years ago underwent a knee replacement operation yet continues to hike. Even arthritis now can’t keep Delene away from the mountains. Only with some prompting does she tell us she’s crossed a glacier in Pakistan, scaled Mount Kilimanjaro and hiked K2’s base camp in years gone by. Today she’s in a hurry to get home to bake a birthday cake for her god child’s daughter.

Darrin and Delene Stamper. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

Darrin and Delene Stamper. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

The descent. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

The descent. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

We stop periodically, captivated by the drama of helicopters and crop dusting planes tirelessly fighting a smouldering wildfire on a neighbouring hill. Grey smoke lingers as the aircraft dump water or some other fire suppressant over the affected area.

Eventually the path trails out and we trek the last hour quite comfortably back to the car park.

We’ve just completed a six hour hike, including breaks and photo calls. It’s been the most wonderful day out. The Mountain Meanderers have taught me age really is just a number and doesn’t always have to dictate our lifestyle choices. What an inspirational bunch of people.

The whole Meandering party at the summit of the walk.  Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

The whole Meandering party at the summit of the walk. Hiking The Table Mountain National Park.

By |2018-01-10T00:52:10+00:00March 21st, 2015|Amazing People, Awesome Nature, Hiking|9 Comments

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9 Comments

  1. Billy Leisegang March 29, 2015 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Another hike is waiting for you on your return trip through Cape Town, perhaps in the beautiful Simon’s Town mountains?

    • Saints March 29, 2015 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      Sounds like a plan Billy! Our shoes will be well and truly ‘broken in’ by then. 🙂

  2. roamingpursuits March 22, 2015 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Interesting images.

    • Saints March 26, 2015 at 4:12 am - Reply

      Cape Town is a beautiful city with so many hikes to explore its diversity.

  3. Diane Webb March 22, 2015 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Great photographs, great read. Well done Billy and the team.

    • Saints March 26, 2015 at 4:09 am - Reply

      Thanks Diane – Billy and team are such an inspiration.

  4. Shirley Gough March 22, 2015 at 3:21 am - Reply

    Well done you 2!

  5. Simon Henry March 21, 2015 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Amazing! Makes me feel our walk in London was just a walk in the park lol. Great story, great pictures, great adventure! 🙂

    • Saints March 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      Thanks Simon, appreciate the feedback.

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