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Table Mountain Archives - A Familia Adventure

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!…

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.

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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!!