Battered, Bruised and Still Smiling!

This weekend was no different with the latest weather trends we seem to be getting on every chosen hiking day and it has made no difference that is it now summer here. In fact, I think we had better hiking conditions in winter!

Finally, the weekend arrived and we were hiking from Simons Town to Smitswinkel Bay. A long hike that would take us bush-wacking along the beautiful rugged coast as we made our way closer towards Cape Point.

We awoke on Saturday to find that the weather was overcast with a slight chance of rain. None of which would normally stop us from hiking, however, the mountain in Simons Town was covered in low-lying, thick dark cloud. Having only hiked this route once before and knowing how disorientating the mist can be on the mountain, I decided to postpone the hike. With Monday a public holiday and a sunny day forecast, the hike was moved. Strong wind was predicted but hopefully that would only come up by late afternoon.

Monday was a beautiful day and perfect for a hike that offers some of the most beautiful views in Cape Town.

Ready to head out, besides the wind it was a beautiful day.

Ready to head out, besides the wind it was a beautiful day.

Only Judi and I headed out, with our back packs big, heavy and sitting comfortably on our backs, we began the long journey to Smitswinkel Bay. We set a good pace as we made our way up the mountain, it was still early but it was hot already and the wind was already blowing hard and we were walking right into it, making each step that much harder with the loads on our backs.

Looking back over the Simons Town Naval Base.

Looking back over the Simons Town Naval Base.

Pretty flowers brightening up the mountain side.

Pretty flowers brightening up the mountain side.

We hadn’t been hiking more than an hour when I looked up from the path and looked out over the ocean side and I noticed a dassie on a rock and pointed it out to Judi. A few seconds later as we walked, Judi said “That’s not a dassie, it’s a penguin!” I laughed wondering what on earth a penguin was doing so high up on the mountain, away from the water but I looked again and sure enough as we kept moving closer it looked like a penguin with its tell-tale black and white suit. It was the oddest thing I had ever seen. What on earth was a penguin doing on a mountain?!!

A beautiful day, but wait what's the on the rock?

A beautiful day, but wait what’s the on the rock over there?

A close up (zoom not the greatest as taken with my phone) but you get the picture!

A close up of the penguin on the rock (zoom not the greatest as taken with my phone) but you get the picture!

But within minutes I was doubled over, my hands on my knees to balance me as with my backpack moving closer to my head in my upside position, it was threatening to topple me right over. I breathing hard from climbing up the mountain and at the same time I was laughing even harder. Our dassie turned penguin was in fact a rock with a bit of a shadow cast over it. Standing there, just like a penguin, the shadow cast across the rock standing up, from further back, making it look like the tell-tale sign of a penguin.  It was going to be a long day, we had hardly started and the elements of nature already had us hallucinating! And in case you are wonder, we were still very much at sea level and altitude had nothing to do with this!

The old Lookout Fort on our way up the mountain.

The old Lookout Fort on our way up the mountain.

We stopped for a quick snack break roughly every 90 minutes, fuelling our bodies as much as we could.  The trail is a quiet one and last time we hiked it we saw no other hikers and this time we only saw one small group of four hikers who had only gone up to the Swartkop Peak. Because it’s a quieter trail, it is rather over grown and I apparently never learnt my lesson from the first time we hike it, you need to wear long pants otherwise you will end with hiking war scars from the walk! With each step, your legs brush past the vegetation that sweeps across the trial, some soft but other branches hard and eina (sore) as it scrapes along your flesh. Needless to say by the end of the hike my legs were stinging and I am now sporting numerous cuts, scrapes and bruises on my lower legs. Yes, it’s a beautiful summer look. Not!

Judi, bush-wacking through the overgrown pathway on our way up to Swartkop Peak.

Judi, bush-wacking through the overgrown pathway on our way up to Swartkop Peak.

A break in the trees, offering beautiful views once again.

A break in the trees, offering beautiful views once again.

We made our way up to Swartkop Peak where we stopped for another quick break. The wind on top had an icy chill and it wasn’t before long that our jackets were pulled out and put on. The wind was becoming stronger and we were going to continue to face it head on all the way to the end. Who ever said like things easy…

Me standing on top of Swartkop Peak.

Me standing on top of Swartkop Peak.

Amazing views from the top.

Amazing views from the top.

Overlooking False Bay and Hangklip across the way.

Overlooking False Bay and Hangklip far off across the way.

Shortly after 1pm we had made really good time and with the end section of the trail looming we decided to break for lunch when we came across a perfectly flat rock overlooking the ocean, with another rock perfectly positioned for a backrest.  Both of us were pretty determined to climb up the rock, which was slightly lower than shoulder height at most places, without taking our backpacks off. Judi up front was trying to find the best place to go up and I pointed out what looked like a great foot rest, however, by this time she was already moving around the rock to the other side where it was slightly lower and a bit easier to climb up.  So as she climbed up the other side, I decided to use the foot rest I had found to hoist myself up. It turns out it wasn’t such a good foot rest after all. I put my right foot up, pushed with my left leg and used my arms to pull myself up onto the rock but as the weight of my body and my 15kg+ pack back rested sorely on the little rock that jutted out as a perfect foot rest, it gave way, slicing off the main rock in a clean sweep bringing my right leg crashing with force into the main rock, sending a shooting sharp pain and a thumping, pulsing note of pain on the side of my lower leg just below my knee.  Once again I found myself on the ground, doubled over, but this time in pain.  Within minutes my leg had a nice big swollen bump and bruising was already appearing. I now sport a nice huge big bruise, which is bigger than the size of my fist.  Sleeping at night has proven uncomfortable as no matter which way I turn or lie, the bruise in its bigness touches something ~ the mattress, the duvet, my other leg!  With such bashed up legs that really look like I’ve been to war it’s going to be long pants for me for the next week or two!

Despite the throbbing in my leg, we enjoyed a wonderful rest at lunch time. Leaning back on the rock, taking in the exquisite view before us and chatting about our upcoming trip, what we still had to buy, how we were going to pack.

Lunch with a view!

Lunch with a view!

And a perfect spot for 20-winks!

And a perfect spot for 20-winks!

We didn’t lunch for too long as we were quite eager to get going and by 2pm we were ready to go again. The last section we hike was covered in new vegetation and it was beautiful to see. When we hiked this route last year it had been fire ravaged and all that was left was sand and black charred trees and branches.  This time, with the regrowth of the vegetation, it also showed us where the path was as with the fire ravaged mountain side the path had disappeared as everything looked the same.

We moved quickly towards the end of the trail where we would face a steep descent down and finally the last flat stretch to the finish. The descent would take us down the ridge of the mountain on the Cape Point side, with views of Smitswinkel Bay in front of us. There is plenty of scrambling and every now and again the path just disappears and you have to figure out which way to go to reach the path below, and often the path below was out of sight, hidden by the rocks overhanging it. This mostly involves scrambling over the rocks in front of you and once over them the path begins again. 

It is a tough descent and not to be taken lightly. The descent this time was difficult, not only did we have to contend with our backpacks, which hamper you as you make your way down as it bashes into the rock and you climb down and sometimes the backpack in all its bigness secures you as you are mid-way scrambling down rocks, leaving you practically dangling in mid-air, but we had to deal with the wind too, which by now was incredibly strong.  Completely exposed on the ridge at times we would have to use our trekking poles to hold us upright again. The wind, gusting constantly and not letting up even for a moment, making it so much more difficult to make our way down and with the danger of literally getting blown off the ridge. I didn’t enjoy the descent at all this time and Judi and I hardly spoke except for the few times when we gave advice as to where best to put your foot or to remind the other to be careful as we climbed over another exposed ridge. With the wind so strong, even if we had wanted to talk our words would have been carried away on the wind anyway.

With Smitswinkel Bay in sight down below, it was time for us to make our descent.

With Smitswinkel Bay in sight down below, it was time for us to make our descent.

Me, securely perched between rocks as the wind howled around us, managed to snap this shot of Judi starting to make her way down.

Me, securely perched between rocks as the wind howled around us, managed to snap this shot of Judi starting to make her way down.

Looking back, again securely perched between rocks, I snapped this the first part of the steep descent.

Looking back, again securely perched between rocks, I managed to snap this photo of the first part of the steep descent from the top.

The climb down took us much longer than before and by the time we were finally over the rocks and onto flatter ground, we were both exhausted. With the end in sight and safely back on our two feet, we stopped for one last refuel before heading out towards the road where we would phone Judi’s husband to come and pick us up.

An amazing hike, a little exhausted and very happy to see the end!

An amazing hike, a little exhausted and very happy to see the end!

My body was already showing signs of the tenderness from the backpack straps around my hips and shoulders and my feet were ready to come out of their hiking boots. Although the hike had left me rather battered and bruised, it was a wonderful 9 hours on our feet with our backpacks, I was still smiling and training is going well.

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There are 17 more days till we fly to Argentina and I have just emailed off my “Application for Aconcagua Park Entrance Permit” and so with each passing day things are getting more and more real!

~ In fact the clock has just turned and it’s now just 16 More Days, 23 Hours, 30 minutes and 50 Seconds till take-off ~

~ All photos by me, except for the ones of me. Thanks, Judi! ~

If you would like to make a donation towards my fundraising efforts for those living with Cystic Fibrosis, please click here. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated!

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