Biking, Hiking, and Kloofing?

Saturday morning began early with a hike up to the Silvermine Reservoir in Table Mountain National Park. I was informed to wear my bathing “costume” as they call it here and go for a dip. We arrived at the reservoir promptly at 8 am after a lovely hike through the forest with the dogs. The water wasn’t terribly warm but a dip was refreshing.


View of the Silvermine Reservoir

After an active start to the morning I decided to keep it up and head down to Kalk Bay to explore the village more. On the way down there was quite a bit of traffic indicating that it is a popular place to visit on the weekend. Sticking to the wide sidewalk, I was able to pass all of the cars on my trusty metal steed. I enjoyed the amount of activity happening there, though it was quite a different scene from the previous evening’s visit. There were people on the sidewalk selling various items such as large bags of cotton candy, objects handmade out of wire, and many people playing musical instruments. My first intention was to explore the bookstore located at the quieter end of the street to get some information about the national park. Satisfied with the bookstore, I headed over to an antique shop full of old clothes, maps, books, and most importantly postcards. (Headed your way soon!) Most of the other stores along the street consist of expensive clothing and nice eateries.

On my way back to Marina da Gama, I started cycling on the road but upon seeing a curve up ahead, decided it was a safe bet to stay on the sidewalk. Unfortunately, the sidewalks here don’t have a smooth transition when a street intersects them. As I was riding along, I noticed a signifcant curb up ahead. I was able to avoid it with my front tire but hit it dead on with my rear tire. I immediately heard the hissing sound of air being released from the bike tube. Flat tire. I had to walk the bike home since I didn’t bring any of my repair tools with me to South Africa. I decided that the flat tire was actually a good sign because as I was walking along I noticed a side street that appeared inviting. I probably would not have noticed it had I been going faster on my bike. The detour took me to the old village center of Muzeinberg, a town right next to Marina da Gama. No traffic here and lots of little shops to check out.

The walk home wasn’t bad and once again reminded me to experience life at a slower pace.

When I arrived home, Dorothee asked me if I would like to go on a hike in the morning with one of her friends. Her friend, Ursula, wanted to speak with me to ask if I was comfortable with rock scrambling, long uphill climbs, and if I had appropriate gear. I told her that I hadn’t been on a long hike in awhile so I would most likely be huffing and puffing but I definitely wanted to join. She told me she was 72 and that her and her girlfriends were planning on starting the hike at 7:15 to be the heat. No messing around with these ladies. Well I was inspired and told her I would be ready to go.

The next morning Dorothee dropped me off and I hopped in the car with three ambitious women. On the drive to Nordhoek Beach where we would begin our hike, Ursula pointed out the two peaks we would be summitting, Chapman’s Peak and Nordhoek Peak. It was my first time going up over the mountains and getting a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. We began our hike along the beach and then through a forest of native mirkwood trees. Upon exiting the forest, I encountered a road where I waited for the group. As I was waiting, cyclists zoomed past me in both directions. I had never seen so many cyclists on a road before. Ursula informed me that they were out training for the Argus Cycle Tour in March, the world’s largest timed cycle race that attracts more than 35,000 cyclists worldwide. The route takes place along this very road, a scenic road that hugs much of the coast along the cape. Here’s a map of the route to give you an idea:


We crossed the road and began our ascent up Chapman’s. As I got higher and higher, the views became more amazing. Looking back from where we came, I was able to see the multicolored water hitting the beach below.

Nordhoek Beach where we began the hike

Nordhoek Beach where we began the hike

And as I rounded a bend, my first glimpse of Hout Bay and the mountains surrounding it came into view. Chapman’s Peak Drive, where the cycle race takes place, could also be seen winding along the bottom of Chapman Mountain.

Hout Bay

Hout Bay with a view of Chapman’s Peak Drive along the mountains

Chapman's Peak Drive

Chapman’s Peak Drive

It felt like I was looking at a magical kingdom in the distance. As I gained altitude, the views became more stunning. Atop Chapman’s Peak was a panoramic view of the entire Cape. To the north was Hout Bay bordered by mountains. The Sentinel can be seen on the left, the Little Lion’s Head (the pointy small peak) in the middle, and Table Mountain (the appropriately named flat mountain) to the right. Looking to the south I could see Cape Point, the southernmost tip of the peninsula.

Looking down on Hout Bay from Chapman's Peak

Looking down on Hout Bay from Chapman’s Peak

View of Cape Point, the southernmost tip of the penisula

View of Cape Point, the southernmost tip of the peninsula

After summitting Chapman’s Peak we hiked down the other side where we reached the nek (lowest point between two mountains – we call it the saddle) between Chapman’s and Nordhoek Peak. I could see the scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive below where small dots of cyclists were dominating the road. The city bowl where the proper city of Cape Town is located cannot be seen from here. It is on the other side of Table Mountain.

Closer view of Hout Bay

Closer view of Hout Bay

After a short tea break we continued on to the top of Nordhoek Peak. Now I could see the other side of the mountains where I am living.

Chapman's Peak with the Atlantic Ocean behind

Chapman’s Peak with the Atlantic Ocean behind

Hiding in some much needed shade while looking at Chapman's Peak

On the way down the mountain, Ursula began telling me about all of the mountains in South Africa and abroad that she has climbed. She invited me back to her house for a swim where she provided me with some useful biking and cycling books and maps of the area.  She gave me a tour and showed me photographs hanging on each wall in her house of mountains she has climbed. I was quite impressed. She clearly loves mountains and her generosity to reach out to me and provide me with resources was admirable. She had such a young spirit and I felt like I was interacting with someone my own age. I told her I would be happy to join her for another hike as I’m sure we would have much to talk about with our shared passion for mountains. I found out that she is a former president of the Mountain Club of South Africa. So she informed me of all the hikes and events the club puts on in the Western Cape. My ears really perked up when she started describing this activity known here as “kloofing.” I know, it doesn’t sound like a real word. It consists of hiking through canyon gorges mostly by swimming and boulder hopping, quite similar to what we call canyoneering. The Club puts on several weekend kloofs in the Visgat Canyon of which I will most definitely be signing up for! Hopefully I can bring my camera to document these rarely seen areas. The group size is limited to 8 people because it is a privately owned and protected pristine area.

Well, I’m pooped. Those women tired me out!



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