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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.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

Chapman’s Peak and Silvermine from Noordhoek Beach

Hiking Trail: Chapman’s Peak and Silvermine from Noordhoek Beach

Name of Reserve / Area: The route falls within the Table Mountain National Park, which includes the Silvermine area.
Nearest Town: Cape Town
Province: Western Cape
Country: South Africa

Route: This hiking route climbs up from Noordhoek Beach to Chapman’s Peak (593m), drops down the other side to 321m and heads up again to 689m, before the final drop down to the Silvermine dam (440m) in Silvermine-west. Since it is not a circular route cars will be required at both ends.

Map: The area is covered by Peter Slingsby’s Silvermine map. However, note that the path from Noordhoek Beach to the top of Chapman’s Peak was recently laid out as part of the Silvermine trail and is not indicated on the current map.

Duration of hike: Roughly 5½ to 6 hours at a moderate pace, including 1½ hours for tea, lunch and photo stops.

Difficulty: Using the Meridian Hiking Club’s grading system, I’d call it a 3Bd – you have to be fairly fit to do this hike in comfort. The path does climb and drop a couple of times, but the steep sections don’t last long and the rest is gradual. There is no exposure to heights.

Directions to get there: From the Cape Town CBD, drive towards Muizenberg on the M3.

When it ends in a T-junction, turn right, cross over one set of traffic lights and turn left at the 2nd set into Ou Kaapse Weg (M64). Follow the pass up and, (to leave the cars at the official end-point of this walk). As soon as you reach the top of the pass, immediately turn right into the Silvermine Nature Reserve (roughly 26km from the Cape Town CBD). Follow the road to the left and, once through the entrance pay-point, drive up the tar road to the last parking lot. Leave a car here.

Return back to the main road - Ou Kaapse Weg, now turn right and drive down to the other side into Noordhoek. Turn right at the 1st opportunity into Silvermine Rd and then right at the T-junction into Noordhoek Main Rd (M6). Pass the Noordhoek Village centre on your right and two paddocks on your left, before turning left into Avondrust Circle. Turn 2nd right into Beach Rd and follow the signs to the beach parking lot (roughly 35km from the CBD).

What costs? R15 per person to drive into Silvermine in order to leave cars at the end-point - unless you have a free-entry Wild Card - and R5 per car guard at either end.

Best time of year to go: Anytime - we did it on a warm midwinter’s day. First prize would be a wind and rain-free day, either clear or with high cloud, so that you can enjoy the impressive vistas. Fynbos puts on a display in different areas at different times of the year. Check the weather and always go properly equipped for a possible severe drop in temperature.

Safety: Very safe, from a terrain perspective. It goes without saying to always be careful, from a crime perspective (don’t carry unnecessary valuables, keep a single-stream pepper spray handy and consider a specific plan of action, as a group, in case of an incident).

Fresh water: The Silvermine streams do flow in winter, but don’t count on it – take at least two litres of water in winter and at least three litres on a hot day.

Pets: Well-behaved - and fit! – hiking dogs are welcome on this route and there is no difficult terrain. Remember to take extra water, a small water bowl and enough snacks along for your pooch.

Route Description:

Below, our leader (Frank Dwyer) points out the route onto and up from Noordhoek beach, where we left our cars in the parking lot.

A serene sight with which to begin our hike - Noordhoek beach is famous for its occasional tidal pans.

Before reaching the end of the beach, look out for a carefully laid-out path that leads up to Chapmans Peak Drive (closed for construction at the time of writing - August 2009).

The new path above the road is clearly visible. The beach and a tidal pan are visible below us.

Gaining height through what looks like a tree graveyard - where trees come to die! This kind of evidence of fire damage combined with subsequent growth tells a dramatic tale of fynbos survival.

Moving up the western ridge, it seems improbable that Chapman’s Peak Drive could be hidden beyond the steep cliffs below.

As we gain height the views towards Hout Bay open up – to the left and in the foreground lies The Sentinel, behind it Karbonkelberg and to its right, in the distance, Little Lions Head. Our leader was nature guide Frank Dwyer, owner of Slackpacker SA, which offers catered and serviced day walks and overnight hiking trails.

Ancient geological history – and globalisation - lies exposed at our feet. Here we see two distinct rock types of vastly different ages - one ‘local’ and one ‘alien’. The alluvial quartz pebbles, by far the older of the two, would have been carried over a long distance down a large, ancient river from the Northern Hemisphere, before the split of the continents. At the end of their long journey they came to rest in what was then sedimentary sand and particles – the very stuff that was subsequently compressed into the hardened Table Mountain sandstone, which is about 500 million years old.

Moving around to the southeast-facing slope of Chapman’s Peak we were blown away by this rich winter-palette of fynbos.

Fynbos beauty at our feet, a big blue sky above, the vast Atlantic Ocean stretching away and fresh sea air in our lungs – an outdoor junkie’s nirvana.

From a lichens-covered sandstone perch we look down over Noordhoek Valley and on across the Silvermine-east peaks. It is hard to imagine that, with the sea level 25m higher than it is today at both around 1.5 and 5 million years ago, the Fish Hoek Channel created an island out of the rest of the Peninsula, from Elsies Peak (extreme right, below) all the way to Cape Point. (At the same time, everything between Fish Hoek-Noordhoek and the CBD was yet another island, cut off from the mainland by the Cape Flats Seaway, which connected False and Table Bays.) In the far distance, on the other side of False Bay, the Hottentot Hollands mountains are just visible on the extreme left, the Kogelberg Nature Reserve peaks in the centre and Hangklip on the extreme right.

As we turn to bag our peak we let our eyes feast again on this wild winter garden.

On top of Chapman’s Peak.

Suitably refreshed, it is time to give our descent muscles a workout.

Heading down towards Lower Chapman’s Peak, we look across to - from the right - Noordhoek Peak, Constantiaberg and, in the far distance, Table Mountain.

Back up again, and that was a bit of a slog. The route we followed down from Lower Chapman’s Peak is visible on the extreme left. To its right is the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive.

Near the 689m trig beacon for lunch, and time to contemplate from whence we came. And not just in terms of our hike - the pre-historic Fish Hoek (to Noordhoek) Channel, mentioned earlier, would have covered all that is flat down there.

From here on in our pictorial record becomes a bit sparse - the rugby enthusiasts amongst us were rushing to their favourite watering holes. The path joins up with the gravel road, where you have two options – left for a clockwise loop down to the Silvermine dam parking-lot (roughly 1 hr 30 min – without stops), or right for an anti-clockwise loop (roughly 1 hr). Option 1 soon passes just below the 754m large cairn of Noordhoek Peak – a scenic spot for a leisurely lunch - look out for the path leading left and up to it. Or walk on for another few minutes until you come to a short gravel road leading off to the left, for a lookout point over Hout Bay, below. For option 2, skip the next three pics.

Turn back to the main road and walk on to the left again. Either follow the road all the way down, or look out for a hiking path leading off to the right, to the lower section of the Amphitheatre Path, which rejoins the road further down. The car park is to the left of the dam wall, and the route passes behind the shady hill on the left, in the pic below.

Look out for this sign which points to yet another shortcut path, this one leading off to the left. (The road that can be seen dropping down from the right to the other end of the dam wall is the one that leads from the clockwise-option path, mentioned above.)

For the clockwise loop, turn right on top where the trail meets the gravel road and follow the bends down. On the 2nd right-hand bend, look out for a hiking trail that leads off to the left. It soon joins up with the Amphitheatre Path, seen below.

The route passes some weirdly-weathered sandstone formations, including Breakfast Slab and Shelter Rock.

Turn left when the path meets up with the gravel road and follow it down to the dam (Constantiaberg is visible in the background). Here you can either walk over the dam wall, or follow the gravel road to the car park on the other side.

Back at the car park the circular route leading away from the dam can clearly be seen on the Table Mountain National Park information board.

The writer of this route description is Belinda Oosthuizen (, writer and editor of website copy and general good-organiser. She’s happiest in the mountains and says, if she was forced to live elsewhere, her soul would constantly yearn for the sight and smell of fynbos. She also took most of the pics. For her, photography is a compulsion – a means by which to document and share the beauty of the mountains with others. She uses an Olympus FE-120, but she longs for a digital SLR camera.

Sam Greyvenstein, who took some of the pics, always comes complete with his camera slung around his neck while out on hikes. He says he takes photographs “for fun” and he uses a Kodak P850 digital SLR camera.

Other hiking trails in this blog of this Area:

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