It started with ambition, and a Slingsby map. I was quite fortunate to be able to book the Scout Mountain Club hut with only a month’s notice, and indeed privileged to be able to use it in the first place.
I have hiked Table Mountain a few times in the past, so I knew I could manage to lead a hike with ease, and that it would be stunning. Previously I have been on hikes involving the long, and frankly quite plain, jeep track; and I decided that I didn’t want to include it in my route this time. With this in mind I had to choose alternative up and down routes, and eventually settled on Skeleton gorge and Nursery ravine.
As the 7th drew closer and closer, I did things like apply for a permit, and carefully consider a kit list. I didn’t want people to bring too much stuff, because 20 km is a bit of a walk for little legs, and I did not want the juniors to flag too early.
On Thursday, the 6th of February, I encountered my first challenge. At 20h00, the evening before my expedition, someone pulled out of the hike. For safety reasons, I needed someone to take their place, and by the time I had asked every one I could think of, I had not one, but two replacements.
At 14h30 on 7/2/2020, six adventurous souls set out on a journey of great length and of self discovery. We started at the Cecilia forest parking lot, and walked up towards the contour path. We followed the contour path until we reached the bottom of skeleton gorge, and from there, the question “How far is it to the top?” Was begged frequently, and every time, the answer would be, “Not far.”
At about half past three, our little party began to ascend Skeleton gorge. It was quite strenuous more so than some of us were expecting. Stephen’s shoe gave way a short way up, and had to swap them for his spares, thank goodness we were prepared! He also found a walking stick, which was quite useful. Except when attempting to climb ladders.
The juniors had absolutely no trouble scaling the steep staircases, scrambling up ladders and hopping up onto boulders. In fact, they often stood waiting for those who were slightly more ancient.
Upon reaching the top of skeleton gorge, we walked to the aqueduct which was full to the brim with stunning red Disas. The juniors had a blast trying to catch frogs in the pools where they grew, and all round it was a good experience.
Not too long after, we reached the hut. Immediately we boiled water and tucked into our assorted noodles, veggies and chicken. Nathan had forgotten to bring a spoon (or any form of utensil) with him and refused to borrow a spoon from the huts supply. He found that the res t of us did not find his method of ingestion visually appealing.
The sun started to set, which was really beautiful up on the mountain, and the perfect opportunity for silhouette shots. This was a lot of fun, although a bit tricky to balance with the wind.
After sunset, we pretty much did a bit of yoga, drank tea and watched Jemma draw in the guest book.
The sun rose early, and us with it. The first item on the agenda was breakfast, for which Nathan agreed to use a spoon. I wanted us to start walking as early as we could, so immediately after breakfast, we began to sweep the floors and pack away.
Our first leg was an exploratory walk around four of Table Mountain’s five dams. This was an easy leg, with not many uphills and spectacular views. We were out early enough to spot a Duiker and a couple of mad runners.
After the dam loop we stopped for snacks and water at the foot of the great Hely Hutchinson dam. We sat in the shade of some trees, accompanied by a whole host of frogs, both great and small. Almost all of which were scooped up by one of the less squeamish hikers at some point over the break. Kiara, for one, did not appreciate being in close proximity to these amphibious beings, and was almost grateful to leave when we were warned of a nearby cobra.
The next part of our walk contained many more hills, which blurred together into a feeling of sore calves and an aching lower back. We took frequent breaks, which wasn’t necessary, but sure helped. We claimed that we were appreciating the scenery, which wasn’t a lie, it was quite spectacular.
Soon enough we arrived at the top of Nursery ravine. The juniors went flying, having to wait for the rest of us every five minutes. About a million stairs later, when our legs felt like springs suspended in gelatin, we reached the bottom of Nursery.
After all that walking over many hills and large rocks, we reached the
mild contour path again, with a kilometre to go, Kiara twisted her ankle quite badly. So I strapped it up and we hobbled down to Kirstenbosh, where w e entered near gate 2 by the braille trail and scent garden.
My mom picked us up, and we were rewarded for our gallant efforts with seats and Cokes all round.
Beautiful red flowers that only appear in some parts of fynbos in summer We found them close to the aqueduct wherever there was water. There were always plenty of frogs nearby as well.
Since the hike was in Summer, there was a lot of sunshine, which is
perfect snake weather. We were aware of two. On the contrary, in the cool of the morning, we managed to spot a Duiker (small antelope.) The dude was just chilling.
What I learned
Unfortunately the evening before my hike, I had someone pull out. So when I asked for assistance, I was frustrated about needing to do so on the day of the hike, it being unfair for the people who said yes last minute. We all have to learn that life does not go according to plan, and my hike was no exception.
On the Friday, we were walking in the heat of the day, which I already knew was less than ideal, but I wasn’t prepared for the repercussions. The two seniors I took with me battled. Partly due to the heat, partly due to lack of breakfast, and partly due to the incline of Skeleton gorge. These two went into a bit of shock, and felt a bit sick, but they managed, and we had no further issues.
The next time I lead I hike, I will try to start earlier. This will mean that The walk starts when it is cooler, and hopefully less bodies will go into shock. I would also have more than the minimum amount of people come with, in case life happens and someone drops out.
Most importantly, I will keep Scouting.