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Category Archives: Hikes

Hiking in Cape Town

By | Cape Town, Hikes | One Comment

Looking for good spots to hike in Cape Town? A number of people have asked me recently and this is one of those times where you are positively spoilt for choice. There is so much on offer it can leave you with decision fatigue. So for those of you who live here, or those visiting on holiday, here is a list of our favourite hikes, both with and without children. So, in no particular order:

Lions Head by evening light

Lions Head by evening light

Lions Head
This is one of Cape Town’s most popular hikes (and night hikes on or around full moon). Lions Head is right next to the city bowl and has arguably the best views in the Cape, looking over the 12 Apostle Mountains towards the South, Camps Bay, Clifton, the city and surrounds, and all the way out to the Paarl mountains. 360 degrees of awesome!
The walk starts off steeply along a dirt track but flattens off into single track as it winds its way around the mountain. You complete a full circle of the peak before the final summit, which requires agility to ascend the sandstone rock that is its peak. There are sections of rungs bolted into the rock where you need to climb (be weary if you are afraid of heights, but to put it into perspective our children do it with relative ease). Alternatively you can opt to walk around it, which is slightly longer but cuts out the climbing. There are still ladders to scale further up however.

This is an energetic climb but ‘bang for buck’ probably the best hike I’ve ever done. The views are extraordinary and you get very high very fast.

Ability level: You do need to be fairly able bodied and coordinated, but our kids can do this climb without any trouble.
Time: 1.5 hours up and 1 hour down. At a mild pace.
Highly recommended!

 

Nearing the top of Kasteelpoort climb with the kids

Nearing the top of Kasteelpoort climb with the kids

Kasteelpoort (Camps Bay side of Table Mountain)
Undoubtedly one of our children’s favourite routes up Table Mountain. This is not because it is easy. It is in fact, one of the more challenging routes we have done. It is fairly steep, requiring you to do a fair amount of scrambling, using arms as well as strong leg muscles to keep you going up. There is no “easy” on this climb. It is exciting, it is beautiful, and it gets you to the top fast.

Our children get bored when there is nothing for them to “do”, so this is ideal in that they are always climbing, always using their whole bodies, always having to concentrate.

They did this for the first time at 3 and 4 years old, under close supervision (falling over backwards is a very real possibility), but with very little actual help.
Ability level: Not for those looking for a gentle walk (except for the first section of jeep track). Make sure your kids are coordinated, if they are not, walk behind them to steady them. Fairly tiring, but well worth the effort.
Time: 1.5 hours up at a good kids pace, easy pace for us. Less than an hour down.

 

Above Kirstenbosch  gardens climbing Skeleton gorge.

Above Kirstenbosch gardens climbing Skeleton gorge.

Skeleton Gorge (Kirstenbosch Gardens side of Table Mountain)
This walk starts inside Kirstenbosch gardens and is beautiful and shady from the outset. It fairly quickly becomes steep stairs, but a wonderful canopy shelters you as you climb the gorge to the top. As you get higher you are required to use your arms as you cross over the gorge and scale boulders, making it a full body climb at times. The last time we did this route our kids were young enough to be in packs on our back. It was tiring going for us as there wasn’t much area to let them walk at 1 and 2 years old. As you get closer to the top it begins to flatten out and you emerge into the sunshine. At this point you can pick one of many return routes.

A great idea is to walk across the top to the cable car for lunch. Don’t underestimate this distance however.

Other options including returning down a different gorge into Kirstenbosch, or walking south and down Constantia Neck.
Ability Level: You need to be willing to sweat going up. It is certainly not for the faint hearted. I would attempt it now with our kids as I think they would manage well (although I’m sure they would have enjoyed it when they were younger too).
Time: Going up you are looking at roughly 1.5 hours, moderate adults pace. From the top it is another 2 hours to the cable car.

 

Rounding Llandudno corner on the way down.

Rounding Llandudno corner on the way down.

 

Llandudno Ravine
Absolutely one of my favourite routes up the mountain. Unspoiled views, incredible fynbos and relative solitude await. Being one of the lesser known, or possibly just lesser climbed paths up the mountain, makes this even more enjoyable. The climb includes all types of terrain; normal climbing, short rock faces, some stairs, as well as flatter sections. There are great lookout points and interesting rock formations as you get closer to the top.

Cresting the final rise gives the most breath-taking view of Lions Head and Table Mountain from the south; I could sit there for hours.

The hike begins next to the entrance to Ruyterplaats Estate, at the top of Suikerbossie in Hout Bay.
Ability level: We have walked this a couple of times with our kids but it took us a few tries before we reached the top and required determination to get there. Not recommended for young children or those with no hiking experience. There are a few sections of climbing up rock faces, narrow paths with steep drop-offs, as well as slippery rocks in the rainy season.
Time: It took us about 3.5 hours to reach the top of the climb. This did include a lot of stopping. You could continue on along the top of the mountain at this point or turn around and walk down again. We turned around and it took us 2 hours to reach the bottom.

 

The view over Hout Bay from the top of the Chapmans Peak climb, above Noordhoek.

The view over Hout Bay from the top of the Chapmans Peak climb, above Noordhoek.

Chapmans Peak
There are a number of walks you can do up Chapmans Peak. The first starts at the old forts, and winds its way up the first mountain. We have never been to the top, but it is a lovely gentle climb to while away a few hours on a weekend.

If you park at the check point near the top of Chapmans Peak, you can walk up a beautiful path surrounded by magnificent Cape fynbos.

This path diverges after reaching the first plateau. You can either walk east towards Muizenburg, or you can turn right, heading west up a path which leads to a rocky out crop with a look out over Noordhoek, Hout Bay and False Bay.
Ability level: You needn’t be very fit; it is a gradual climb that can be taken at your own pace. Old and young alike can manage and it has wonderful views once you have crested the first plateau.
Time: At a medium pace with our kids we took 1.5 hours to get to the rocky outcrop over Noordhoek, once you follow the path right.
Note: Chapmans Peak is still closed to hikers from the 2015 fires and is currently devoid of its proliferous, lush, fynbos.

 

Looking down Platteklip Gorge.

Looking down Platteklip Gorge.

Platteklip Gorge
This well walked and popular tourist climb is +/- 1km to the left of the cableway. It is steep going from the start and the majority of this climb is a winding, rocky staircase. You don’t have to be incredibly fit, you can do this at any pace, plodding slowly up. It is deceptively long and deceptively high however. We recently walked up with our kids (accustomed to this madness), a friend of ours, and his son. All the kids were full of beans on the way up, racing to be in first place, but needed encouragement on the way down.

This climb is not easy on the knees so if you have knee issues consider a different route down (potentially the cable car).

It is a fun climb to get to the top and see all the other tourists who cruised up in the cable car, and then join them for some lunch in the restaurant.
Ability level: Strong knees required, but that withstanding, you just need the heart to reach the top. No climbing/scrambling sections. No ladders. No flat sections.
Time: If you are fit and strong, approximately 1 hour. With kids, it took us 2 hours. Once you reach the top it is another 20 minutes to the cable station. Down we managed in roughly 1 hour.

 

Walking the service road up Constantia Nek.

Walking the service road up Constantia Nek.

Constantia Neck
A firm favourite with the southern suburb locals. There are numerous paths and dirt roads to be explored and you will be doing it in the company of a wide variety of both animals and people. Despite the frequency of visitors to this part of the mountain, it remains beautiful and filled with wildlife. We have encountered many snakes on our walks here and if you persevere to the top of the mountain you will be rewarded with wonderful views and a flat surface to explore while resting your legs for the descent.

On a hot day you can take a dip in the reservoir on the top of the mountain and enjoy breath-taking views of the Atlantic Ocean if you walk west to the top of Llandudno Ravine.

Ability level: Any age, shape or size. You walk as far and as high as you can. There are many options in this area.
Time: Your route. Your choice. (Roughly 1.5 hours to the top with our children)

 

India Venster in the rainy months.

India Venster in the rainy months.

India Venster
A route for the adventurous. Not something we have attempted with the kids yet. You climb up directly beneath the cable cars and follow the path as it skirts around to Camps Bay where it heads straight up to the cable car area.

This route has lots of climbing, some hair-raising height sections and requires lots of spirit.

You would normally see the more seasoned hikers walking this route but that’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a shot. The hiking is varied and offers a bit of everything.
Ability Level: This is a great option for relatively fit people looking for an exciting climb (or anyone with lots of heart).
Time: Roughly half a day’s hike up and down, depending on your speed. If we took our kids I’d imagine it would be closer to 6 hours.

 

Exploring the top of Table Mountain.

Exploring the top of Table Mountain.

Cruising the Top
The trick here is you have to get to the top somehow. We are never ones to queue for the cable car, but if you don’t mind that, head up for some breakfast with a view, and pick your route across the top. I am always surprised by the topography on the top of the mountain, regardless of how often we have been up there; it is unbelievably varied. There are valleys of lush fynbos, dry rocky outcrops and rivers that wind their way towards plummeting ravines.

Our favourite side to walk is from the cable car towards Llandudno Ravine.

You walk down through valleys, up and over hills (no, it’s not flat up there) and all while enjoying peace, quiet and relative solitude.
Ability Level: There is something for everyone, even if you only walk along the viewing area next to the cable car.
Time: There are route markers on the top of the mountain with estimated hiking times, use those as a guide when planning your route.

…Now get out there and enjoy our mountains!…

Beaverlac – South Africa’s very own Garden of Eden

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An absolute delight! This is the gathering place of the Gods, the point where water, rock and mountain meet to play. If you are a nature lover, this is pure indulgence.

For years we have been hearing about Beaverlac. “The most incredible rock pools”… “such a great getaway” … “an escape from everything, no phones, no music, just crackling campfires at night”. Honestly, I thought everyone was making much a do about nothing. Until we got there.

The campsite is nothing particularly special, especially if you are allergic to Plane trees, as is my predicament. The majority of it is grassed, slightly sloping, but perfectly comfortable to camp on. The combination of Plane and Oak trees offer a fair amount of shade, but if you are there in spring time make sure you have allergy meds with you, the ‘puff’ balls spare no expense in ensuring the entire area is covered in a light dusting of pollen and fibres. Now although the camping area is nothing to write home about, setting foot along the path towards the main ‘rock pool’ gives you an idea that there may be something magical lurking around the corner. The path very quickly becomes rocky and difficult single track, made especially difficult by the fact that we were all on our bikes. Not anticipating what lay around the bend, we made a frankly ill advised decision on our means of transportation. After discarding our bikes behind a rather large, shrub-obscured boulder, we proceeded on foot. By far the better decision as it turned out; the rocks would have been un-navigable on wheels, even for the most seasoned professional.

To say I was surprised when I saw the rock pools would be an understatement. It was like finding an oasis in a desert. One minute you are walking along rugged mountainside, and the next you are standing opposite a 3 meter wide waterfall, a large pool of fresh mountain water at its base. It is surrounded by sloping rocks and vegetation, both of which you can use to get in and out of the clear, deep water. It is brackish, and cold, but so invigorating to jump off the top of the waterfall into the pool below. As we arrived on a Thursday morning, we had the place almost entirely to ourselves for a day, and it was magical.

Climbing up to Jump off the falls.

Climbing up to Jump off the falls.

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The pristine pools

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Fresh dips

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Resting on rocks

On the Friday, we decided to walk up the Leopard trail in search of the Totempools. It is a lovely walk, winding you up the mountain alongside the river. About half an hour up we stopped at the ‘bum slides’, so named because the long stretch of flat rock is perfect for sliding down, when there is enough water in the river that is. Given that South Africa has been rather racked by global warming of late, we found little joy in sliding down the rocks on our bottoms, particularly with a son like Lincoln who managed to almost concuss himself, crack open his head and lose a limb in a matter of minutes. We opted instead to continue our climb in search of the elusive pools.

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Lincoln on his way down to getting wedged under the rock!

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Lincoln just before he fell over and landed on his head!

And elusive they definitely were. Climb as we might, we are not sure if we were met with success. After taking the wrong path a couple of times, sending Shaun up the mountain ahead of us to try and figure out which was the right route, and eventually succumbing to the heat, we stopped at what we thought was a pretty good ‘potential’ Totempool. We are still not sure if that was the Totempool or not. It was incredibly beautiful however, and a prefect place to spend a few hours lounging on the rocks and frolicking in the fresh mountain pools. The solitude we were spoilt with made our first two days at Beaverlac idyllic.

 

Arriving back at the campsite after our walk on Friday evening, we were greeted with a swarm of weekend arrivals. Being a dog-friendly spot meant that there were more than a few exuberant canines leaping about. For the most part under control, but there were a few angling for a tent to mark as there own. It was by no means ridiculously busy, but after being spoilt by having the pools to ourselves for the first few days meant we were happy to hit the road the next morning. Leaving was not easy however, the dance of the water over the tumbling Cederberg mountains and the therapeutic crashing sound it makes as it plummets into the pools of fresh mountain water left us hankering for more. It is a place I would visit again and again – solitude being a prerequisite of course.

Go with the intention of leaving noise, social media and a constant stream of interruptions behind, and you wont be disappointed. I guarantee it.

Our camping spot

A Life Less Ordinary

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Last week called for a change in habitat. After our great experiences on Airbnb, Shaun and I decided we would rent out our home to families looking for a more “homely” experience when visiting Cape Town. If people want to stay in our house and the timeframe suits us, we pack our bags and out we go.

So last week we found ourselves residing in the Cederberg. It hardly felt like we’d been booted out our home. The location couldn’t have been more perfect, the views more beautiful and the sounds more peaceful. It was a little piece of heaven. We were overlooking the Clanwilliam dam, and had the Cederberg Mountains against our backs. You could hardly find a better playground.

Running to the water from our cabin

Running to the water from our cabin

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Our private beach spot

As is customary in our adventuring, Shaun had to bring the old workbook along; cramming in a good 8-hour day amongst our dam swims, walks, and hikes in the mountains. The fact that the temperatures were reaching the mid thirties worked in his favour because we had to spend midday indoors with the air-con humming on full capacity to escape the heat.

The temperature however, did little to deter us from undertaking the 12.5km Kliphuis hike along the Pakhuis Pass in the Cederberg. Anticipating the heat, we woke at the crack of dawn, poured food down our gullets, applied a full body suit of sunblock, and hit the road.

It was well worth it.

The Cederberg offers views and solitude in a way you can’t refuse it. You breathe it in, you soak in the views and you revel in its stillness. The incredible rock formations can keep you mesmerised for hours. We hadn’t planned on walking the whole route but found ourselves unable to turn down the opportunity of a full morning, alone, in paradise.
The kids were troopers. I say this with the utmost gratitude, and respect for their endurance. They put up with some crazy ideas their parents have. They walked almost the entire way on their own little legs. Running over the flat sandy patches on top of the mountain so we could make up time. Braving a walk head on with baboons because it was the only way past them. Learning to track leopard footprints in the sand despite the sweltering heat, and constantly being schooled on where it is safe to take drinking water from. These kids put up with a lot.
At midday, after 4 hours of hiking, when the mercury was reaching a balmy 35 degrees, we reached the end. If our car didn’t have air-con we would heave melted into a puddle.

 

After returning to our cabin, we decided a swim was in order. In an attempt to entertain the kids while Shaun and I endeavoured to get some work done, we would let them run down to the dam to build their rock castles and throw stones in the water. On this particular afternoon, we were heading down for a swim, so I was with them, well, a few precious minutes behind. The children ran ahead while I packed a picnic, and when I got there I found them standing 5 meters from the dam, waiting rather stoically for me to arrive. In a very matter of fact manner they informed me they had found a puff adder at the water. Now my snake knowledge is minimal, my tendency to overreact is also pretty minimal, so I decided it must be a little mole snake. I patted them calmly while getting them to show me where this ‘puff adder’ was. It was so incredibly camouflaged that it took me a good half a minute to see it! At that point I knew it wasn’t a mole snake, its marking were far too beautiful, but I still couldn’t say what it was. So we called in the naturalist, aka. Dad, who arrived at a rate of knots with eyes sticking out on stalks. It was definitely a ‘puffy’ (Lola’s later affectionate name for it), and as we gawked, while simultaneously marvelling at Lola and Lincoln’s incredible observation skills, the tubby puffy slid into the water and swam away! It came as more than a surprise to us all, but not enough to put us off swimming in that heat, we just did it with our eyes peeled.

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One camouflaged Puffy

puffy-spotting

Puffy spotting!

Saying there is an abundance of wildlife in this corner of the world clearly goes without saying. The area is largely uninhabited, and development hasn’t boomed like other ‘dam’ towns, leaving bird life and wild animals roaming about freely. We had a pair of herons gliding about using our corner of the damn as their runway, and we shared our still mornings with a plethora of bird song. The mongooses, bush rabbits and buck all bound around gleefully, and they were just the obvious ones. It was a really special place to let our children partake in nature. To be somewhere so unspoiled, and have it be in Cape Town’s backyard, is a real treat. To be able to sneak away in the middle of term, and have the good fortune of being able to simply take our work along with us, must make us some of the luckiest people around. Always striving for a life less ordinary, always looking for balance, it’s weeks like this where I think sometimes we do get it right.

 

Obstinate Children and the Application of Speed. I Could Write a Thesis.

By | Cape Town, Hikes | 2 Comments

Having a body clock set to the crack of dawn can be a wonderful thing, especially as the weather turns and Cape Town’s mornings have a warm clarity about them. Jumping out of bed with a wicked enthusiasm to hit the mountains reminds me of what it was like going skiing. Only I get to put on far less clothing and needing the loo just before you leave the house is fraught with considerably less aerobics. Regardless of what time I wake up however, getting Shaun and Lola ready to leave the house is like trying to wake a bear from hibernation. There is much grogginess, grumpiness, and a general disillusionment about the morning. Dangling the carrot of a hike up the mountain, finally gets them to the kitchen, and after Lincoln and I have run several laps around the dining room and sung karaoke to countless songs while Lola and Shaun finish breakfast, we all scramble into the car to hit the only mountain in sight with no clouds on the top. In Cape Town, a warm clarity in the morning means nothing for the rest of the day; the weather here can turn like a cornered celebrity.

So with very few options, off to Constantia Neck we head. Being a public holiday, coupled with our poor forward planning and all of Cape Town’s active population having the same idea, we were stuck in hiker’s rush hour.

Never start hiking at 9am!

We had a lunch date at 12 so this set the tone for the hike upfront. The name of the game was speed. I’m quite sure I repeated this several times just to make sure everyone had got it.

No one got it. I would be lying if I said the kids hit the mountain with any speed what so ever. There was a lot of feet dragging, moaning about the fact that the path went up, eye rolling, staged protests, and several stops in the first 10 meters to sit on rocks. Oh yes, our children too, are human. We certainly can’t win them all. With a little whip cracking and threats of being left at home the next time, they did manage to up their game somewhat. There was more backpacking than usual, more whining, and more disenchantment, until we found our first snake that is. Noisy, black and a tail that seemed to go on forever, Lola was jolted into the morning with rapture! It (the snake and Lola’s rapture) made its departure rather hastily as we climbed the less travelled path to the top of Table Mountain. Lincoln and Shaun had opted to walk on the dirt road with the rest of the pilgrims, so Lola and I enjoyed that viewing alone. As we neared the meeting point of the two paths, we casually walked past another snake, this time a Boomslang. This too was rather noisy, and alerted us to its presence. Only after calling Lincoln and Shaun did the beautiful yellow and black snake slither its way onto the top of a bush and watch us for what felt like ages. I may casually mention it’s a boomslang now, but had we known that at the time I don’t think we would have stood by so casually. At the time we were intrigued that it showed such an interest in us, seemed completely at ease, and made its nonchalant way right in front of us along the path, instead of heading back into the bushes. It was an incredible sighting and reminded us how careful we should be when strolling along our mountain paths, particularly at this time of year. When you’ve done something enough times you tend to adopt a rather blasé attitude towards it. Mindful caution is never a bad thing.

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Shaun-and-Linky
Lola-sulk

The name of the kids game not having been speed, meant that we had to up the pace on the way down. In an attempt to get the children fired up, Shaun and I implemented sprint training into the hike. One of us would walk with the kids while the other ran down the mountain about 50 meters and then turned and sprinted back up to the others. We took turns doing this until we were exhausted and the effort was completely lost on the kids, whose comments were more concerned with making sure Shaun and I ran the same distance and sprinted as fast as each other all the way back. Lincoln, never liking to be excluded from a race, did finally join in. At no point however, did Lola bow down. Peer pressure is completely lost on that one (I’ll thank my lucky stars in 10 years time!).

I certainly won’t chalk this hike down as a win, the kids obviously didn’t feel it, despite the wildlife viewing successes. Sometimes though, Shaun and I just need to feel the mountain under our feet and get some distance between us, and the rest of civilisation. On that score a hike is always a win, regardless of how the children fair. Even a bad hike gives perspective, and sometimes that’s all we’re looking for.

Shaun

Perspective

 

Would I do this again?  Yes. We have actually done this hike many times, but so has half of Germany. It is a great walk, offers options for different fitness levels and has incredible views over the Constantia wine-lands and False Bay. It is popular though, so if you are looking to get some space, this isn’t the walk for you.

What to be aware of?  There are quite a lot of dogs on this walk; most are not on a leash. Be mindful if your kids are dog phobic.
Due to the efforts to restore the natural Cape Town flora, almost all of the tall alien trees have been cut down. This leaves a very sunny hike with little-to-no shelter. Go prepared: take water, hats and sunblock. We walked past more than a few overcooked tourists.

Bottoms up!

The Wuth Hiking Initiative – Teaching Children to Climb in All Weather Conditions

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Cape Town is largely considered the cesspit of foul winter weather in South Africa, but those of us who live here know that that is simply not the case. The majority of winter days are mild, sometimes cloudy, but usually sunny affairs. This is a great place to live! With that in mind, we planned our Saturday hike in the great outdoors. What we didn’t take into consideration was Cape Town’s temperamental, often moody countenance. Yes, if Cape Town had a sex, it would be female.

Reports of a gentle breeze on Saturday turned out to be more of a blustery surprise, like finding tomatoes inside your macaroni, it was unpleasant. After being marginally deterred, but deciding we all needed the fresh air, we packed ourselves up and headed out the door, onwards and upwards, we were Little Lions Head bound.

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Perched on the ridge between Llandudno and Hout Bay, sits Little Lions Head, so named for its close resemblance to the real Lions Head which overlooks the city and Atlantic seaboard. It is the cute little sister, but with more rocks on her head. This of course suited our children down to the ground. It was that alone that spurred our children on, calling them to the top of the mountain, despite the persistent wind.

This was a first for our family. I mean we have been up it before, but Lincoln was about 7 months old and strapped to the back of his Uncle, while Lola, being just over a year and a half, was securely fastened to her dad. So as far as actually climbing this little nub of a mountain is concerned, it was a first for them.
It is a relatively easy climb, where you can enjoy views over the surrounding valleys and the Atlantic Ocean while not being too out of breath. It isn’t ridiculously high so can easily be managed, up and down, in under an hour and a half. We took longer, we hid from the wind a bit, lingered on the top and soaked up the sun’s rays, so spent about 2 and a half hours playing and shooting the breeze. No better place to do it.

After a nice, moderately steep walk up the side, you have to climb a few, rather rocky ledges to get to the top. They are fairly easy to negotiate, and the children climbed them (under our guidance) on their own. They need help with foot placements sometimes, but usually it’s just for our peace of mind. The entire top of the peak is rock and offers great hiding nooks for the kids to play in. On this particular outing our children were squirrels, and commandeered our entire bag of nuts. While they ate enough to see them through a winter’s hibernation, Shaun and I lay on the rocks in the sun, sheltered by beautiful granite boulders, and counted all we had to be thankful for. This mountain was definitely one of them.

 

Climbing down the rock was as fun as climbing up it, and I think the kids would quite happily have done it all over again if they weren’t being blown around like dust-bunnies in a vacuum cleaner. After issuing instructions like “bend over so the wind can’t blow you away!” we knew it was time to hasten a retreat.

Hasten we did. Lincoln slipped potentially 10 times while clinging to Shaun’s arm for support. Lola slipped once, but properly, covering about 3 meters, bruising her rump and grazing her hand. Thankfully Shaun and I stayed on out feet, enabling a swift and happy return to the road and thence our car.

It was a great morning out, despite Cape Town’s surprise wind attack, and all the therapy we needed after a rough week.

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Would I do this again?  Absolutely. It was a quick and easy climb, getting us relatively high up with a great view in minimal time. There was no one else on the mountain and we always enjoy a bit of solitude on our excursions. A big thumbs up, especially for the climbing.

What to be aware of?  I wouldn’t recommend the climbing for inexperienced or first time child climbers, but most able-bodied adults should be able to manage without a problem. I remember when we did this with the kids in backpacks I was terrified. I definitely wasn’t terrified this time, but then my experience has come a long way too.

Sandy Bay - Cape Town

A Nude Adventure

By | Beaches, Cape Town, Hikes | No Comments

I anticipate finger wagging and head shaking, but our latest adventure was less un-clad than it sounds.

I remember my parents always saying, “It’s not your driving we’re worried about, it’s everyone else’s”. Well, this scenario was the same, kind of. It wasn’t our being naked you had to worry about; it was everyone else’s.

Sandy Bay is Cape Town’s only fully nude beach, and it is breathtakingly beautiful. It is just south of Llandudno beach, along a stretch of mountain and coastline that is nature reserve. There are no houses, no shacks, no man made structures of any kind, only pristine white sandy beaches and incredible rock formations stretching out into the Atlantic. To get to it, you have to walk about a kilometre from the parking lot at the southern end of Llandudno, or, and this is obviously the route we prefer, you have to climb the Hout Bay sand dunes and then go down the other side until they reach their end on the beaches of Sandy Bay.

Our adventure began with the idea of riding to the sand dunes and playing on them for the morning, this part is not uncommon in the least. I needed a run so this started off well as the kids sped along next to me on their bikes, while Dad took the car as a much needed fall back plan for the way home. After making our way to the top of the Hout Bay dunes we couldn’t help but jump and dive our way down the silky-soft windblown sand, until we were already half way down the other side, Sandy Bay side. Obviously, being halfway down, we decided it only logical that we go for a jaunt on the beach. So as our sand dune wound itself down into a stubbly rocky path, we gave the kids a quick instruction guide as to how to conduct themselves on the beach.

1. There is to be no pointing. Particularly no pointing and laughing!

2. They must stay with us at all times.

3. If we issue an instruction, they will listen.

With the puzzled looks, we quickly explained that this was a place that some people like to wear no clothes, and they are permitted to wear no clothes. This is not a place for us to judge them. I’m not sure this sounded at all strange to them as they are no strangers to nudity. They would be naked all day everyday if it were up to them, and I think they quite seriously believe that if adults wanted to be naked they would be too.

But caution did prevail and we wanted the children to be prepared if they saw anything strikingly uncommon, which lets be honest, is likely on a nude beach. It is winter however, so climatic conditions were in our favour. The beach was almost devoid of people, so it was the four of us, a large expanse of pristine beach, and kilometres of rock to explore. It was perfect.

South Africa, having more crime than we would like, meant that Shaun, being the careful and vigilant husband and father that he is, instructed us to leave all valuables at home. He didn’t want to attract any attention. This is a valid concern in this area, but one which makes taking photo’s, to show you how incredibly beautiful this area is, impossible. It did give us a chance to prance around on the rocks and follow them out into the sea, unconcerned about sea-spray from enormous waves breaking over the flowing forms of ocean-crafted boulders.

By mid-day we could see the determined, all weather naturalists arriving along the Llandudno path, so quitting while we were ahead, we decided to make our way up the dune and back over to the safety of our clothed neck of the woods. It was relatively easy to steer the children around boulders and along paths that completely obscured the view of any sun-seeking nudists. I feel our chances would have been somewhat diminished had we attempted this in summer. But given our children’s complete nonchalance to anyone else within eyeshot, I’m not sure they would have even noticed. Their focus was on bouldering, playing make believe games on their ‘pirate ship’, gargantuan wave spotting and nibbling on pre-packed snacks.

Getting them back up the knobbly path to the sand dune was a somewhat tedious feat, but once they reached the sand dune and scrambled their way to the top, they promptly turned around and dived and giggled their way back down it again. Thankfully we have learned, through much practice and trickery, that our children’s ‘exhaustion’ can often be attributed to boredom, which was obviously the case here. I tell you this as a warning, don’t let your children fool you.

Would I do this again?  Yes. But probably not in summer. Or any great weather. Or after midday. Despite our mild concerns before heading onto the beach with the kids, this turned out to be a great morning out. A perfect example of a spontaneous adventure gone right! … This is not always the case with children.
This is a truly beautiful, remote piece of Cape Town to explore, if you’re feeling ‘ballsy’ enough.

What to be aware of?  Sadly, as with all of our incredible country, crime is a reality. Keep your eyes open, keep your wits about you, and don’t take anything valuable. There have been reports of muggings along the path from Llandudno.
As for the obvious nudists, we managed not to encounter any at close range. They were around, tanning, strolling on the far side of the beach, but nothing that caught our children’s eyes or interest.
Shoes, we left in the car, but the knobbly path after the dunes, is rather knobbly. It didn’t faze Shaun or the kids, but my clearly delicate paws took a beating along the trail.

 

The dunes, looking into Hout Bay.

The dunes, looking into Hout Bay.

The view above Sandy Bay towards Lions Head.

The view above Sandy Bay towards Lions Head.

Beautiful fynbos paths next to the beach.

Beautiful fynbos paths next to the beach.

 

Photo credits obviously not my own. Thanks to www.millerslocal.co.za and www.noxrentals.co.za.

Disclaimer: Shaun and I are not prudes. When it comes to our children however, we would rather err on the side of caution.

 

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

Summiting the Elusive Path

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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.

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All the energy in the world!

 

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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.

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In the shade of the mountain.

 

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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…

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!!

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.

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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.

 

Standing in front of a Giant Redwood in Sequoia National Park

General Sherman… Sir!

By | Hikes, Our Travels, Parks | No Comments

I’ve always found the thought of saluting someone rather peculiar. It is not something I have ever done, nor something I intended doing. As both my father and Shaun can attest, men pulling rank just doesn’t sit well with me (although to be fair I don’t think Shaun would try). Then I stood before the General. So majestic, so stately, that I almost couldn’t help myself! My meager 31 years did nothing against his near 3 000, I practically felt a curtsy coming on.
Standing in a forest full of trees this size can really put your life in perspective. There is no doubt you see things differently, maybe not forever, but certainly while you are standing there. The world seems different, enchanted and full of magic. I almost expected to see fairies nestling amongst the fallen branches and frogs singing “We All Stand Together” in chorus. It’s like stepping into a different world, one in which we are so tiny and insignificant, nature shows you how resplendent and grandiose it can be when it feels like it.
The whole of Sequoia National Park, from the incredible Giant Forest and Moro Rock, to the heartbreakingly large tree stumps that could make you cry just imagining someone benumbed enough to cut them down, scream with magnificence.

 

Yosemite National Park is no exception. Although lacking the girth and height of Sequoia’s trees, it most certainly leaves you floored with its astonishing natural display. We were lucky enough to hike on both days we were there, we seem to be dragging warm African temperatures around with us, and this meant that the normally snow covered National Parks were little more than mildly icy with sporadic patches of dirty white snow. Screaming in unison with the National Parks, were Lincoln and Lola, although less with magnificence and more with delight. So happy were they to be allowed back on their bikes after 3 weeks in the snow, that anyone within a 2 km radius would have known the kids were on their bikes, and thrilled about it! We naughtily disobeyed ranger rules in favour of our sanity and let the children maraud down the almost empty tar track to one of the waterfalls, where we then took them bouldering up the riverbed to the waterfalls. Shaun loves to climb; I prefer to hop around anything I have to climb. Shaun loves to teach the children to climb; I prefer to rock myself quietly in a corner while he does it. My feet sweat, my heart thumps, and every time one of them stands up straight I yell at them to sit down. It is just better if I follow at a distance, and yes, let Shaun be a Dad. I feel like mothers are not welcome when their paranoia and needless hovering is more likely to get their children hurt than simply not being there. So this allowed me the opportunity to hang back and take some pics, the far less painful option.

The following day’s hike was up a somewhat steeper mountain. Great day, great mountain, not so great Lincoln. He decided this was the day to be grumpy and refuse to walk (ok, he’s only 3 I know, but really, of all days?!) so into the backpack he went. Roughly 6km’s, largely made up of tar path and stairs, alerts you to how America does things differently. If that trail were in South Africa, it would undoubtedly be dirt trail with markers pointing the way. Being in such incredible natural surroundings, yet having to walk on such a man made trail really detracts from the hike. It feels like it would be more authentic if you had to rough if up a little, rather than be constantly reminded of how many people had been there before you. It did lead up to an astonishingly high waterfall and no help would have made this one tough baby to climb, but a bit of natural trail wouldn’t have hurt either. There was Lincoln’s blood (he’s always falling) our sweat and Lola’s tears (she tried to climb the railing and someone other than us grabbed her – she doesn’t take kindly to strangers touching her). It was a great hike but man were we exhausted parents when we got to the bottom.

It was sad we didn’t have time to hike through the Giant Forest too and spend days lost in it’s size and fairy-tale ecosphere, but with time marching swiftly along we had to drag ourselves down possibly the twistiest road known to man, and into the dustbowl know as California.

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The California dustbowl Jan 2014

 

Saying California is in the middle of a drought would be the understatement of the year. We were gob smacked! I had it in my head that it would be green, lush, full of farms and chirping birds, land of milk and honey if you will. Granted it is the middle of winter, but ‘milk and honey’ notions aside, nothing could have prepared us for the barren land that awaited us. There were warnings on TV about the unhealthy air conditions, and as we descended into middle California we understood why.

Hundreds of kilometers of dry, desolate farms, windswept land you can see hadn’t been farmed or used for anything other than walking cattle across in years. Cattle ranches disturbing enough to make me consider becoming a vegetarian – almost, and then plane old nothing – just hills of dust. It was more than a relief to crest the rise that eventually gave way to dry vineyards, and finally the Californian coastline. Shaun and I had bets on as to who would see the sea first, it felt like we had been away from it for months, not weeks, and as we climbed out the car Lola smiled and said; “It smells like home”. It sure did. Man did that bring a tear to my eye. 12 500 km’s later and we were being rewarded with a beautiful reminder of home. It really was special – thank you California. xxx

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Our trip to date. October 2013 – January 2014