Table Mountain hiking – Hoerikwaggo Trail

Table Mountain hiking – Hoerikwaggo Trail

Hoerikwaggo Mountain Trail in 2011

I had the good fortune to hike part of the Hoerikwaggo trail a few months back. I always say I live in the most beautiful city in the world. And then I get to experience something like this hiking trail and I am awestruck. What an amazing experience. Not to be missed, even, if like me, you only do part of the trail. The full hike is 75 kilometers and takes 5 days and four nights.

The hike takes place along the length of Table Mountain finishing at the magnificent Cape Point.

Table Mountain is bang, slap in the middle of Cape Town. Or rather Cape Town grew up around the mountain. The city has over 5 million people living below the slopes of the mountain, yet on this hike, you scarcely notice human settlement.

What you do get to see is beautiful plant life, creatures and critters, blue skies, mountain slopes and breathtaking views. At night you sleep in an eco tented campsite. Space is limited to 12 at the campsites keeping the atmosphere cosy and relaxed.

You can do it yourself via SANParks or go with one of the guided mountain hikes. Some of the guided options allow you to slack pack. Your bags are sent to the huts and all you need carry are your provisions for the day. It may be worth considering the slack packing idea as this hike is rated as moderate to difficult depending on the section you are walking.

I have to say I didn’t find this hike easy. I suspect our guide took us on a slightly different route to the recommended one. A couple of people in our party were battling with their knees going down the slopes. But the views of Cape Town were so beautiful that is was well worth it.

We struggled to complete the distance and only just made it to our campsite before dark, but again, our guide added quite a bit extra distance to our walk. I think it fair to say our guide was a serious mountain junkie. You get them.

The campsites are simple but comfortable. You have a proper bed and a shower with hot water. But you do need to pack your own sleeping bag and pillow. They have equipped kitchens that you can use to prepare food and drinks.

The weekend we chose to do the hike was not the best for weather, but luckily for us the rain held off and it was dry. I would not attempt this hike in inclement weather.

Doing this walk made me realise that I do not get out and enjoy the natural environment enough. There is something about being up close with nature and in such peaceful surroundings that is so relaxing and refreshing.

The usual safety precautions apply. See the Ridgeway Ramblers safety tips. My general safety tips for visiting Cape Town are at the top of this page.

To find more links should you wish to find out more about the hikes. Use these search terms to Google –

Hoerikwaggo Trail, Table Mountain walks, SANParks, Venture forth.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Airport transfers from Cape Town International Airport

Airport transfers from Cape Town International Airport

Walkway entrance to Cape Town International Airport

Cape Town International Airport is situated well out of the centre of  the city of Cape Town. The coordinates are 33° 58′ 10″ S, 18° 35′ 50″ E.

Here is a handy link to the official website where you can find arrival and departure information, maps and more – Cape Town Airport. Another useful link is from South African Tourism. They give statistics and useful, as well as useless, but interesting information – Cape Town International Airport.

Arrivals and Departures Cape Town Airport

Cape Town Airport is a good 20 – 30 minute drive from the airport to the centre of Cape Town. Depending on the traffic. During peak hour traffic, the trip can take even longer. Be well warned, if you need to get to the airport for a flight, and you make the journey during heavy traffic, allow extra time.

The front of the airport

Arranging a transfer from the airport to your accommodation in advance is a good idea. You can catch a taxi from the airport, but taxis are usually the most expensive way to get about and there are far better options.

If you do opt to use a taxi, negotiate the rate before you get in the cab. And make sure the driver has change should you need it. I tend not to trust taxi drivers no matter where I am in the world.

MyCiti bus stop Cape Town Airport

By far the best way to get from the airport to the city and surrounding areas is the MyCiti bus. It runs from the airport to the Civic Centre in the heart of the Cape Town CBD. It costs R57 per person and you cannot beat it for comfort, price and speed.

You can roll a wheelie suitcase right onto the bus and the bus has it’s own dedicated lane for a swift transfer.

Read more about the MyCiti bus service. From the central bus stop in town, you can catch another MyCiti bus or a taxi to your accommodation.

There is only one slight snag with the MyCiti bus service – it terminates around 21.00pm. If your flight is coming or going outside of that time you will have to make an alternate plan.

Runway at Cape Town Airport
There are probably hundreds of airport transfer and airport shuttle service operators in Cape Town. When you consider the MyCiti bus costs R57, these services do seem rather expensive. A shuttle bus can cost anywhere from R200 to R2000. Visitors are sometimes overwhelmed at the airport with drivers trying to score trips and and tours at a later date.
I used to have a bunch of links to various airport shuttle services but the websites die and the links don’t work so I’m not going to include them. But basic search terms like airport shuttle or airport transfer or Cape Town Airport services should help.
Tourism information desk Cape Town Airport
If you plan to self-drive then you can arrange to collect your car at the airport. The usual operators are to be found such as Avis, Enterprise, Europcar, Budget etc. Don’t forget to look for price comparison site too.Make sure to check rates with car hire operators before you leave home. Early bird bookings and loyalty programs may help you get a better deal.

 

Elephant statue at front of airport
If you don’t plan to hire an car. And if you intend spending most of your time in the city, then Rikkis Cabs is probably your best bet for getting about. They have free phones all over the city and you can call a share cab to collect you at a nominal rate.
They also do airport transfers. Find Rikkis on this link – rikkis.
Most tours operators collect you on a tour bus so you may well find that you don’t need a car and using Rikkis cabs will be the best option.
For moving about between the regions of South Africa, there are a good few long haul bus companies, trains and flights. I would not use the trains as I am not convinced they are safe. My preference is for a domestic airline. I also like the Baz Bus. Read more about Baz Bus here – Baz bus. For price comparisons on domestic flights in South Africa visit these three web sites – sa flightssky scanner and best flights.
There should be plenty info for getting to your accommodation in this post. Happy traveling!Click here for more on Cape Town.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

 

 

Road trips South Africa – N2

Road trips South Africa – N2

Aloe growing on the side of the road South Africa

Most of the guests who stay at our guest house hire a car. I thought I would do a blog about the roads and road safety in South Africa.

South Africa is a lot bigger than most visitors realise. It is also a lot more developed than many parts of Africa. We were smiling at a dinner the other night, about a tourist who arrived at the airport in Johannesburg, and thought he had gone to the wrong destination. He could not believe such a large happening airport existed in Africa.

South Africa is located on the southern tip of Africa. It’s a long haul destination. We have 2798 kilometers of coastline. Our country comprises around 1 223 100 square kilomteres of land and occupies 4% of the land in Africa.  We are around 50 million people and have 11 official languages. There are plenty routes to drive and lots to see. Big bonus is our favourable climate year round. Driving holidays are a great way to see South Africa.

Rapeseed fields along the N2 Motorway

Our roads and infrastructure are generally good. Car hire is easy. In the last blog I gave some links to compare car hire prices in South Africa.

Car hire may be slightly expensive compared to some countries. Petrol prices are creeping up but we are still cheaper than most Western countries. I remember visiting Dubai and being stunned at how cheap petrol is there.

Dassiesfontein road stall

Public transport in South Africa is not what it is in Europe. Driving is essential for some people to get about. Road signs should be recognisable. There are speed limit signs so you don’t have to guess. Our local roads almost always have a verge or emergency lane, should you need to stop.

Here is a link to an article for more on driving in South Africa – driving in SA.

The main things to remember are to drive on the left, make sure you can pay for petrol in cash, ignore taxi drivers (they are a law unto themselves) and always know exactly where you are going. For AA maps follow this link – AA route maps.

Two local magazines aimed at driving holidays are Getaway and Go. You can read them on-line.

One of the best bits of doing a road trip in South Africa is the farm stalls, cafes and various vendors along the routes. It’s not uncommon for farmers to sell fresh fruit and vegetables, honey and jams or other interesting foods at stalls on the side of the road. You may get plied with tastings of luscious fresh foods.

Roadside cafes can get really cute. I showed a few pictures in this blog of Dassisfontein along the N2. Read more about them here – Dassiesfontein farm stall. A translation of the name means rabbit river. But there are plenty of quaint and fun roadside stops. Speciality meals and souvenirs abound.

Table setting at Dassiesfontein

We also have the usual petrol stop fancourt type places where you fill up and take a biological break.
There is a really comprehensive list of travel tips on this web page – tourist travel tips.

But the usual and I would hope obvious safety precautions apply. Make sure you rent from a reliable car hire company. Make sure you know exactly where you are going or be guided by locals as to where to travel. Don’t leave valuables or anything visible in the car. Don’t talk to beggars or street children at intersections. It has been known to happen that these people grab your bag or camera through an open window. It is illegal to talk on a mobile while driving in South Africa. It is also illegal to park facing oncoming traffic.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Garden Route South Africa – Wilderness

Garden Route South Africa – Wilderness

Travel in Wilderness South Africa in 2011

Forest walk

I mentioned in the last few posts that I spent a week in the Garden Route. We took a day trip to Wilderness twice. The first time we took a relaxed approach. We had a meal and wandered around the shops. The second time we decided to paddle a canoe up the river, into the forest, for a picnic.

The river and the forest are set in the Garden Route National Park. Click on this link for more – Garden Route National Park.

I have to be a bit honest. My canoeing skills are not all that. We rowed against the tide when we went for our picnic and when we came back as the tide had turned. My arms ached. The river got a bit rocky in places and we had to get out and push our canoes to get them going again.

The river water was freezing cold. I couldn’t feel my feet. But it was fun. Once we arrived at the waterfall area we relaxed in the sun, listened to the birds and the water splashing in the rock pool. I could barely move after a while. It’s definitely one way to de-stress.

Canoe boat

The company we got our canoes from is Eden Adventures. Follow this link to find them – Eden Adventures. They have all sorts of activities for a person to do.

We passed wooden lodges and rondavels as we paddled the river. SA National Parks hire them out to visitors. Go back to the first link for our local national parks and find out more there. They even have a webcams so you can view wild animals.

What is a rondavel? It’s a unique South African word for a round dwelling. Wiki explain all here – Rondavel.

Rock pool

Wilderness area also has a long soft sandy beach. The sea water is warmer than in Cape Town. Sea water gets warmer as you head up the coast toward Durban.

The Garden route is definitely a must-see. It’s the Garden of Eden of South Africa. You can do nothing more than simply soak up the scenery. Or  you can get more adventurous and go canoeing, visit the Cango Caves nearby in Oudtshoorn or ride an elephant in Knysna. You will find plenty to suit your inclinations.

More links here – Knysna Elephant Park. Why it is not a good idea to play with elephants – elephant attacks handler. And – Cango Caves.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Garden Route South Africa – Sedgefield

Garden Route South Africa – Sedgefield

Travel in Sedgefield South Africa in 2011

Beach bar and backpackers in Sedgefield

I spent a week in Sedgefield when I went to the Garden Route recently. The Garden Route is a magnificent area on the south eastern coast of South Africa. It is a mix of lakes, forests, breathtakingly beautiful beaches and lush verdant vegetation. Each area has it’s own distinct character.

Sedgefield is South Africa’s very first slow town. It has been confirmed by Cittaslow so it must be true.

A surfer strides into the sunset on Myoli beach

Sedgefield might not have the glamour of Plett or Knysna but it certainly has a lot more charm. There are massive and inviting soft sandy beaches. Tranquil lagoons, plenty bird life including flamingos and the ocean is home to whales, dolphins and other marine life. Who would want to shop with all this natural beauty?

A tortoise – reminder of Sedgefield’s slow town status

I would recommend a visit to the Wild Oats Organic Market on a Saturday morning. I would also suggest taking a cycle trip on one of the many magnificent routes. What better way to spot a Malachite Kingfisher or any one of the birds in the area? There are hides to view the bird life on the lakes.

A walk to watch the setting sun on one of the beaches is a MUST. And behind Spar is an Italian restaurant. Trattoria da Vinci. You have to eat there. Well priced, relaxed easy atmosphere and fabulous food. I had an aubergine parmigiana. It was excellent.

Google Tourism Sedgefield for more on Sedgefield Tourism and do pick up their brochure. It’s free and lists cycle routes, hides, hikes and more.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Garden Route South Africa – Knysna

Garden Route South Africa – Knysna

Travel in Knysna South Africa in 2011

Knysna Heads in the background

I just spent a week in the Garden Route. The reason I went down, or up, depending on which way you look at it, was to run the Knysna Half Marathon. It’s one of the nicest races in South Africa. They limit the race to 7000 entrants and although that is a lot, other races attract nearly double that amount.

They also have a cycle race, a Mardi Gras, and their annual Oyster Festival at the same time, so there were plenty people and activities happening.

Knysna Quays

Knysna is a picturesque town set on an estuary come lagoon. The estuary is fed by the Knysna River and the estuary in turn feeds into the ocean between two hills or “heads”.

It is an aspirational town due to it’s great weather and natural beauty. High end activities such as golfing, painting and art collecting, sailing and fine dining are well represented. This is in sharp contrast to the local shanty town and Rastafarian village. It’s worth a visit into the townships to see how locals craft makeshift houses out of timber. You may be offered indigenous herbs by the Rastafarians. Partake at your own risk. Smoking cannabis is not legal in South Africa.

There is lots and lots to do. Just wandering around the main town taking in the haute hippy atmosphere is a great way to spend the day. You will find no shortage of cafes, bars and restaurants to while away the time.

You could visit all or just one of the many spectacular beaches or paddle a canoe in one of the national parks. How about mountain biking in the Knysna Forest or take a cruise around the estuary?  You might even fancy a visit to the elephant park?

Seafood restaurant in Knysna

Visit the Knysna Tourism website for more on what to do and where to go. Adrenaline junkies will not be disappointed at what is on offer.

If you fancy an active holiday then visit this older post which has links to the sport events calendars in South Africa – what to do outdoors in South Africa.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

 

 

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