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~ I dont blog about things to be liked. I blog about things that I like ~ ... so that one day, on my death bed, I will have said and done what I wanted to do, and die peacefully without regrets.
Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders & says..' Oh shit....She's awake'

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stellenbosch - Hiking The Vineyard Trail

(Please also remember to read my FURTHER UPDATE at the end of this review)

Name of Reserve / Area: Stellenbosch, Bottelaryberg
Nearest Town: Stellenbosch, Devon Valley
Province: Western Cape
Country: South Africa

Duration of hike: 4 - 8 hours, depending on which route you choose to take. We chose to take the Green Route, and it took us 4 hours to do half of it.

Directions to get there: From Cape Town CBD, take the N2 towards the Strand, Somerset West and Stellenbosch. Turn left into Stellenbosch Arterial Road. Pass the turn to Spier on your right. Soon you will see a sign to turn left into Devon Valley Road. Drive all the way up the valley along this narrow road until you reach the Devon Valley Hotel on your right. This is where you will be able to get your day permits and the map I have uploaded in this post.

Contact Information:
Stellenbosch Tourism Information Bureau
Phone: 021 883 8017

Best time of year to go: March - June is good for photographs due to the autumn season starting to create the most awesome colours.

What costs did you incur to do this hike: R25 per person (not sure why we paid!)

How safe is it: Situated in between some of the best wine estates in Stellenbosch. It looks very safe, but the reality is, its not. You basically get exposed to the entire area, walking in main roads and you are left to the elements. Make sure you have something for self protection.

Fresh Water: None, unless you are prepared to drink from dams (which I will not recommend) or pop into a local farmers' house and grab some from them.

Difficulty: Due to the distances, I would recommend a fairly fit person should enjoy this. The map we were given got us totally lost and it was a very unpleasant experience not knowing if the next road will be a dead end or not.

Pets: I think you can take your dog with you, you are basically walking in the open. I would however not take my dog with me on this hike, as the locals have too many very poorly taken care of pets running freely around the place and it could cause havoc for you. Together with the heat, distance and the constant feeling of being uncertain where you are, this would not be a pleasant walk for your doggie.

(Numbers below refer to numbers in the map above)
1. Start by walking to the back of the hotel, towards the right. As you see the first vineyard, look out for the Red and Orange signs on the vine. We could not find a GREEN one, but continued to follow the path as the map indicated they were going in the same direction.

Turn right onto the dirt road and left up the hill, as you exit the hotel grounds.

2. First left again and continue along the road. Pass Stonehill Wines on your right and continue till you get to a gate at which point the path then becomes a dirt road. Continue walking along the line of trees and soon the path will turn upwards and to the right.

3. At the top of the road you will reach a tar road. Turn left onto the tar road.

Look out for a stone painted with 3 footprints on the right of the road. This meant nothing to us, but it looked like the green foot was facing the way the map indicated.

4. Walking down this tar road we saw the J.C. Le Roux wine estate and the entire Devon Valley on our left.

5. The tar road eventually becomes a dirt road again, and then we got to the T- Junction. Here we walked left again.

6. On our left was a farmers house, fenced with heavy security. This was also where we walked pass a boom. At this point, we were supposed to take the left fork, but instead we continued straight with the road - as it seemed to be on the map. (still no signs of the GREEN ROUTE)

7. Soon we reached a small farming community on our right, which did not seem right, but we continued to walk on. It saddened me as I could not help to notice all the kittens and puppies and the generally poor state of the rest of the animals. The smiling local little children were very keen to walk with us for as far as they could go.

8. Following the road straight down, and with some help from the locals, we eventually saw our first GREEN SIGN. Our delight was short lived when we got to another fork in the road - an no more signs!

9. After walking (and photographing) the area flat, we eventually found the lake on the map and decided to make this our lunch stop.

Walking from point 9, pass 7 and to 10 on the map, we eventually found the road that we were supposed to be walking on way back then. By this time, we were ready to just go home.

10. A local farmer had no choice but stop and pick us up, as both of us decided we had done enough walking for one day. Hiking in the mountains, and walking for hours on end on a dirt road is not quite the same thing.

11. Point 11 on the map is where he dropped us off by the main Devon Valley Road. This is where we turned left to head back to where our car was parked at the hotel.

How will I rate this hike?
Well, at first we were super excited about hiking amongst the stunning vineyards of Stellenbosch. We got our permits and map from the Devon Valley Hotel, and finding the start of the hike set the tone for the entire rest of the way. Constant uncertainty, absolutely no (Green Route) signs like we were promised and exposed to the elements - made this a walk that will not make any one of Mike Lundy's books for sure. So, if you feel like a walk in the vineyards, trust me, if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Follow the Red or the Orange Route on the map rather.

There was no variety and by the time we actually got to the 'mountain' that we wanted to climb, we decided to just head back to the car. Luckily for us, a local farmer (whom we had already met during the way due to us being lost on his farm) drove past and gave us a ride to the tar road. Then another local (who gave us directions along the way too) also drove past us after the farmer had dropped us off, and he then picked us up and gave us a comfy ride back to our car which was parked at the hotel. Apart from being annoyed at the lack of direction almost the entire way, we did find that the locals were very friendly.

I think their hiking trail needs some serious jacking up in terms of its signage, but its an area not to be missed and I highly recommend visiting the area for a nice relaxing meal or some wine tasting for now only.

Further Update: 25 April 2009

After sending my above review of this specific hike to the local authorities in charge of this route, I have had intensive feedback and great concern from their side.

I would like to make amend on some of what I said above, which is the following:

The rules say you are not allowed to take your dog with you. So please respect the wishes of the friendly hosts. I did not see it on the map, but it clearly states no dogs.

Fresh Water:
I rate my hikes on the availability of water, purely for the sake of the hikers. The fact that water is or is not on a route, does not make it any better or worse, its just something I like to add into my reviews because I have seen people go on massive hikes with one apple in their hand. (Scary to sometimes see the level of ignorance of a mature man walking with his entire family!) Im sure they will never repeat the same mistake again, but its always nice to know if there is fresh water on hand sometime during the hike or not. This route specifically did not have any fresh water along the way, but it does not make it a bad route to consider due to this fact.

The signage: (or lack thereof)

Both the Devon Valley Hotel and Alvera Guest House have made the following comments:
  • The GREEN ROUTE was in fact a closed route and we should never have hiked this route. There was a communication slip up and we were in fact supposed to have been told that we were not allowed to do the GREEN ROUTE.
  • The RED ROUTE and the ORANGE ROUTE are both really stunning routes especially for this time of the year, and they come highly recommended by the owners. I have not walked these two routes, but I can say we did see loads of red and orange signs whilst trying to find the green route.
  • The GREEN ROUTE is now closed and under construction, they will notify all hikers as soon as it is open for hiking again.
Best time of year to go:
Autumn (April - June) is perfect for photographs, especially after a rainfall as the colours become vivid and the skies are clear.

Thank you to the owners for coming back to me so quickly, we look forward to completing this route in the future.

There is a first for everything

Herewith another excerpt from the tales at Campfire Safaris

by Ruben Rekker - Netherlands 29 July 2006

Actually the whole 4 weeks were one big adventure to me. My first trip to a country far, far away all by myself. Every day I saw,learned, smelled, tasted or experienced something new.

My first time in the bakkie.
Laetitia picked me up, together with Miki and I had to sit with all my stuff together with the black working familiy in the back. I looked at Maria and she began to laugh. I thought, why is she laughing? Is it my clothes? Hair? I kept wondering what it was the whole ride. Later I heard from Miki that she was laughing cause I was sitting there so tight with all my stuff.

My first arrival at Campfire.
It was like a little paradise in the dangerous bush. I saw the palm trees and rondawels and in the distance you could see a giraffe. I was brought to rondawel number 5, my lucky number. When I saw the kitchen and all those tables I thought that all those tables would be occupied at every meal and that there must be lots of people staying.

My first dinner.
I was very hungry and normally everything you eat at that stage will taste good. I reckon we had potatoes with chicken, around the campfire with the other students who just came back. I was a bit weird, I had so much to ask but I was a bit scared because I knew that if I said something, the whole group would be listening. Well, I asked anyway and they were nice.

My first bushwalk.
This was pretty funny, because I really thought that we were going to see rhino's and lions. I remember Thel saying that she had never seen a rhino there. I said; well, maybe today! And I started scanning for rhino's. I was still feeling pretty sick and I can remember that I was dying for a cold glass of coca cola after the sun burned for an hour on my skin.

My first lecture and introduction.
I learned about the dangerous 9 and I got information about the excursions. They all looked very nice and I would love to do them all! About all the other lectures; Laetitia has a natural talent for teaching.

My first stir fry.
To honor Michel's birthday, and I understood why.

The first time a monkey tried to grab my apple.
When I was peacefully eating my apple, I suddenly felt a hand grabbing my apple. It was a monkey! I looked at him, he looked at me. He showed his teeth like, come get some! 1-0 to the monkeys. Well, I still had the apple.

My first shots with a real gun.
Highest score! Someday I will be as good as Tinus.

My first elephant encounter.
Was pretty boring, he was sleeping against a tree.

My first encounter with Marty.
Tinus, she was exactly like you said =)

My first survival.
We were placed with the others, who were already there for 24 hours. Michel, Kelly and I went to catch fish. We made a hook with rope on a stick and stood aside. I thought we might have more chance if we went to that tree laying in the water. I climbed it and felt immediately fishes grabbing my hook. But the rope broke. The second try with new rope had more succes, Thel catched it. We had 1 fish for dinner that night.

My first bushwork.
We had to dig for sand a to put it on the roads. I actually expected that there was much more work to do. But I liked it that we were seen as students and that we were there to learn.

My first night on the tower.
We looked at the stars and saw many shooting stars. It was really, really nice. You don't see that in Holland .

My first feeling that I felt like being home.
When we were at the horses and had to wait 2 hours for Laetitia cause our ride stopped much earlier. The woman who was leading us disappeared inside and left us waiting in the cold. I felt very happy that I was placed at campfire and not at this ranch. I talked to a volunteer who arrived the day before, earlier. I felt sad for her. So, Laetitia picked us up, with MD Greyling on we all sang as loud as we could. I couldn't stop smiling. We were going home.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hiking Cape Point South Africa

Hiking Trail: Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope
Name of Reserve / Area: Table Mountain National Park
Nearest Town: Simons Town, Kommetjie, Scarborough, Misty Cliffs
Province: Western Cape
Country: South Africa

Directions to get there: From Cape Town CBD, take the N3 south. At the T turn right. Follow the road to the second traffic light and turn left onto Ou Kaapse Weg. Drive over the hill and into the Sun Valley area. Turn right into Kommetjie Road. Turn left into Slangkop Road. At the stop turn left into the main road that follows the shoreline all the way through Misty Cliffs and Scarborough. Soon you will reach a fork in the road, keep right and drive along Plateau drive. You will now begin to see the start of the Table Mountain National park on your right. Its just over an hours' drive from Cape Town CBD.

Duration of hike: 4 hours

Best time of year to go: All year round. This is a very windy location, so make sure to check the weather that you choose a day where the wind is not blowing its average gale force speed.

What costs did you incur to do this hike: R60 per person and more.

By recommendation of Mike Lundy's book this is called the Two Oceans Circuit and followed his route.

We drove into the park and went to park by the furtherst carpark right at the Cape Point lighthouse.

Follow the stone steps in the opposite direction of the lighthouse.

Soon this easy walk will bring you some magnificent views... here you can see how far we have walked from the carpark.

Having reached the Vasco da Gama peak, one can see the false bay coastline, with Simons Town and Fishhoek in the far distances.

As you pass the Vasco da Gama peak on its left, the path swings sharply left and you head towards the Atlantic ocean again. This lookout point is only for you to view, your path is to the right of this sign.

Aim towards the 2 cairns, and follow the path down between the 2 rock bolders seen in the right of the pic below.

In the back ground you will see a road. This is the main lookout point which we aimed for towards the end of the hike.

Continue following the path down towards the lookout huts. Here you start to see Platboom beach in the far distance below.

In the picture below you will see the lookout huts are painted green

Soon the path will run into a black tarred road. Keep going down, untill you get to cross the main road of the park. Follow the gravel single track downwards, and cross over a jeep track again. Continue over the jeep track and once you reach the next tarred road, turn left onto the tar road. This is the main road leading to the Cape of Good Hope point.

About 200m down you will notice a gravel area for a carpark. This is your spot to find the single path again and walk along the coast line back towards Cape Point.

As by recommendation of Mike Lundy's book, he says you should avoid the tar road a few meters away and continue to enjoy the walk along the waters' edge rather. Once you do this, the beauty of the area allows you to almost forget that a road even exists so close by.

After rock hopping and beach walking for about an hour, you will reach the Cape of Good Hope carpark. This is where everyone comes to take pictures of themselves at the 'most south western part of the Africa continent'. According to our friend Mike, this should be noted in the Department of Most Useless Information. Haha, nice one! I even got myself a shot of me standing there.

We passed the carpark on its left and followed the steep steps up. This was where we decided to stop for a break and some snacks. In the picture below you will notice the fisherman in the red circle. What an amazing spot to stop for a break.

We continued to follow the steps and the path all the way to the top and over the hill.

Soon we were spoilt with a stunning wooden boardwalk for a comfy walk all the way back to the main carpark.

The boardwalk passes the top of Dias Beach, which is known to be a very dangerous beach and not recommended for anyone to swim in.

The carpark was packed with busses and tourists. It was absolutely buzzing with activity. We got ourselves something cold to drink from the local shop, and were then entertained by how the baboons stole anyone's food away from them. Luckily for us, we just flicked the shocker - which made a huge noise - and scarred them off to find another innocent target. Sadly the local authorities are doing absolutely nothing about these baboons. I believe they can keep them at bay without harming them, but Im not sure why they are not doing anything about it.

On our way out of the park, I was absolutely amazed to see how well this park is managed. And due its popularity, there must have been at least 50 cars waiting to enter the park too.

How safe is it:
From a crime perspective, we felt very safe during the entire walk. Only the baboons were a bit of a scare though.

Fresh Water:
None along the way.

Easy walking trail, but far and exposed to the elements at all times. Not recommended for the unfit or inexperienced hikers.

None allowed.

How will I rate this hike?
Mike is spot on. This must be another one of the best kept secrets of Cape Point. Driving into this area is nothing in comparison to getting out and walking the park. What a beautiful place we live in.

More pics of this hike here

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Stellenbosch - The Vineyard Trail

It was not easy to find this spot, but my what a nice area for a stunning walk amongst the vineyards of the beautiful Stellenbosch area.

We go caught unexpectedly by the first seasonal rain and were forced to opt for plan B... a nice warm cuppachino and cake in the stunning restaurant on the nearby J.C. Le Roux estate. The decor inside was very modern and fresh, a bit of a contrast to the traditional aged wooden wine cellar theme one would normally expect, but very nice and comes highly recommended as a stop en route this hike.

We managed to sample this little brochure from the Devon Valley Hotel, so its as good as its gonna get for now in terms of this hike. As soon as we get to walk this hike, I promise to provide more details and some stunning pictures for you to enjoy and see what to expect should you choose to come on this hike too.

Hiking Trail:
Name of Reserve / Area: Stellenbosch, Bottelaryberg
Nearest Town: Stellenbosch, Devon Valley
Province: Western Cape
Country: South Africa

Duration of hike: 4 - 8 hours, depending on which route you choose to take.

Directions to get there: From Cape Town CBD, take the N2 towards the Strand, Somerset West and Stellenbosch. Turn left into Stellenbosch Arterial Road. Pass the turn to Spier on your right. Soon you will see a sign to turn left into Devon Valley Road. Drive all the way up the valley along this narrow road until you reach the Devon Valley Hotel on your right. This is where you will be able to get your day permits and the map I have uploaded in this post.

Contact Information:
Email Devon Valley click here
Phone: 021 865 2012

Best time of year to go: March - June is good for photographs due to the autumn season starting to create the most awesome colours.

What costs did you incur to do this hike: R25 per person.

How safe is it: Situated in between some of the best wine estates in Stellenbosch. It looks very safe. Cant comment further, will know when I have done the hike.

Fresh Water: Not sure, but saw lots of lakes.

Difficulty: Due to the distances, I would recommend a fairly fit person should enjoy this.

Pets: No dogs allowed on this hike

How will I rate this hike?
Highly recommended. The route looked fairly flat with some hills. There are 3 routes you can take which vary between 4km and 12km each.

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There is an old saying...

The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.