Every Thursday morning I get up with the birds. I put my backpack on my back, lace my boots and make sure my camera battery is fully charged. Thursday is hiking day. It has been for the past year of my life and probably will be till the day that I have to accept that old age has caught up with me. I can't believe all the beauty that I've discovered in this past year has always been right here, under my nose. I'd like to share some of my experiences, as seen through my camera lens, with you. Who knows, you might be inspired to go out and buy yourself a pair of hiking boots as well...

January 2011 - Cape Town, South Africa

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Magical Table Mountain

They say the early bird catches the worm (or something to that effect!) and that certainly was the case for the group who set out to tackle India Venster and Platteklip Gorge last Thursday. The picture above shows a sleepy Cape Town greeting the chilly morning - in fact - I was still curled up in bed at home on the other side of this bay!

I was unable to join them last week but these pictures were taken by Irene and her daughter, they clearly spent a great day on the mountain and looking at these, all I can say is WISH  I WAS THERE!

Irene provided some interesting facts regarding the cableway on Table Mountain - here follows the first extract. Thanks Irene!

The history of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

Since the first person laid eyes on Table Mountain, it has exerted its powerful and charismatic pull, enchanting and drawing any and all who fall under its spell.

Table Mountain’s magnetism has a way of drawing people in, compelling them to reach the summit. But getting to the top was not always the effortless trip it is today. Before the Cableway was established, the only way up Cape Town’s iconic mountain was by foot – a climb undertaken only by adventurous souls. One of these intrepid climbers was the famous Capetonian, Lady Anne Barnard. 

In 1790, upon hearing that no woman had made the climb, she mounted a small expedition, which included three “gentlemen”, several slaves and her personal maid. The group summitted via Platteklip Gorge and held a lavish picnic before descending.

By the late 1870s, several of Cape Town’s more prominent (and possibly less fit) citizens had suggested the introduction of a railway to the top. Plans to build a rack railway were proposed, but implementation was halted by the outbreak of the First Anglo-Boer War in 1880.

More next week - happy hiking until then!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A walk in the park - not always...

Last Thursday's hike was perfect preparation for the Camino that I'm planning to walk in Spain next year. Loads of surprises with very few markers. I continue to be amazed at what Table Mountain has to offer - hidden yellow wood forests, streams, secret caves and views you can only dream of.

We spent most of the day on the mountain and I will admit, it's probably a good idea to walk with three bottles of liquid as opposed to the two I took. Thanks to amazing people in our group who share what they have and sparkling ice cold mountain water taken straight from the streams, we all had enough to drink but I will be filling up an extra something filled with an energy drink of sorts from now on.

Hiking is proving to be much more than just an exercise in climbing or walking. Being part of a group of people, walking in areas where anything can happen at any time, has made me realise how dependant we are on others in our group. The importance of being with people who you can depend on has been brought home to me. More than once now I've seen how quickly somebody can slip, either in front or behind you. Witnessing firsthand how the people in my group have always remained calm and did whatever they had to do when someone else needed assistance, is incredibly reassuring to me.

So, a long walk, taking in the Pipe Track, Corridor Ravine, Tranquility Cracks, Grootkop, Atlantic Traverse and Ou Kraal Ravine. Sore feet and a migraine but a happy heart at the end of it. Some of the beauty captured on film (well, you know what I mean...) and a bubble bath at the end of the day to top it all off.

Nobody can accuse me of being idle on a Thursday, that's for sure!

Lastly - I'd like to dedicate this post to one of the very special members of our little Thursday group. Our friend Eddie lost someone very close to him recently. Eddie - I hope you find peace and consolation and that the wonderful memories you have in your heart of your Vicky remain forever! What a blessing your shared love of nature turned out to be for both of you! 

Thank you for always being there for us - helping us climb over rocks, crossing streams or sharing your food. Know that we are all there for you my friend, not only Thursdays, but every other day of the week.

So, I guess what I've learnt in the past two weeks is that hiking certainly is not all about just walking. It is about being grateful. Grateful for friends, grateful for good health, grateful for nature and the freedom to experience and enjoy it. Grateful to God and all He blesses us with, every minute, every hour and every day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A mushroomy day...

You know you're a serious hiker when you get up in the dark and sit and wait in the rain for the daylight, just so that you can head up the mountain! That's exactly what our little group of four girls did today.

Note I said four girls - not one gentleman ventured out today!

Well, I suppose you can say we've lost it but there really is something special about walking in the Newlands Forest in the rain. The wild mushrooms create fairytale scenes and noisy little streams meandering down the mountain complete the magic.

Unfortunately for one member of our little party the day took a bad turn when she slipped on the wet wooden walkway and she is now nursing a fractured wrist. It just brought home how very easy things can go wrong on the mountain.

Good to know however that we are in good hands. Having a confident, qualified guide lead the hikes that you choose to join is imperative and today I realised again that we certainly are blessed with such a guide in Irene.

As for photos - taking pics when its wet is a challenge as you really have to concentrate on the path ahead of you. Here are the few I managed to snap - as I type this I'm wrapped up in a warm blanket enjoying a steaming mug of hot chocolate, surrounded by my four dogs.

A perfectly good second-best option of enjoying a winters day in Cape Town!