The Weakest Link Takes A Hike
History tells us that contemplation, meditation, soul-searching and philosophising often takes place on mountain tops. Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Mandela and Ghandi did it. I had a close call, a wake-up call, a bruised ego, a sore bottom and a chipped toenail.
Last week we packed our back packs, got togged up in our hiking boots (tackies) and headed off on a hike into the Vogelgat Nature Reserve in Hermanus. The very highest peak, overlooking the lagoon and the coast. On a clear day one would have views all the way to Dyer Island and Hangklip.
Our guide Billy, who is a member of the exclusive Vogelgat Nature Reserve, made the two night reservation. This was not our first hike, but, a first for me with a guide, and I must admit it was terrific. We set off from the Vogelgat car park in the late afternoon, with the sun setting on our backs. The walk was brisk and for much of the trek uphill.
Much to my annoyance we’d hardly negotiated our first incline before I took a tumble, scraping and bruising my knees. My backpack ricocheted off the back of my head almost knocking me out cold. This wasn’t at all what I’d expected especially as I was in the company of two very fit, young and energetic “kids”, one being my own. The other, a novice at hiking in the African hills; a petit girl who would prefer glamping in the Everglades.
Coming down to earth was a shock but what ensued was even more surprising. In a heartbeat roles were reversed. My rucksack was smartly whipped off my back and I was scrutinised and found lacking in all departments. The verdict: my bag was too heavy, my shoes worn-out, my laces too long and to add insult to injury a lecture was handed down re my fitness and what I had to do to remedy it!
With a hangdog look and my tail between my legs I was on a tight leash and being chaperoned for the rest of the day(s). I had become the weakest link. How irritating. This child whom I’d carried in my womb and suckled told me in no uncertain terms that a group was only as good as its weakest link. I manned up and shuffled along.
Regular stops were made along the way to admire the breath-taking views. Billy is an expert birder who gladly shared his knowledge. Local lore, fauna and flora, the landscape and the sea are well known to him and he made our 3 hour trek feel like a walk in the park.
Streams, waterfalls and rock pools are dotted all along the path. The path builders thoughtfully placed cups in strategic places ensuring thirsty hikers of fresh, cool spring water. When offered her first cup of water our Emily sipped with reservation but, she’s a super trooper, and soon enjoyed the freshest water, as nature intended it to be.
We were fortunate to see very few critters and Billy saved us timeously from staring into the eyes of a snake. Klipspringers are found in the mountains but we only spotted their spoor and I believe I missed the Cape Mountain leopards' foot prints too! Probably had my nose to the ground or my eyes on my lens. Emily did see a Dassie.
The Cape floral kingdom is one of the most diverse and Billy enthusiastically identified many of the Fynbos species for us. It always amazes me to see how much the landscape changes and how varied the flora is, sometimes we’d walk through grassy plains and then suddenly through dense fynbos. Fires destroyed much of the mountain a few years ago, but, new growth was sprouting profusely.
The new wooden cabin SIP comfortably sleeps 6 guests. The appliances are basic but adequate and the crockery and cutlery sufficient. Fortunately guests leave a few left-overs and we were able to light the gas burner (we forgot matches). After supper we enjoyed a few hands of Rummy, read our books and chatted about the exciting day we’d had.
The Swedish style pool is constantly fed clean spring water and we all enjoyed a dip in the cool, refreshing water. The “shower” looked inviting and added a romantic touch. Forest nymphs could bathe under the stars surrounded by ferns and cool green plants. We had no takers though. The new moon was just a sliver and we could see the constellations through Billy’s knowledgeable eyes.
We were all weary after a busy day and retired early. I remembered my book so with headlamp on I read a while listening not so much to night owls but the gentle purring of my fellow companions.
A late lie-in was had by all and we set off well after sunrise to be met by a group of jolly walkers coming in the opposite direction. Our short walk took us to the top of Maanschynskop, the highest point. (900m above sea level.) Breakfast was a leisurely affair at Moon Refuge a stone shack built on the Leopard trail.
The second night at SIP was great, we’d all got over our phobias having killed the spider on the ceiling as well as the huge rain spider in the privy. Like a shot I was out of my sleeping bag and skedaddling over to Emily’s bed as soon as the field mouse made himself comfortable under my bed. He turned out to be a sneaky little critter and did a vanishing act before we could manhandle him outside.
On Friday morning we packed up and made certain to leave the hut in a better condition than we found it. All our backpacks were lighter and the going down to civilisation was over before long.
Emily, our Canadian visitor, was a rock star. She took the whole ordeal in her stride, in fact, she became so comfortable that I found her digging for crystals, taking selfies and she even took a detour to the “honeymoon” shack for a “quickie”! She was eager to learn and then surprised herself when she took up the binoculars to do a spot of bird watching. I admire her most for staying composed after she’d seen the tail-end of a snake. She bravely stood her ground and only had a “moment” when the coast was clear. Well done Emily you’re a Saffa in the making. We're so proud of you!
We celebrated our safe return to Hermanus with a Brunch at the ever popular Betty Blue Bistro, where we all enjoyed a large jar of freshly pressed juice, a wholesome Banting breakfast and an excellent Rooibos Cuppachino. My Hamburger wrapped in two large black Mushrooms was delicious and I couldn’t imagine eating it any other way. The Almond Banting Pancake looked light and certainly something I’ll try next time I’m there. Celia and Ryno you are Maestros. The restaurant has a cool, clean, fresh atmosphere just like the menu. I’ve had numerous meals there and have never been disappointed. I think you’ve succeeded in convincing Emily that a Banting option can be scrumptious.
Nothing beats a good Cheesecake and that’s what we found just around the corner at CanD’s Kitchen. A gem, not only does it have a reputation for serving THE best Cheesecake, service is with a smile and all the morsels on display looked delectable. Small, cosy and affordable. We could even take our slices home!
It’s my third day off the mountain and still my legs feel like sausages forced into small casings. They ache, I’m sure I tore every muscle. I took Emily’s comment “If she can do it I can” in my stride, although I must confess I was slightly miffed! I must concede I’m not the girl I used to be, galloping across the Tsitsikamma forests 18 years ago. Something will have to change, I’ll have to step on it in the spinning class and up my gears, but not today. Unlike the great Prophets I didn’t return with new insights, still the same old me! But, I did have an opportunity to bond with my gorgeous boy and I got to know Emily better, I couldn’t wish for more. Warning to little brother: don’t get any ideas Doodles, I brought you into the world, and I can take you out. So no more molly-coddling. Although this was not my Everest moment, neither was it my Helderberg!
My list of must-have’s are: a good hiking back-pack, good comfortable hiking boots, good socks, sunglasses, hat, bug cream, walking sticks, headlamps, facial wipes, dental floss, tissues, comfortable sleeping bag, travel neck support, light-weight hiking towel, light-weight all weather jacket and a good lip gloss (a girl has her standards).
Our Menu for two meals: choice of two sausages, boerewors and a delicious curried sausage, portioned, courgette spaghetti and ratatouille salad. Day 2. Chicken breasts, roast vegetable, feta and black olive salad with a basil pesto dressing, coleslaw. Wine in a disposable box. Foodstuffs packed in a small cooler with freezer blocks. Strict portioning.
Snacks included: droewors (sausage-like jerky) biltong, nuts, energy bars, sugar-free sweeties, fruit bars, nutty bars… we certainly over-loaded on healthy foodstuffs.
BILLY comes highly recommended, an excellent guide who has various walking or hiking options in the Hermanus area. Billy’s knowledge is second to none and can tell a good yarn too. Billy often guides for Walker Bay Tours and Fynbos Trails
Billy Contact: +27 72 926 3612
BETTY BLUE BISTRO:
126 Main Road,
Tel: +27 28 125 0037
CanD’s Kitchen Restaurant,
5 High Street, Hermanus 7200, South Africa
Tel: +27 28 312 3407