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Category Archives: Cape Town

The peak of our climb - the southern most Apostle. Lions Head in the distance with Table Mountain to the right.

Summiting the Elusive Path

By | Cape Town, Hikes | No Comments

Everybody has one, a path they never seem to conquer. Maybe it eludes them for a month, maybe a year. Ours was almost 5 years, and in the most literal sense, we could not reach the end.

Sunday, being Fathers Day, Shaun decided we aught to tackle our nemesis. After a hearty breakfast of leftover pizza, we packed our backpack with our hiking essentials; 4 energy-bars, 6 granola bars, 4 apples, a bag of biltong, a bag of nuts, a bag of sweets and 4 bottles of water, and headed for Llandudno Ravine. This might sound like an awful lot of food, but when your children are climbing a mountain you could literally open the fridge and tip it into their mouths and it still wouldn’t fill them up. Rather safe than sorry we always say, sometimes. So anticipating the beautiful day that Cape Town was promised, we all set out in our summer staples. Being rather more sorry than safe with this one, we encouraged Lola to climb into my long-sleeved vest, thus sporting a pair of strangely fashionable trousers, bar the rather large hole in the middle. It certainly served its purpose, but it was a gentle reminder to improve on our planning skills. Thankfully our children are rarely cold for long, onwards and upwards and the layers get peeled off.


All the energy in the world!



Lola’s stylish ‘mom’s-vest-pants’.


The first part of this particular climb we have done a reasonable number of times. We begin, we get a fair distance, and just when the views start getting good, one of us professes exhaustion and we retreat for home. This has become somewhat of a habit. Sunday, however, was different. The children began the climb with such gusto that Shaun and I found ourselves panting at the pace. They climbed hard and they climbed well. There are a few scrambling points in this hike where they have to pull themselves up using rungs drilled into the rock, we like to let them do it because firstly they love it, and secondly it’s incredibly good for them. Although we are always standing beneath them in case they need us, we find they are capable of doing the majority of climbing on their own. It is undoubtedly their favourite part.


In the shade of the mountain.



Climbing – their best!


A large part of the beauty of this particular path is that there are few other hikers, there is little but the sound of mountain water dripping and trickling on its descent through the rocks, the cries of indigenous birds and the occasional squeaking for treats from the children. As we passed our previous highest point along this path I readied myself for a rumble of thunder or a blinding lightening strike, something to signify the importance of this next step. But as with most obstacles that are overcome, it was accompanied by a large side of ordinary, and a distinct lack of significance on the rest of the world. As the path wound its way up the ravine however, we silently cursed ourselves for never having completed it before. The world may have been unaffected by our bold steps, by our hearts weren’t. It was an escapist’s utopia in every direction. Incredibly beautiful and incredibly remote, it was a landscape filled with unexplored paths and weathered rock formations. The kids thought they were in heaven. They could climb, play, hide and watch the rest of Cape Town scampering about their busy little lives hundreds of meters below them.


One more rise up, as you crest the top of the mountain, you find yourself on the southern most Apostle. The most extraordinary view over the Western Cape Peninsula awaits. Songs have been written for views like this. It is nothing short of paradise. Five minutes alone on the nose of this apostle and you can feel the problems of the world draining away. Unfortunately the solitude can’t last long, and when joining the rest of my hiking party, half of which are pint sized people of course, peace and solitude were quickly replaced with giggles and games; the Croods being game of choice for this landscape. On strict orders from the children we were running, jumping and generally behaving like cavemen, until we met our exhaustion and had to rest before our perilous descent.

Although regularly fuelled and watered, after 4 hours on the mountain the children tend to lose concentration. This is a problem as it always occurs on the descent, just when they need their wits the most. They have the reserves physically, but without the mental attentiveness to their foot placements they tend to trip or slip frequently. When one wrong foot placement could mean a long tumble down a steep ravine, we like to resort to backpacking them, reserving our helicopter call-outs for more enjoyable occasions. This path required minimal backpacking, as there is only about ten minutes near the top that is a steep, uneven, rock staircase, hugged closely by rather a lot of nothingness on one side of it. With Lincoln’s natural inclination being to run, acting as sherpa seemed the obvious choice.

With the risky business behind us, we left them to wind their way to the bottom of the mountain as we enjoyed the last of the solitude that the unflustered Llandudno ravine provides. Six hours on the mountain is exhausting, but it puts a smile on your face and a spring in your step.


Would I do this again?
Without hesitation! Unlike our last foray up Table Mountain which had us clinging to the rocks on a ‘closed’ path on our descent, this climb was pleasant all the way up and all the way down. It is exquisite, it is peaceful, and it was worth the multiple attempts to get to the top.

What to be aware of?
· This is not simply a hiking route, there are small sections where climbing up the rocks is required. There are rungs drilled into the rock but there is one section which required a bit of careful negotiating, as the rocks are quite wet being mid winter and the rainy season.
· A fair portion of this path can only accommodate one person abreast. This happens to be the case along one particular section of steep drop off to the one side. I mention this as it makes holding your child’s hand and guiding them a little more difficult, but not impossible.
· I wouldn’t suggest this hike for children with little experience, but for everyone else, go for it!

Our Route
· Park outside Ruyteplaats Estate off the top of Suikerbossie road in Hout Bay.
· Walk up the outside of the estate and turn right on the path above the trees, follow the path to the left when it veers off and keep heading up the mountain…

Rapunzel-the-dentist dress rehearsal in progress.

Parenting 101: The Ultimatum

By | Cape Town, Musings | 4 Comments

For two long weeks I have been waiting for this moment, when I could sit down and pour my heart onto paper, or the keyboard, whatever. The big sticky mess of frustration, anger, sadness and heartbreak has to be released. Who knew sugar could be the cause of something more than fat or diabetes. I have just spent two weeks saying no to my daughter. No, you can’t eat that. No you can’t have that, or that, or that. It was no, no, no. And it was hard!
Let me lay it out for you.

Act 1. I make an appointment for the kids at the dentist (they have never been). I very dramatically act out what happens to teeth if children eat sugar and don’t go to the dentist. I think I am very clever.

Act 2. We take Lola and Lincoln to their appointment. As is customary, Lincoln goes first. He’s generally happy to be the guinea pig. After having his teeth counted, he has some x-rays taken of his fingers, his teeth, and his shoes, and hops off the chair to collect his well-done gift from the dentist.

Act 3. Lola’s turn. After her normal warm up period we were expecting a little hesitation, we were not expecting wide eyes and head shaking. We were certainly not expecting frantic kicking, a blatant refusal to sit in the ‘space-rocket’ chair and then a hasty departure into the waiting room. I took it calmly, sat next to her and reiterated what I had said before, that children who don’t go to the dentist can’t eat sugar because sugar is bad for your teeth. Now at this point I was convinced I was on a winning streak, there is just no way Lola would choose to not eat sugar! Lola loves sugar more than life itself. If you ask her how her day was, she will reply with gushingly positive adjectives relating to the treats she received that day. If she had an incredible adventure but no treats, it will receive mediocre reviews. She lives for her food, for sweet food. To understand her decision you have to understand that.
So back to the scene, Lola asks me if she can still have milk, to which I replied with my first flutter of uncertainty with the direction I was heading, yes. She agrees to the terms and signs up for no sugar. I was paralysed. I knew what she was doing even if she didn’t. All she could think about was how much she didn’t want to sit in the dentists chair. All I could think about was how on earth I was going to stick to my guns.

Lesson 1 in parenting: Don’t make a threat unless you intend to follow through with it. This is vital. Any parent can tell you if you don’t follow through you are as good as a movie in a foreign language with no subtitles. They stop hearing you because what you say doesn’t matter. No follow through, no respect.

With this crushing weight of what I had just begun, I hastily made another appointment for her for that Friday, she had 4 days to rethink her decision. I was sure I would win. No way she could keep it up. I was wrong. She started drinking banana ‘milkshakes’ (consisting of frozen banana, milk and cinnamon) and told me they were the most delicious things she had ever eaten. She turned her head when anything sugary was produced and requested dates and raisins as her treat. That was when I knew she was making a point. She hates raisins.

4 days of pig-headedness, of her sullen, joyless face every time her brother ate anything sweet, and still she refused to go. At this point I insisted she tell me when she was prepared to go, cracks were beginning to form in her resolve and I’d be damned if I let that glimmer of hope slip me by. She agreed to go in a week. With the appointment I could get that would take us to exactly 2 weeks after our first attempt. Let me reiterate, it was a long 2 weeks. This path is not for everybody, there were times I simply couldn’t bare her desolate face any longer and had to wrestle myself away from caving. The only thought that kept me going was the knowledge that if I caved, there was absolutely no way I would get her to open her mouth at the dentist. That much I knew. So I soldiered on. No treats, biscuits or ice-lollies. No chutney with her dinner, no sugar or honey with her tea and no juice of any kind.

There was nagging, sulking, complaints of it not being fair, but at no point did she get sneaky and help herself to treats out the pantry. What I realised through these trying 2 weeks, was how incredibly stubborn, but also how extraordinarily proud my 5 year old could be. She would arrive home from school with her baking wrapped up and hand it over for safekeeping. She froze her slices of birthday cake she received at parties and packed her sweets she was given away in the pantry. I hoped that if I let her hoard all of her treats it would eventually be enough of a temptation to get her into the blasted dentists chair so she could then devour it all. My intention was never to wean her off sugar, I don’t need that kind of misery in my life.

During this time we didn’t make a point of keeping sugar out of sight because the whole objective was to tempt her to go, keep life normal, but in so doing I was forced to keep pointing out what was already a hard decision for her. It was constantly reminding her, rubbing it in, and even though it was hard for me, it was worse for her. It meant that instead of having a fight with your child, going to bed that night and waking up with a fresh start to a new day, we were waking up and fighting the same fight everyday. It was probably annoying and infuriating for her but it was heart breaking for us. No parent enjoys making their child sad, especially when it is purposefully done to try and get them to do something they are refusing to do. I felt like such a terrible mother.

By the end of the 2 weeks I was begging her to go to the dentist. I couldn’t take feeling like such a horrid parent and I couldn’t take her sadness, her hiding away in her room when her brother and his friends were eating lollies, or her waking up at night, every night, being sad. On the day of her final appointment, I arrived at school to fetch her with all the treats she had been amassing. I wanted every little bit of temptation to be there so she didn’t back out at the last moment. She was still hesitant, but she was prepared to lie on the chair, on top of me, as long as I opened my mouth when she did. After our tandem dentist appointment I was ready to go home and pop open a bottle of champagne. Finally, it was over!

I learned that there is nothing I can be so sure of when it comes to my children. I might know them better than anybody else, but they still surprise me, everyday, sometimes in the biggest ways. You learn early as a parent to pick your battles, sometimes you pick them but you just don’t see the size or the strength of the army you are choosing to fight. This couldn’t have been truer of this battle. I had, without a doubt, underestimated the strength of the fight in this one. Luckily, through sheer gritting my teeth, Lola learned that refusing to do something has consequences. This lesson came at a good time as ‘no’s’ have been flowing fast and heavy in this house. I’m hoping that winning ‘the dentist’ battle will set a good precedent for the rest. I’m not sure I’m equipped emotionally to push through another battle like that one.

On arriving the next day at school, I mouthed to her teacher that she had done it. There was a squeal of excitement and the classroom erupted in chatter and applause, Lola even tolerated a few hugs (not common). That evening I got a message from one of her classmates parents saying her son had reported back, with much relief, that Lola had now been to the dentist. All was right in the world… Until the next time.

The first nibbling of sugar after 2 weeks!.. in the car post dentist visit.

The first nibbling of sugar after 2 weeks!.. in the car post dentist visit.

Chapmans Peak Drive with a view to Hout Bay

Kids, Scooters and Mountain Passes

By | Cape Town | No Comments

On our quest to find exciting outdoor activities to do with our kids, we had over looked something as simple as taking them with us when we head out for our average exercise session. Our kids are no longer toddlers. We are no longer stuck in the phase of having to leave them at home when we go out training. But we’ve been doing this, because it just never occurred to us not to. We take them climbing mountains but don’t think them capable of joining us on our weekend runs (obviously not running too – they would need wheels). So we have recently set about rectifying this.

We have an incredible mountain pass on our doorstep, we can’t stake it as our own however, it is world-renowned. Visited by thousands of tourists every year, raced on by cars when shooting advertisements, and serves as the bane for many cyclists as they slog their way up it during the Cape Argus Cycle Tour every March. It is Chapmans Peak, home to some of the most outstanding views along the Cape Peninsula.

Every weekend both runners and cyclists alike take to the roads, many making their way through Hout Bay and over Chapmans Peak, or ‘Chappies’, as the locals lovingly refer to it. Cars travelling that route have learned that things will be a little slower, they’ll have to watch the road a little more carefully, and most sports people out to enjoy the morning respect the fact that cars need to use the road too. Every weekend Shaun and I join in the mix, running or cycling with the other folk set on enjoying the spoils of living in this city. Most recently, we let our children join in our morning fun, we let them breath the fresh sea air and stretch their legs while whizzing along the incredible coastal road.

After a bit of transportation scheduling, Shaun and I set out with the kids, their scooters, helmets, leather biking jackets and gloves in tow. To ease them into the idea (and because they had recently been down with flu), we drove to the top of Chappies so their first experience would be going down hill. All kitted out, we set off down the mountain. Lincoln threw himself into it without a second thought, his smile reaching from ear to ear as he hooked his scooter into the corners at a pace Shaun could barely keep stride with. Lola, in her gentle cautious manner, proceeded down the hill with one foot on the break, gently easing herself into the corners and glancing nervously at me to make sure I was alongside her. It was beautiful and peaceful on our end, exhilarating and fast on Shaun and Lincolns. The boys would wait for us every now and then, stopping to catch their breath until they could see we might go whizzing by, when they quickly leapt back onto the road to keep in Lincoln’s customary first position. He’s not one for sitting idly by while someone goes ahead of him, this is not reserved for scooters, bikes or walking, it applies to all sports, all of the time. He simply has no capacity for second place. Lola on the other hand, has all the capacity in the world. She is far more comfortable coming in second than she is coming in first. She likes to be one of the crowd, and she likes to be comfortable. This is something I am keenly aware of, as I suffered much the same fate for most of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love to come in first position, but not at the expense of being pushed out of my comfort zone. This is still something I am wrestling with. But my guess is that Lola is going to be skipping along mellow road for a while yet, and I shouldn’t be in any hurry to spur her on as I could only just keep pace with her at the bottom of our 5km scoot-run. She had garnered enough courage to have me running at a pace I generally reserve for 100meter sprints. It was awesome to see her courage building like that! I’m not sure I could go much faster.

Lincoln and Lola were both psyched when they reached the end and expressed an unquestionable desire to do it again. The scooters worked incredibly well but they both complained of 1 tired leg the next day, while in their more dramatic moments walked around dragging it behind them complaining it wouldn’t work. I guess this spells more practice 🙂


Would I do this again? 

Absolutely! It wasn’t only the kids who loved it. It was so great to be out as a family on an ordinary morning doing our training. We are crossing into areas we haven’t attempted before and it’s exciting to be able to do it as a family. This obviously wouldn’t work all of the time but for an average training session it was fantastic.

What to be aware of? 

Your kids must have a very good awareness of road safety, and they must listen to you at all times. You have to set the boundaries upfront and be firm. If they don’t listen, game over. Make sure your kids are kitted out in protective gear, without question a helmet, but gloves and a jacket are great too, they will prevent scrapes on minor falls.

Lola nearing the top of a climb.

Encouraging Lizard Tendencies at CityRock

By | Cape Town | No Comments

If you live in Cape Town, as the wind howls outside and the frostbite eats its way into your bones, you will agree without a shadow of a doubt, that winter has arrived. What felt like a very short summer, has now departed, leaving me feeling a bit like a hound in pursuit of an elusive rabbit. As I chase the last remains of summer around the city, I am beginning to realise the importance of finding some awesome indoor activities to do with the kids, with stress on the word active-ities. So with rain on our doorsteps and wind at our backs, we found ourselves brazenly heading into CityRock, Cape Towns indoor climbing gym. I say brazenly not because we are overconfident in our abilities, but simply because we are going there at all. Two very rusty adult climbers and a four and five year old are rather an oddity at a place like that, but we did not let that deter us.

Shaun climbed in his youth, when his arms lacked the strength to get him to the top of a climb, his heart got him there. My heart has never carried the strength to get me up a sheer wall. When my arms failed me I simply hung there like a limp duck. Truth be told, I wasn’t all that interested in getting to the top. Heights scare the hell out of me and the thought of sheer willpower getting me up was simply not an option, I lacked the will. A lot can change in twelve years, the addition of two children not the least of it. So after kitting ourselves out with style deterring, yet robust harnesses, we hit the walls. Lincoln was strung up in a full body harness, his climbing abilities and lack of appropriate fear calling us to place him in the most secure outfit we could find. Lola, along with Shaun and I, stepped gingerly into our crotch harnesses and secured them to the appropriate tightness, where any hint of a bulge is encouraged to take shape into a full flung bakery selection. Truly a style essential.

Feeling right at home with the other trend setters, we scoped out the walls, finding what we thought would be the easier routes. All routes are marked with their level of difficulty, so if you know your level of skill, you are sorted. If you know your level. The children were actually easy, Lincoln took off up the wall with his customary ease, like his father years ago, his heart carried the strength his arms did not. The top did not elude him for long. After squashing Lola’s initial nerves, she took to it like a fish to water. After squashing my initial nerves, I was instructed by Shaun not to be a sissy, and to climb an ‘easy’ route, one he could do easily in his youth. He assured me anything less would be beneath me. I need not explain the lengths to which I couldn’t begin to climb this particular route. About four handholds in and I flaked out, effortlessly sliding back into my limp duck impersonation. This was not starting off well. Whilst desperately trying to stifle his laughter, Shaun told me to stop being so lame. I just needed to watch how he did it.

Without undermining my husbands physical prowess, he didn’t get any higher than I did.  This came as rather a surprise to both of us. Now both feeling a little sheepish, we began searching for routes that looked more to our adjusted skill level. Meanwhile, the children climbed happily up any wall, they obviously weren’t trying to stick to any particular route so the handholds were plenty, although spaced with adequate distance for their little legs and arms that it was still quite challenging for them. They enjoyed the climbing so much that they protested with vigour when Shaun and I wanted a turn to climb instead of just standing sentinel at the bottom.

If you have never climbed before, the basics are; you need to be in pairs (of equal-ish size). One person climbs while tied rather dramatically to a rope, while the other person, called the ‘belayer’, holds the other end of the rope at the bottom. The idea being that if the climber falls, the belayer will catch the tension in the rope (it is threaded through a loop at the top of the climb) so the climber does not fall, simply hangs in mid-air supported by the person at the bottom. This would explain the necessity of size, Lola for example would not be able to support my weight, or have the skill to hold the correct amount of tension in the rope as I climb. Shaun and I could each belay one child, and then take turns with each other while the kids rested and refuelled in the little canteen. It worked quite well, although belaying uses more strength than you would imagine.


We arrived mid afternoon and thought we had left ourselves too little time to climb, but at closing time, 3 hours later, we were all exhausted. Shaun and I both had shaky hands from all the rope tying and belaying, not to mention the lizard acrobatics up the walls (much to our relief, and debilitating state of embarrassment, we did improve as the afternoon went on). After a rocky start, we can’t wait to get back there!

Would I do this again?
Yes, yes and yes! Incredibly good strength training for us all, as well as teaching the kids coordination, perseverance and giving them mountains of fun! Incidentally I enjoyed it way more than I did in my youth.

What to be aware of?
The cost. It is not a cheap exercise. For access to the gym,  as well as hiring of shoes and harnesses, it cost in the region of R500 for the family. But to put that into perspective, it’s not much more than a meal out, so don’t gasp too audibly. It is good wholesome family fun, and you can stay and climb for as long as you like.
Children also need to be 5 years old to climb.

For details of CityRock, Cape Towns climbing gym, go to www.cityrock.co.za

Summiting Table Mountain … With Kids

By | Cape Town, Hikes, Parks | One Comment

Ok, so I know there are people who would argue with me when I say there is little better to do on a perfect day in Cape Town, than to head on a hike up Table Mountain, yes, on your feet – leave the cable car for the grannies and grandpa’s. But you can’t knock it until you’ve tried it, and it is beautiful. It is beautiful in a way you almost can’t describe. The way the sun hits the mountain and misty morning air with absolute peace. The sound of tiny creatures scampering through the bush desperately trying to flee the delighted cries of the children. The feeling of your heart pounding in your chest as you work your way higher up the side of the mountain, and the silence that meets you when you crest that final rise. Standing 1000 meters above the sea, looking down over Camps Bay, is nothing short of bliss. The quietness is strange at first, almost like you’re not sure what’s missing. You are completely removed from the constant droning of the cars, the incessant talking and hammering and barking. A bird chirping becomes a crystal clear sound, piercing the quietness, but then evaporating as quickly as it appeared. It’s magic up there.
This enchanted world isn’t lost on the kids either. They hear the quietness, they feel the peace, it’s taking them to a place where they can experience nature and see wonders in this world that can’t be bought in a store. It is such a vital experience for children of this generation to have, and not just once off either. When their everyday lives are constantly bombarded with images and sounds, flashing lights and perpetual adverts, they need to learn what it means to escape, to find their peace. Giving children some ‘quiet time’ is so often associated with veg’ing out in front of the TV or playing games on an iPad, when you compare that to real quiet time you realise how extremely twisted our notions of ‘quiet’ have become.

Lincoln running along the board walks on top of Table Mountain.

Lincoln running along the board walks on top of Table Mountain.


Our kids love the climb. We have learned that they prefer to climb rocky paths which require actual climbing, rather than hike a trail that requires only walking. They like to use their whole bodies, and they like the challenge of finding their own way over rocks in their path. It keeps the hike interesting for them, and saves us having to encourage them the whole way to the top.We have also learned they need frequent breaks, lots of little ones. Stopping for half an hour is actually more damaging than good as it lets the body relax and beginning the climb again is harder. Stopping for 1 minute every 10 minutes is great for them. They can have a sip of water and a small snack. It keeps energy levels up and gives them something to work towards. Telling them they have to keep climbing when they are needing a break is both dangerous and demoralising. Your wits have to be sharp but so do theirs, they need to be able to concentrate on their climbing and their balance. Regular breaks are key to that.


Watching your children reach the top of a mountain is one of the most rewarding experiences for a parent, especially when they are only 4 and 5 years old. You walked it too, so you know the effort that was involved and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t proud, it is a real achievement for them, and us of course, our inspirational pep talks were invaluable.

In our case, we climbed this particular climb a year ago with them, so we decided to extend a little further and hike across the top to the cable car. The walk along the top is extremely beautiful, you stroll through valleys filled with the largest Proteas I’ve ever seen, and climb rises covered with both ferns and fynbos. The vegetation is outstanding and the silence extends across all of it. We picnicked on a rocky outcrop with views over False Bay and across to Gordons Bay. We could see the entire mountain range that burned in the March 2015 fires, including Muizenberg, Kommetjie, Hout Bay and Camps Bay – our views were extraordinary.


Our rocky outcrop, and our views. Something extraordinary.

Our rocky outcrop, and our views. Something extraordinary.


Our travels across the top took us to Echo Valley, from where we could both see the cable car and hear the noise of the habitation. In the stillness and the quiet from where we had just come, the sight of the hoards was like crashing back to reality. We made a sharp b-line for the closest path to avoid the masses and began our descent down the mountain. What I neglect to mention is that in our haste to retreat, we chose to descend down a path that was ‘closed due to safety reasons’. If you choose to argue our sanity on this point I would not disagree with you. It was foolish and we were negligent.

What started as a peaceful, happy climb, deteriorated into dogged determination and perseverance based solely on the need to reach the bottom.

We ran out of water on the top, expecting to find a stream where we could fill our bottles, only to realise there is almost no water on the top of the mountain come March, the middle of the dry season. Just when we were turning into crusty semblances of our former selves, we found 2 puddles of water on the rocks that were the bane of our descent. We scooped those water swimmers aside and put our noses to the ground as we drained the fresh mountain water. It was our saving grace. Never have I been so happy to swallow unfiltered water lying dormant on a rock. Never did I think I would encourage my children to do so. After quenching our Sahara dessert thirst, what better way to celebrate than to sit down and have a good cry. As a pressure cooker does to release steam, so did I. My steam came out in big droplets, one at a time, each patiently waiting their turn, until I was once again calm. Nothing like a cry of frustration to ease the weight of knowing you made a bad judgement call, of knowing it when you made it but not listening, or recognising it for what it was. I knew the only way home was down, so we resumed our climb down the rocky ravine, guiding the children as they climbed down one immense boulder after another, passing them down to each other when the rocks where simply too high and too dangerous for them to climb.A 2 hour climb up, a 1.5 hour hike along the top, and a 3.5 hour hike down. What was meant to be a 4 hour hike turned out to be almost twice as long. After some choice language, nearly dehydrating, a good weep and a few discussions on when it would be a good time to call in a helicopter, we finally reached the bottom. We were all deflated, our feet hurt, and we were desperate for an ice cold drink, but we were down safely.The lesson to take from our epic hike, is don’t let the idea that you may have known better in the past, cloud your judgement on what you are currently attempting. When that more-than niggling thought tells you to stop and re-think your plan, don’t disregard it because in the past you have, and it turned out alright.

Shaun and I didn’t need to have the conversation on our errors up the mountain that day, we saw it in each others faces as we cuddled our kids before bed that night. While we tucked them in, congratulating them on their incredible tenacity during our adventure that day, I promised myself I would never take them down a closed route again. This was the last lesson I needed in that regard.

Closed route aside, it was an incredibly awesome hike! What an escapade.


Our family-selfie on the top of Table Mountain.

Our family-selfie on the top of Table Mountain.

Would I do this again?  

We will never do an unadvised route again with our children. But we will absolutely, one hundred percent, be taking them on the first part of this hike again! It was challenging, but an ideal hike for our family. We climbed up Kasteelspoort from Camps Bay.

What to be aware of? 

Plan! Plan! Plan! Stick to your plan. Changing your mind about the distance when you are half way through your hike is careless unless you know you have enough supplies on you. Running out of water is no joke. Realising you have no medical supplies on you when you need them is also no joke. Use the tips below!

  1. Have a map of your route and the surrounding area.
  2. Carry more food and water than you think you will need. Our kids eat significantly more than Shaun and I on a hike. This surprised us on our first major hike and Shaun and I had to go without in order to keep their energy up.
  3. Take a first aid kit. Just the basics. You’re packing light remember.
  4. Don’t walk an unadvised or closed route with your children! Putting yourself in danger is one thing, doing it to your children is iniquitous. This doesn’t mean you can’t do challenging routes, just stick to the advised paths.
  5. Tell at least one person where you are going before you leave.
  6. Take a phone with you, but keep in mind there may be no signal on the top of a mountain.
  7. Have the number for the mountain rescue service with you.
  8. Always carry a thermal, even on a hot day. The top of a mountain can have a vastly different temperature from that at the bottom.
  9. Pack a good sense of humour – things don’t always go your way!
  10. Remember you are there to have fun!!

If you have any hiking tips please feel free to share them.

Happy hiking!!

Cape Town Carnival 2015 - Somerset road

Cape Town Carnival 2015

By | Cape Town, Events | No Comments

The 2015 Cape Town Carnival exploded into the packed city streets in a flurry of feathers and swirling, glittering, streamers. Not only were the woman wearing little but crop tops and hoop dresses, but the men kept pace in loin cloths and headdresses too. Even the firemen did their bit by arriving in rather a hurry as they only manage to get half dressed. All this in support of the Elemental theme for this years Carnival, celebrating fire, water, earth and air.


We decided to attend this years Carnival as we have run out of excuses not to. We went expecting a half baked show with floats resembling those out of our varsity days, made in a stupor of alcohol and sleep deprivation, but boy were we wrong.

We stood face to face with life size elephants complete with elegantly moving parts, larger than life swimming fish and protea’s with dancing girls inside. Throngs of skateboarders cruised down Summerset road while a bevy of belly-dancers jangled along after them. Beautiful woman adorned with tails of feathers, others with skirts of ivy and choreographed dancers kept rigorously in check by well-camouflaged marshals, entertained us for over 2 hours.


Our kids were in heaven. With their disregard for anything regarding safety, we stuck them directly behind the railing in a sort of ‘caved out’ area from which they could not escape, be nabbed, or get into any serious trouble. With our bases covered we were able to stand back and enjoy the show from our tippy-toes as we peered over other onlookers shoulders, while our children sat in comfort, snacking on pre-packed treats and being entertained with hand shakes, high fives and fist pumps from dancers and musicians on their way past. If I was able to squeeze myself into the hollowed out area behind the railing without getting my head squashed between the bars and my rear kicked by countless onlookers, I would have wedged myself in there with them – they really had a prime spot.


The show was delightful and the atmosphere filled with all the ‘gees’ we South Africans have come to expect from our local entertainment. It was vibey and bustling and filled with Capetonian tang. There were plenty of food trucks lining the fan-walk providing everything from Columbian cuisine to soft-serve, and the restaurants lining the road were humming with excitement. All in all, this is a real Mardigra in the making, with a large dollop of South African flavour.


Would I do this again? Absolutely. Probably not every year as I believe they reused some of the floats from last year. But I think it would be fun to do with just grown ups too so we can join in the street party afterwards instead of racing to get the kids home. It’s a great party vibe.

What to be aware of? A lot of people, especially those with children, made a mad dash for the exit points after the parade. We needed to carry our children to keep their heads above the crowd. Either hang back and wait for the masses to leave, or make sure you can carry your kids if you intend on leaving in a hurry. Although it is possible to take a pram, I wouldn’t recommend it, you will find it difficult to negotiate the crowds and the pram will prove cumbersome. Consider taking a baby pouch or child carrier for young kids.

It Needs to Burn, But It’s Still Unbearable to Watch

By | Cape Town, Musings | No Comments

The Raging Inferno, formerly know as the Southern Cape. Day 4. The fire has consumed those of us living in its ever-present shadow. I struggle to think of much else. The degree of destruction is beginning to feel like natural disasters we hear about in the rest of the world but rarely experience in our beautiful country. We are no longer exempt. Close on 5000 hectares of Cape Fynbos has now burned. It is devastating.

The fact that no one has been seriously injured shows the incredible people we have managing this fire and looking after the communities that are being circled in flames. The tragedy lies in the houses that have burned to the ground, the destruction of our neatly tarred roads, the ‘humanisation’ of this beautiful, natural environment. The heartache however, lies in the devastation to the animal and plant kingdom, the thousands of traumatised and lifeless animals engulfed in smoke and flames. I have felt overwhelmed on numerous occasions in the last few days when looking at my surroundings and seeing the extent of the damage. I think a large part of that came from the realisation that this is possible. That from a tiny flame can come so much destruction. It’s almost unbelievable. If I am honest though, a lot of that sadness comes from the knowledge that my countryside isn’t as beautiful as it is expected to be, as it ordinarily is.With parents who are avid nature lovers, I grew up in the knowledge that fynbos is a plant type that thrives after fire. The Cape Floral Kingdom is a uniquely adapted environment, which actually needs burning. The burning is a purification of the plants and a redistribution of nutrients to the soil. Seeds and bulbs lying long dormant in the ground are given sunlight and room to grow while larger bushes are prevented from taking over and growing too abundantly in an area. This is the reality of the incredible vegetation that surrounds us. What we are witnessing is a ‘resetting’ of the biome. All this knowledge doesn’t make the destruction any less severe however.

In an interesting conversation last night with a friend, we were discussing the obliteration of our landscape. I was sharing the weight of what I felt was a huge knock to Cape Town. She shared what she thought was a cleansing and a rebirth not only to the vegetation, but people’s spirits too. This fire, she said, may not be what we as people want to see, but it is what the vegetation needs. As difficult as it is to admit, our pain in what we are witnessing may be substantially more selfish than we would like to admit. We as a civilisation have positioned ourselves slap-bang in the middle of an area, which evolved over millennia, around the need to ignite, not regularly, but every 10 – 15 years. This is however, far more often than we would like. Part of the reason so many of us live here is because of the beauty, how could it not sadden us to look around and see a post-apocalyptic wasteland in front of us, we would not be human if we did not feel some sadness at the loss. And I think that’s precisely what was meant by cleansing people’s spirits. A large portion of the Cape Town population has rallied around the fire fighters, pilots and rescue crews. There has been more support shown for these brave men and women than I think I have ever witnessed in our country. We have looked, as a people, beyond our own selves and seen a greater need. There is nothing more cleansing to the soul than that. It has breathed new life into us all.

It is impossible to ignore the heartache the natural world has experienced, nor should we try. What I am suggesting is that we look at this ‘tragedy’ with fresh eyes. Eyes that can see forward to the new growth of plants, to bulbs already stirring under the soil from the heat and smoke from the flames, getting ready to sprout flowers not that different in colour to the flames themselves. The rebirth of vegetation along with new life currently burrowed under the soil, will stir our hearts when we see it. Our mountain may not be much to behold right now, but in time, it will be what it once was. Let’s look forward with anticipation to those first precious buds pushing through the burnt crust of earth.

My hope is that along with the beauty of our floral kingdom, will come a beauty of the human spirit, a burst of new life into the community in ways we have not done before. Let’s keep looking beyond ourselves, there are Fire Lillies among us.

For further reading on fynbos’ need for fire, see Out of the ashes: Notes on the March 2015 Cape Town Wildfire.

Human Spirit vs Natural Disaster?

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As I sit and write, our mountain burns. It burns a blaze that has been going for over 48 hours. It has been fanned by winds over 60km’s an hour while brave men and women simultaneously beat the flames, pitting the strength of nature against the strength of human spirit and tenacity. We don’t yet have a winner. The fire continues to burn at an astonishing rate, leaving the area of devastation at around 3000ha and counting, almost all of which is protected National Park. Five houses, one of Cape Town’s most prestigious hotels and now Tokai forest, burn.

As someone living in the heat of the devastation I have been overcome by the community around me. Not always a group that supports each other, Hout Bay is often chastised for its stark contrast in class and living conditions. There is community violence, xenophobia and theft. People don’t always put their best foot forward. Yet throw something as terrifying as a fire into the mix and you have the ‘Hout Bay hustle’, the uniting of the people. Something I am proud to bare witness to.There was a plea put out this morning to help the fire fighters with food and water. A simple plea, it didn’t ask for much. In amidst my morning I thought, I wonder how many people will read this and assume everyone else will do it? How often do we all sit back and assume someone else will step forward? I venture to say most of us, all of the time. So I pulled myself away from my desk, got in my car and headed down to Hout Bay Neighbourhood Watch headquarters, to see how I could assist.I was blown away, not by the blustery wind as thankfully that had stopped, but by what I found there. A lovely old man was standing by, guiding people to deposit their contributions in trolleys already laden with goods; bottles of water, energy drinks and crates of fruit. Fresh croissants, homemade sandwiches and cartons of eye drops for the poor fire fighters smoke filled eyes. He told me they had already moved 20 trolley loads of groceries to where it was needed on the mountain, and it was only just midday. I was overcome with gratitude. Gratitude for my fellow countrymen who jump when they are needed and pledge what they can to help in the immense task of saving their land and their homes, of helping the brave fire fighting men and women in a task that can only be described as painfully hot and back breaking work. More people than I could ever have hoped for answered a cry for help, it sparked a love for my community and my countrymen such that I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I know it wasn’t only me that felt this outpouring of love today. I heard it spoken of in the shops, saw it on countless social media posts and saw evidence of the appreciation at Neighbourhood Watch Headquarters. Hout Bay I salute you, as I salute the brave men and woman fighting on the mountain tonight. The fire might have wrecked devastation, but it cannot beat down the human spirit.

A beautiful, green, Lions Head - Cape Town.

1 Mountain, 1 Toddler, 3 Pre-schoolers and a Pregnant Lady

By | Cape Town, Hikes | One Comment

You haven’t seen Cape Town in all its glory until you have climbed to the top of Lions Head. Making the trek up this beautiful peak is inspirational, you wind your way around the mountaintop and in doing so are afforded 360 degree views of Cape Town city, the surrounding mountains, not least of which is Table Mountain and the Stellenbosch peaks, as well as incredible views of Cape Towns beaches, Robben Island and the Atlantic ocean.

This is a climb we have made many times both before kids and after them. Pre kids, we used to climb to the top and then race each other down, before heading to one of the city’s quirky coffee spots for a little breakfast. After kids, we made the modification of adding a child carrier to one adult and a ‘cango pouch’ to the other, as well as a bag with diapers, wipes, bottles, sippy cups, fruit bars and lollipops (for when they have reached their limit). As time has passed we have managed to lose both child-transportation devices in lieu of throwing them onto our backs when they get tired, and replaced innumerable toddler ‘essentials’ with a handful of protein bars and a sports drink or two. Climbing mountains has got considerably easier.

Climbing Lions Head pre children.

Climbing Lions Head pre children.

Climbing Lions Head with liiiiiiittle children.

Climbing Lions Head with liiiiiiittle children.

Climbing Lions Head with slightly more capable children.

Climbing Lions Head with slightly more capable children.

Caution!! Rock climbing training in progress! Nerves of steal required to view this picture.

Caution!! Rock climbing training in progress! Nerves of steal required to view this picture.

After a long period of training our children to hike with proficiency, we launched into an exciting adventure of heading up the mountain with, as the title suggests, not just our little family of four, but some extended family as well. My brother, his almost six months pregnant wife and their two boys (aged twenty-three months and three years old). We dug out the child carrier, filled a bag with all the toddler ‘essentials’ and grabbed the protein bars and sports drinks. Off we set.

Mikey (my three year old nephew) last climbed a mountain as a four week old embryo inside his mother’s tummy, that was the last time we coaxed my wonderful big brother and his sweet unsuspecting wife up Table Mountain. It must have done a great job in laying the foundations for great future climbing for Mikey, as he set off up Lions Head with sheer determination. Every step was calculated and the thought and energy that went into keeping his consistent pace was impressive. Every offer of a ‘lift’ from either his uncle or his aunt was politely declined. Danny (my almost two year old nephew) walked approximately 20 meters before he was hoisted into his carrier and strapped to my brother’s back where he remained, safely, for the duration of the hike.


It has taken many years of hiking and climbing with our kids to teach them where to put their feet, what rocks to hold, what rocks not to hold and where to stand when they are waiting for us. Climbing up ladders and rungs drilled into the rock requires agility on the side of the parents (you have to climb with them but not use the appropriate holds and foot rests because they are), as well as nerves of steel. Five years in and I still haven’t developed the steeliness needed to prevent clammy toes and moist palms. My poor sister in law didn’t know what she was getting herself into! I’m sure she watched in more than horror as we guided her little three year old up the sheer rock face and out of her sight as she awaited her turn up the steely rungs of terror. Negotiating a six month pregnant belly up those rocks was a feat in itself and she put many a passer-by to shame as they huffed and puffed their way up, only to notice her belly and the pack of children and realise how easy they had it.

As all three children reached the top, on their own, followed protectively by their hovering parents, the sun began to set. Anyone with an inkling of the effort it takes to get a troop this large just to the beginning of the hike, knows that we weren’t about to can the idea just because we left an hour after we were planning on setting out. This rather annoying deviation in time pushed us into the beautiful ‘sunset window’ at the top, but also into the rather perilous position of descending in the dark. Not first prize for a hiking party with more people needing to be carried than there were backs to carry them, but down we had to come. Opting for the less hazardous, slightly longer route down, left only one child lying on their back after trying to race ahead of his older sister (yes, Lincoln), but the rest of us set a steady pace climbing down the rocks and Shaun and I set about managing, carrying and herding the three children.

Shepherding three pre-schoolers up the side of a mountain is intensive stuff, getting them down involves dogged determination, and muscles, lots of them. This was the first time we found ourselves outnumbered and out of time. There is no fast decent when moving in the dark, especially when you intend to get everyone down in one piece. Carrying a child on your back and holding another child’s hand utilises muscles I’m not sure I knew existed until the morning after our hike. Think of it as a continual bicep curl with your arm behind your back. Hoorah!! – Navy Seals here we come!
Night time or no night time, I’m not sure I would recommend this hike if you intend taking your children up, unless you and your partner are relatively fit. Your children don’t have to be, as long as you turn around before they reach their limit, or you can carry them down. We would have been in rather a pickle if we weren’t able to carry the kids down, and the hike certainly wouldn’t have been as enjoyable. The best advice I can give is know your limits.

That said, children have an amazing resilience and an ability often far beyond what we credit them with. Mikey, having never climbed before, was able to summit the top, entirely on his own, and he never once, not even on the way down, complained about his legs, the length of the hike or how dark it was. Our children are used to this craziness, but seeing how easily other children adapt when thrown in the deep end is inspiring, it makes me want to grab other parents by the collar and tell them to do more with their kids. Don’t be reckless, but get out into the wilderness and push yourselves to see more, experience more, climb a peak you’ve never summited and show your children how to enjoy the outdoors! It’s beautiful, it’s free, and it’s freeing. Go and breath some fresh air as a family, it’s never too late to start, and I can assure you – you won’t regret it.


Cape Town skyline at dusk.

5 Months of Perspective

By | Cape Town, Musings, Our Travels | No Comments

Although it took a little more than closing my eyes, tapping the heels of my red shoes together and repeating “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home”, I feel rather like Dorothy returning home after her adventures in the Land of Oz. What an incredible story, but man is it good to be home!! Waking up in sunny South Africa, in our beautiful city that looks even better than it did when we left, makes it hard to believe that what we did for the past 5 months actually happened. The ending to this story could very easily be, ‘and they woke up and it was all a dream’… except for our all-consuming jetlag, lily-white complexions and lack of a house. Yes, our homelessness knows no bounds.

In planning for our trip we decided to rent our house out for 6 months in order to help cover the costs. Obviously our returning early means little to the munchkins living in our home, so until they move on, we have made camp in what can only be described as truly exceptional friends homes. We arrived at Melissa and Austin’s house on Friday morning, and positively exploded. To be clearer, I should say our luggage exploded and we collapsed. Bar the light fittings, we’ve had clothing hanging from almost every available surface. These last few days have looked like someone has begun a laundry service from the Fagan’s normally beautifully ordered home. With the utmost grace and warmth though, we have been absorbed into the home and the now 4 adult 4 child home is pulsing with life at all hours of the day and night, it is wonderful! Chaotic, yes, but after missing our friends like we have, coming back to this is exciting and replenishing.

In fact, since we arrived home on Friday, we have had no lack of excitement. We barely had time to unpack (actually we didn’t at all, we decided to sleep Friday away instead) before heading off to a 35th birthday party on Friday night, where Lincoln and Lola managed to convince their best little friend Owen, to stay awake with them until almost 2am when he passed out, only half an hour before they themselves were herded to the sleeping chambers. Eastern Standard Time seems somewhat tricky to get out of the system!

The following days consisted of beautiful sunny beach visits, 30th birthday’s and lunch’s with dearly missed friends and family, all of which exciting, none of which we were fully awake for. We reserved fully awake status for 2am when we should have been getting our extensively desired beauty rest. One week on however, and we seem to be finding our feet again.

In my sleep-deprived state during our migration from Wyoming… to New York… to London… to Cape Town, I neglected to fully illuminate the motives behind our final demise. After much interrogation from friends and family (and questioning into whether I was pregnant again – I mean really! It’s been almost 4 years since our winning streak and we’ve gleaned a thing or two on how babies are made since then), I thought it best to fill the rest of you in.

To put it simply, we were just tired. Tired of packing, tired of moving, tired of trying to fit in more than is humanly possible into 24 hours, tired of lots more besides, but more important than what we were tired of, is what we were looking forward to! We wanted friends, family, summer, stability, not living out of a suitcase, picnics on our beach, good food, date nights, our bicycles, our own beds, abundant kitchen utensils, homes with gardens, homes with more than one bedroom, homes without neighbours below us!.. a warm sun, South African accents, a currency that’s worth something in its own land, a nation of colour, a nation of diversity, a population that allows their children to run free… we longed for home.

Our arrival back in Cape Town looked rather epic.

Our arrival back in Cape Town looked rather epic.

What we learned in our 5 months in the States, is that the grass isn’t always greener. The grass may be a different shade of green, longer in some places, denser in others, but as with everything in life, there is no ‘one size fits all’ in the world’s diverse network of grasses. While I personally prefer grass that is allowed to grow on it’s own, with guidance and corrections, but ultimately forging its own path, others may enjoy the constant fussing and supervision given to the particular cultivars grown in the States. This was one of my biggest struggles while over there.

I believe I am a good parent, worrying when I should but also giving my children enough rope to explore and enjoy without constantly hovering and shielding them from every possible eventuality. Maintaining the belief that I am a responsible parent was challenged with every trip I made to the shops with the kids, and every walk we took down a sidewalk in a big city. There was always someone there to comment on how dangerous ‘insert chosen activity’ was; hiding under clothing racks in the shops, helping mum choose items off a shelf, jumping in the snow on the sidewalk, scooting down a hill, being further than 3 meters from me at any given time – it was exhausting, but the list was endless. Shop attendants fussed and passersby in the street commented. I can’t imagine what they would have done had they seen our kids climbing mountains or bouldering in the scary outdoors. There is most certainly a balance and obviously children can’t be left to their own devices entirely, but I felt like things were often a bit screwy with American parents, pandering and protecting younger children but letting high school age kids run amok, with teens telling parents when they are going out instead of asking, and fostering a culture of ‘what we want when we want it’ regardless of the consequences. I’m not saying South African teens are exempt from this, but it just feels amplified and mostly condoned there.

I am also certainly not saying this about everyone in or from the States, this is a general feel, more prominent in some areas than others, but what I can say is that when my South African friend introduced me to an American mum who let her 3 year old drink water from a fountain out of another child’s shoe, I immediately warmed to her. So there definitely are parents in the States who parent like I do, but they seem to be few and far between. I often felt judged, criticised, and as a result completely stressed out and on edge when I was out with the kids. I freaked out more, I reprimanded more, and behaved a bit like a Mum I would ordinarily feel sympathy for. This played no small part in our wanting our relaxed and happy Cape Town.

There are most certainly things about the States that we will miss, like not having to glue your handbag to your hip or having at least 7 shop attendants on hand making sure you can find what you need, but as far as we are concerned, good customer service and reduced crime just doesn’t beat a country with as much to offer as ours, despite the incredible things we saw in our 5 months there. Growing up in a third world country, the impressions most of us have about first world countries is hugely inaccurate, we believe there are no problems, that they have it all sorted. We give our country too little credit and always imagine everywhere else to be better. While the crime and poverty are definitely less, they have been replaced with other problems, it seems people are incapable of living without them. Visiting a ‘promised land’ like America offers a perspective on our own that is both inspiring and heartwarming. We have many issues in our country and it certainly isn’t all easy sailing, but no one chooses to live in Africa because it’s easy, you choose to live in Africa because of what it has to offer. To impart some of our newfound perspective, we are truly lucky to be able to call Africa our home. This land is something special, I hope everyone gets a chance to see that.

Interestingly, and absolutely coincidently, I am about to head out for the evening with 3 great girl friends, all of whom are American! I hope I don’t get a beating for my only half glowing account of their beautiful country 🙂

Ps. If you have somehow read this post in isolation, please read all my tales of how incredible American soil is! It truly is amazing. This is a post on how happy we are to be home… we certainly gushed about the States while we were there though! Xxx