Secret Passages and Adventurous Dashes ~ Just Another Training Day on the Mountain

After the pressures of exams and life in general all I wanted to do on my first weekend off was sleep.

Sleep. Sleep and more sleep.

But life had other plans as always and I really do believe in the term “Sleep when you are dead.”

Despite my feeling of absolute exhaustion, I was looking forward to getting back onto the mountain again even if my alarm was going off at 5am!  While I was studying for exams it was the one thing I really missed, been on the mountain that is and not my alarm going off at 5am.  Been on the mountain really is my place of refuge. As Saturday morning rolled around, although wind was predicted, it was due to be a beautiful sunny day, perfect for exploring our beautiful mountain.

The size of the group hiking changed considerably during the week running up to the hike, it went from large to very small to finally one extra that couldn’t previously make it. In the end, four of us headed out. Our planned route was to head up from Camps Bay side, walk along the pipe track then head up to the top of the mountain via Corridor  Ravine where we would find and explore Tranquility Cracks again, certainly one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on Table Mountain and then we would head over the ‘table top’ and if time allowed and we still felt energetic enough we would head to the dam and then finally back down via Kasteelspoort to the cars.

Our walk started off in the shadow of the mountain and as usual the first section was a nice little steep climb up on a jeep track. It always amazes me how quickly you can lose your fitness but at the same time am grateful that it doesn’t take long to get back if you haven’t had too long a break! We walked at a steady pace and my lungs could feel the burn and my calf muscles were certainly put through the paces on that first section.

The Pipe Track, literally following the old water pipes along the mountain side.

The Pipe Track, literally following the old water pipes along the mountain side.

Eventually the jeep track met up with the Pipe Track and we followed the trail along as it winded its way along the mountainside. Climbing some stone steps, still shaded from the sun by the mountain and water dripping down the sheer rock cliff, the area was cool and wet. Following the path down into Slangollie Ravine we had to tread carefully so as not to slip on the wet stones that made up this section of the trail.

At one section the pathway hugged the sheer rock cliff on the left and it also had a gushing waterfall flowing down the rock face, landing on the stone pathway. On the other side of the pathway was a steep drop into the gully below. There was no way around this one and although the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day in Cape Town, we were about to get wet! The tricky part was that the path here was angled, sloping down towards the gully and with the waterfall we had to literally run through it and this is where things became a little bit tricky. Run fast to avoid getting too wet and you take a chance of slipping on the wet stone path and ending up in the gully far down below! Not really an option for any of us. So preparing for a shower, one by one, we stepped forward maneuvering our way through the waterfall, balancing ourselves as best as we could and making it safely to the other side where we had to negotiate a wet concrete ‘slipway’ up to the next ledge. Happily, despite backpacks on our backs that could easily knock against the rock ledge and send us flying in the opposite direction we all made it safely across with no one slipping over the edge into the ravine!

After crossing the first waterfall, it was up a few more stones steps in Slangollie Ravine before heading down and around.

After crossing the first waterfall, it was up a few more stones steps in Slangollie Ravine before heading down and around.

Up and over we entered the coolness of the forest on the other side that would take us around to Corridor Ravine but before getting there we stopped at a rock overhang to have a snack break and to dry out while taking in the beautiful views of Robben Island, Camps Bay and Lions Head that lay before us.  All dried out again and after a short break we moved on again, but our dryness wasn’t to last too long. Just up around the next corner another waterfall was flowing rather strongly down the mountainside and with the wind catching the water it was spraying water all over the place. This time was not as ‘hairy’ as the last waterfall dash but we still had to do some fine balancing over rocks and yet again, we were going to get wet!

A snack break with beautiful views before us of Lions Head, Camps Bay and Robben Island.

A snack break with beautiful views before us of Lions Head, Camps Bay.

A great shot capturing me as I ran over the rocks through the 2nd waterfall. Photo by Natalie Reynolds.

A great shot capturing me as I ran over the rocks through the 2nd waterfall. Photo by Natalie Reynolds.

Safely through the second waterfall, we began to make our way up to the top of the mountain via Corridor Ravine. Although this route is one of the least strenuous routes to the top, I was grateful that this part of the mountain was still shaded from the sun. Without the weight in my backpack I felt I could easily breeze up the mountain side, but with my backpack weighed down for maximum training I felt the strain of take each step up but I know in January I will be grateful for the practice runs…

Reaching the top everything looked different again from the last time I was up there and it took a little while for me to figure out which path to take after taking the wrong one and sure that the path we were on wasn’t the path we needed to be on we backtracked once again and took another path we had crossed. Now I know Tranquillity Cracks is right there but to the naked eye it just looks like more mountain side. It is hard to believe as you stand there on the regular path that there is whole section of mountain with secret passageways and trees growing up in the cracks towards the light, a tranquil sanctuary that truly is the most magical place on Table Mountain!  Finding the not so visible path that leads to these secret cracks, we put Natalie and Clinton in front and told them to find Tranquillity Cracks as this was their first time.  It was rather humorous watching them eye every rock formation we passed wondering if that was the ‘crack’ we had to enter through. Finally, going past the path we had to take, Claire and I stopped as the other two climbed onto some rocks to see where this secret hiding place was. Natalie, realising we weren’t following headed back to where we stood and discovered the path hidden by overgrown trees and bushes and called out to Clinton that she had found the way. I let them lead us in and it was wonderful to hear the commentary coming from up front as they discovered this hidden wonder on top of Table Mountain.  Gushes of “oh my word this is beautiful” and “wow” filled the air as we made our way into this hidden location.

Natalie and Clinton entering Tranquility Cracks for the first time.

Natalie and Clinton entering Tranquility Cracks for the first time.

Trees growing between the rocks inside Tranquility Cracks, reach up towards the light.

Trees growing between the rocks inside Tranquility Cracks, reach up towards the light.

The beauty inside Tranquility Cracks. Takes my breath away every time.

The beauty inside Tranquility Cracks. Takes my breath away every time.

Even though I’ve seen it before, it still takes my breath away. The cool dampness of the air inside as you shimmy through cracks and clamber over and under trees growing between the rocks, heading up towards the light up above. Suddenly, when inside the cracks, the world stops. You can no longer hear the wind blowing, or the sound of a helicopter overhead. It is pure stillness and peace that envelopes you whole. The green moss-covered rocks and in places the dripping water droplets overhead all add to the beauty that is Tranquility Cracks. Following a passage and coming out the other side, you are greeted with magnificent views of part of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Seaboard out front.

The view when you pop out the other side of Tranquility Cracks ~ Lions Head, Signal Hill, Robben Island and all the way along the West Coast.

The view when you pop out the other side of Tranquility Cracks ~ Lions Head, Signal Hill, Robben Island and all the way along the West Coast.

Ecstatic to be back on the mountain, this was taken inside Tranquility Cracks.

Ecstatic to be back on the mountain, this was taken inside Tranquility Cracks.

We explored every nook and cranny, squeezing through tight spaces and leaving our backpacks behind in places where the passage ways become too small to pass. On the other side we found a beautiful spot with some type of soft long grass, mostly sheltered from the wind and perfect spot for a coffee and eat break. We headed back to get our backpacks and to find a way around that we could bring our food and refreshments with and happily we found a way and settled in for what turned out to be a nice long break, where after eating, we all lay back in the softness of the grass, put our feet up (literally) and closed our eyes to snooze. It was heavenly!

A totally unposed photo ~ the three of us found this rock and just leaned back to soak up the sun. Natalie then turned around and saw the three of us in almost identical poses and saw a perfect photo opportunity!

A totally unposed photo ~ the three of us found this rock and just leaned back to soak up the sun. Natalie then turned around and saw the three of us in almost identical poses and saw a perfect photo opportunity!

After a good lunch we all four of us lay back on the soft long grass, closed our eyes and snoozed.

After a good lunch we all four of us lay back on the soft long grass, closed our eyes and snoozed.

Finally, as time was moving on, we decided if we were going to walk to the dams we should probably get a move on. Feeling so super lazy after our snooze in the sunny, peacefulness of Tranquillity Cracks, we picked up our backpacks, me with a groan at the weight of my backpack, and we head back through the secret passageways and back out the other side into the sunshine again. Amazingly the wind has completely dropped off and we walked across the back table in the heat of the day. Down into a valley and up the other side again. Everyone was still keen to go to the Hely-Hutchinson Dam so when the path came up we veered off to the right in the direction of the dams.

Making our way over the 'table top' towards the dams.

Making our way over the ‘table top’ towards the dams.

With some nice views of two men walking topless towards us (hello summer!), some members of our party even considered offering to rub some sunblock on them…. The two guys asked us for directions as they were heading off to Camps Bay Beach and just wanted to check they were on the right track!

A little further on we bumped into Aslam, a SANParks Ranger (with such a great sense of humour) who was leading some hikers on a day hike. We stopped to chat to them and as we were heading to the dams, Aslam invited us to join them in checking out the water-works museum by the dam. Each time I’ve been to the top, the museum has always been locked so it was a great opportunity for us to finally take a look inside.  The museum houses a display of memorabilia from the construction of the dams on Table Mountain.  It has an interesting display of original equipment, hand tools, instruments and photographs and includes the original well-preserved steam locomotive used to haul equipment from the old cableway at Kasteelspoort.

Inside the museum, on the train! Photo by Claire McTaggart

Inside the museum, on the train! Photo by Claire McTaggart

After a good look around and reading up on the history of the dam we parted ways with Aslam and his hiking group and decided to take one last refreshment break while sitting on the edge of the dam. The dam is still as full as it was when we climbed Skeleton Gorge a couple of months ago but sadly I wasn’t able to get any more photos as my camera battery had died.

Heading back towards Kasteelspoort where we would descend, we passed the scout hut on top and as we passed someone appeared in the doorway, I glanced to the right to say hello as we passed only to find Thomas standing in the doorway! Our team was led up Kilimanjaro by Thomas last year.  We chatted for a bit and caught up and on parting I asked him to send my love to our amazing guides that we had on Kilimanjaro as he was heading back there for a few weeks soon.

As we made our way down Kasteelspoort, the sun hot on our skin, the steep downward incline had my legs shaking as we stopped to negotiate rocks to climb down. The views before us breathtakingly beautiful, one thing was for sure, ten glorious hours on the mountain side had my soul restored. The stress and anxiety of past few weeks was forgotten, my soul was totally at peace and my mind was free and from our conversations I wasn’t the only one feeling the greatness of the mountain that day.

Ten gorgeous hours spent on the mountain, soaking up the sunshine, laughing with friends, snoozing in the peaceful beauty that is Tranquillity Cracks and exploring our beautiful mountain.

By the time I got home, my shoulders were aching from my heavy backpack, my feet were tender, but my soul was full.

Next weekend we will be heading up and down Platteklip with our fully loaded backpacks for some more training. I know it’s not going to be easy. In fact, every step is probably going to be pure agony, but I keep reminding myself it is going to be worth it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~ 61 Days 16 Hours 54 Minutes 37 Seconds till we depart for Aconcagua ~

~ All Photos by Me and and a couple by my friends ~

Advertisements

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Claire Cappetta
    Nov 04, 2013 @ 20:02:25

    Beautiful pictures, makes me realize I need a vacation! : )

    Reply

  2. Natalie
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 15:53:22

    Breathtaking pics of our hike .. love them!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: