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Sunday, December 20, 2009

A scenic but hard walk from Houtbay to Llundudno

Hiking Trail: Houtbay to Llundudno
Name of Reserve / Area: Karbonkelberg
Nearest Town: Houtbay, Llundudno
Province: Western Cape
Country: South Africa

Duration of hike: 6 - 7 hours

Our Hiking Guide: Dieter Heiser - aka Bosvark (u gotta love it!)



Directions to get there: From Cape Town CBD, take the scenic coastal road past Campsbay and Llundudno. Follow the road into Houtbay untill you reach the 3rd circle at the bottom end of the road. Turn right into Harbour road, pass the Mariners Warf on the left and continue with this road all the way.



Take the last road right into Skipper road. This will lead to a gravel road and a dead end. I do not recommend that you leave your car here, but this is where your walk starts (as seen in the pic below). We parked our cars at the Mariners Warf Restaurant and hitched a ride to the start of the walk. (We were also told that we were not allowed to park at this parking spot by the car guard of the restaurant, but do not let the owners bully you into moving your car. This is a public common ground parking area and there for everyone's use.)



Best time of year to go: (there are 4 things to take note of here)
  1. A very early start (around 06h00) is recommended for the summer. You are walking in the shade almost 2/3 of the way.
  2. This section of the mountain is fairly protected from a NW wind in winter, but caution is always recommended.
  3. Make sure you start when the tide is going down, or else you will have to climb steep cliffs in places to escape the high tide.
  4. This route is only recommended to be done by an experienced guide like Bosvark, do not attempt to do this one on your own.



We all gathered at the starting point marked by an old stone wall being a clear entrance to the start of this magnificent walk.



What costs did you incur to do this hike: none, but the guides may ask for a fee.

How safe is it: I always say that the mountains around Cape Town are never safe from crime and one should never drop your guard. Always take a mace spray and or a shocker along with you.
The phone signal is very poor and sometimes non-existent.
The route is exposed in many areas. Rock scrambling and bolder hopping is par for the course. According to the hikers in the know, every year this route has claimed lives, so please do not attempt this route on your own.



The route starts with a single track and bolder hopping for the better half of the way. Here is a view of our first peak that we pass, the Sentinel (331m) on the right as seen in the pic above.



Fresh Water: none, unless you are fortunate enough to pass a small running stream from the mountain. We often stopped to take a 5 min break and to re-group.





After bolder hopping for about an hour the route flattens out below the Karbonkelberg.



Another break on the rocks at Duiker Point and in front of a surfer spot known as the Dungeons - a world famous spot for surfers who wish to catch the biggest wave in Africa.



Leaving Duiker Point, we head off again to scramble the rocks below the cliffs of the Karbonkelberg.







The views along the entire way were breathtaking. The ocean was that beautiful sea-green and just to add to our delight, we saw a school of dolphins playing in the water below us.



Being the typical girl, my hands started feeling rather sensitive from this point on, and next time I do this walk, I will remember to bring my mountain bike gloves with me. At the end of the walk, I made a mental note that gloves and a medical kit is a must if I come here again. This route is just too isolated for you to not come fully prepared.



As seen in the pic above, again, we took another break, which gave the group a chance to regroup for the next 1 hour very tough leg to an area known as Leeugat by the first shipwreck (Bos 400 - 1994). From here we were exposed to the merciless heat of the day, and rough bush and shrub terrain.



A mere 1 meter of shade next to the rocks, gave us a welcome break from the sun and a chance to enjoy the opportunity to view this massive wreck from very close by.



This area known as Leeugat has 3 wrecks to prove what this part of the ocean has to offer on a bad weather day.
  1. Bos 400 hit the rocks in June 1994 and all 18 of the crew survived by being airlifted safely to shore.
  2. The Maori was a British steam ship that hit the rocks of the rocky peninsular known as Oudeschip (as seen far left in the pic above) in 1909. Only 22 of the 55 crew survived and she lies below the water to the right of this bay (as seen in the pic above).
  3. The next shipwreck which can be seen on the rocks of Oudeschip landed there in 1986 known as the Harvest Capella. She was a long-liner owned by Sea Harvest.



After leaving the shipwreck Bos 400, we went scrambling again through very thick bush and schrubs for about 45 minutes - we reached the now deserted Rocket Station (built after the sinking of the Maori in 1909) at top of the rocky peninsular known as Oudeschip. Here is a clear view of the Harvest Capella. We chose not to go down into the valley, but opted to follow the jeep track above, which took on a easy walk down into Sandy bay. I saw many naked bodies all over the place. Most of the walkers could not wait to jump into the cold water, before taking the short 15 minute walk back to the carpark in Llundudno.

Difficulty: Its a long walk and only the fit and experienced hikers should attempt this. Many parts need rock scrambling, so if you have a fear for heights, then I will also recommend that you rather give this one a miss.

Pets: not recommended at all

How will I rate this hike? I have always wanted to walk here, but never knew the route existed. When Dieter invited me on his annual Houtbay to Llundudno walk (the 9th one this year!), I could not wait for it. The weather was perfect, the tides were low. The crowd that walked with us were awesome. I will not attempt this one on my own, but can not wait to take my friends along to show them parts of this route sometime in the future. The water at the famous Dungeons was flat as a pancake. It seemed like a different place to the one that Im normally used to seeing the biggest wave in Africa at. Very cool hike. Great memories to last a long time for me. Thanks again to Dieter and the guys who joined him on this walk. Also thanks to the gentleman that gave me his last plasters to cover my war-wound on my leg, and who saved me from being stuck in a deep pit in the rocks. Dolphins playing in the water below us... loved it all!




Thanks to Dieter and the very friendly crowd for an amazing experience.

Contact Information: email Bosvark

2 comments:

Dwain Esterhuizen said...

We did this hike over the weekend of 24 July 2010.

We ended up getting lost and had to call for mountain rescue to come assist us to get off, when we ran out of sun light. This was an epic hike but the path is not clearly marked out therefore you NEED to know where you are going...cant trust the path.

This is what we learned from this trail:

Dont go less than 3 persons in your party.

You need to start this trail early, first light is ideal.

You need to know what the tide is doing...go at low tide as there are rock crossings that require the water to be as far back as possible.

Go prepared to stay the night therefore take a lighter; torch/headlamp; warm clothes; sleeping bag; enough food..be prepared for the worst.

The bushes scratched our legs to death...so wear long pants to protect your legs.

This trail is not to be underestimated. According to the rescue team this trail has claimed many lives and has incurred many rescues.

Let someone know that you are on this trail before setting out.

Lastly; Make sure your phone is fully charged and have the emergency rescue numbers at hand.

This trail was actualy made by poachers.

Hello! I'm Juanita. said...

Hi Dwain,

wow, sorry to hear about your incident over the weekend. And thank for your feedback. We are very happy to hear you made it back safely - even though it was w the rescue team.

I can not stress enough: please be careful when going hiking. This mountain is to be respected at all times.

Specifically for this hike: This route is only recommended to be done by an experienced guide like Bosvark, do not attempt to do this one on your own.

Really appreciate feedback and glad to hear you can live to tell the story.

Wishing you Safe Hiking my friend,
Kind regards,
Juanita

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