How about hiking a 5 day guided trail traversing the Table Mountain chain? How about doing it without lugging heavy packs full of food and tents? How about over-nighting in luxury tented camps, in stunning locations, and enjoying hearty meals freshly prepared for you? If this all sounds good, then welcome to the world of slackpacking!
The Table Mountain Slackpacking Trail (also known as the Hoerikwaggo Trail), has many options of length: from a short two-day taster, to the full five-day trek from Cape Point to Table Mountain. What follows is a description of a four-day, three-night version which I recently guided on for SlackpackerSA (www.slackpackersa.co.za).
Day one starts with a scenic drive from Cape Town down to the tip of the Cape Peninsula at Cape Point. An early start means getting there before the tour buses and their crowds. Of course one can’t go to Cape Point without walking up to the old lighthouse for one of the world’s most spectacular views. Sweeping vistas of False Bay, the Peninsula, and the Atlantic Ocean surround one. Sheer cliffs drop straight into the crystal sea, and with a bit of luck you can spot Southern Right whales cruising far below.
It is then time to shoulder packs (light daypacks only, its slackpacking remember!), and begin the Trail. The route follows the eastern side of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, which is part of the greater Table Mountain National Park. Sightings of baboons, ostriches, eland and bontebok are common, and the coastal scenery is superb. About six hours after starting, hikers reach the entry gate of the reserve, where they are picked up and driven via a scenic route along the western Peninsula coast, to the Slangkop Tented Camp in Kommetjie. Cold drinks, hot showers and a hearty meal revitalize hikers as they watch a glorious sunset over the ocean. Then it’s time to retire to their luxury tents nestled under the Milkwood trees, and be soothed by the sound of the waves.
Day 2 starts with a few kilometres along the Kommetjie coastline, and then across the sweeping expanse of Noordhoek beach. All the while Chapman’s Peak rises up ahead, and soon its time to change gear for the steep ascent up to this spectacular summit: a perfect place for a break, and a chance to enjoy the views. The route then descends across slopes thick with pincushion proteas to the saddle, before climbing steeply up again to Noordhoek ridge. From here new views across False Bay and the Southern Suburbs! An easy descent brings hikers to the Silvermine Tented Camp for more luxury camping in a peaceful glade that feels very far from the bustle of Cape Town.
The third day’s route traverses the Silvermine section of the Table Mountain National Park, before dropping steeply down Blackburn Ravine above Hout Bay. The trail levels off and contours around Constantiaberg, with amazing views and beautiful flowering fynbos. New valleys and peaks appear around each corner, and making one realize just how expansive Table Mountain really is. After traversing Vlakkenberg, the route descends to Constantia Nek, with views of the Cape Town Winelands, and continues on to the Orange Kloof Tented Camp. This camp is many people’s favourite as it is situated in a clearing in the afro-montane forest of Orange Kloof. Good food, comfortable beds, and the sounds of the forest birds await the hikers. Slackpacking at its finest!
The final day is perhaps the most spectacular. The route climbs up through the forests of Orange Kloof, and on up the Disa Gorge to reach the Back Table below the wall of the Woodhead Dam, built as part of Cape Town’s water supply in the early 1900’s. From here hikers traverse Table Mountain, discovering many hidden valleys along the way, and with the ever-present sea views to the west. On arriving at the front (northern) edge of the mountain, the City of Cape Town lies spread out at your feet. From here it is a steep walk down Platteklip Gorge to finish, or weather permitting, a ride down on the Cable Mountain Aerial Cableway. Either way it’s a spectacular end to a great hike. So if the idea of quality guiding, efficient logistics and tasty catering, on one of the world’s best trails appeals to you, then why not try slackpacking on Table Mountain?
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