Skeletons in the Forest

July is almost over and it has truly taken me in, chewed me up and is getting ready to spit me out at the end of this weekend (in the best kind of way) ~ I’m loving it all, stretching myself to limits, mentally and physically, reaching new limits, feeling exhausted but fully alive!

Almost two weeks ago we headed out to the mountains and enjoyed one of my favourite hikes on the mountain, up Skeleton Gorge with lunch at the dam on top of the mountain and then back down Nursery Ravine.

Our morning started early as always, only to arrive in the dark to locked gates at Kirstenbosch and to be told by security they only open at 8am in winter. Wait was all we could do. Some caught some shut-eye in back seat, while some of us braved the chilly winter’s morning to stand outside the cars and chat. One thing I knew for sure is that once we started walking I would be grateful for the coolness of the morning.

What lay ahead of us was walking straight up a gorge on one side and then straight back down the gorge next to it with hundreds upon hundreds of stairs and up was the only way. Our legs were going to get a good workout for sure. Finally 8am rolled around and our cars finally rolled forward towards the parking lot.

The beginning of the climb.

The beginning of the climb up.

Some easy, wide paced stairs to start off with. Pity it didn't last long!

Some easy, wide paced stairs to start off with. Pity it didn’t last long!

I always love reading this sign and it's definitely not one to be taken lightly. This is a dangerous route, especially when it's wet. I made sure my group knew this and told them to tread carefully.

I always love reading this sign and it’s definitely not one to be taken lightly. This is a dangerous route, especially when it’s wet. I made sure my group knew this and told them to tread carefully.

On a detox at the time I was a bit worried about my energy levels and the first section of steps going up definitely had my heart pumping the blood through my body and my lungs working hard. Luckily, I found a happy-medium pace along with most of our team, except of course for the two young 20-something year old’s with us who always seem to have boundless energy and practically ran up the steps!

The air was cool on our faces and it wasn’t before long that we were peeling our jackets, gloves, hats and whatever else was keeping us warm off.

Natalie watching the young one taking the steps with ease ~ a quick breather and some mental motivation to take the next set of steps up.

Natalie watching the young ones taking the steps with ease ~ a quick breather and some mental motivation to take the next set of steps up.

There is such beauty in the tranquil forest with only nature surrounding you.

There is such beauty in the tranquil forest with only nature surrounding you.

A tree trunk fallen over the path. There really is nothing like having to lift your leg up to climb over after all that stair climbing!

A tree trunk fallen over the path. There really is nothing like having to lift your leg up to climb over after all that stair climbing!

Finally the steps ended and first we climbed up some ladders and then we started scrambling over the rocks up the gorge, negotiating a bit of water from the recent rains, wetting our shoes and splashing us as we negotiated the waterways, careful not to slip. I have been up Skeleton Gorge when water is literally gushing down the gorge, it’s definitely an adventure and not for the faint of heart after heavier rains.

Judi making her way up the first ladder. Heavy loaded backpack for training and still all smiles ~ I would say the best kind of team mate!

Judi making her way up the first ladder. Heavy loaded backpack for training and still all smiles ~ I would say the best kind of team-mate!

Negotiating the next set of ladders as we made our way up.

Negotiating the next set of ladders as we made our way up.

Yip, slippery when wet!!

Yip, slippery when wet and practically straight up!!

I have no idea why it is called Skeleton Gorge, and we discussed this on our way up and we all decided with a name like that it’s probably best not to know the reason behind the name anyway!

Making our way up the gorge and negotiating the bits with water ~ all part of the adventure!

Making our way up the gorge and negotiating the bits with water ~ all part of the adventure!

Negotiating our way up the gorge.

Negotiating our way up the gorge.

Out of the gorge, a few more hundred steps as we walked through the upper forests before reaching the top of the mountain.

The beautiful forests on the upper part of Skeleton Gorge.

The beautiful forests on the upper part of Skeleton Gorge.

A tree with a hole in it, yes perfect photo opportunity and I too was still all smiles!

A tree with a hole in it, yes perfect photo opportunity and I too was still all smiles!

A small waterfall on our way to the top that got us girls rather wet standing there to take this photo.

A small waterfall on our way to the top that got us girls rather wet standing there to take this photo.

Beautiful views opening up as we got near the top.

Beautiful views opening up as we got near the top.

Wooden walkways through the forest near the top.

Wooden walkways through the forest near the top.

We made good time up the mountain and when we saw the beach sand near the top we knew we were near to our very early “lunch” stop, which we would take by the dam on top.

The 'beach sand' pathway that would lead us to the dam on top.

The ‘beach sand’ pathway that would lead us to the dam on top.

Love the eerieness of the dead trees and beach sand on top of the mountain.

Love the ‘eerieness’ of the dead trees and beach sand on top of the mountain ~ all we needed was a bit of misty cloud cover and it would have completed the picture.

A beach on top of a mountain ~ one of my favourite mountain top spots.

A beach on top of a mountain ~ one of my favourite mountain top spots.

The Hely-Hutchinson dam on top of Table Mountain - Full, full, full ~ so awesome to see.

The Hely-Hutchinson dam on top of Table Mountain – Full, full, full ~ so awesome to see.

A very full Hely-Hutchinson dam on top of Table Mountain.

A very full Hely-Hutchinson dam on top of Table Mountain.

Enjoying a bite to eat, despite the icy cold wind that was blowing.

Enjoying a bite to eat, despite the icy cold wind that was blowing.

The wind on top was icy and it was nice to see the dam on top so full. In fact, it was so full, the fullest I have ever seen it and this only meant there were no nice boulder to go and find shelter behind as they were now all covered by water! We stopped and ate our lunch while enjoying the view before us but once we had finished eating we got ready to head back down as it was just too icy to stay still for too long.

We headed out along the dam’s edge and then off to the left where we would meet up with the path that would lead us back down Nursery Ravine, a steep descent yet again filled with stone steps leading all the way down. We occasionally stopped to bask in the glorious sunshine that was finally breaking through the clouds, thawing ourselves out.  Then it was time to head down the steep ravine and if we weren’t feeling our quad muscles yet, we were certainly going to be feeling them after this!

Making our way along the dams edge.

Making our way along the dams edge.

Our chosen route down, via Nursery Ravine.

Our chosen route down, via Nursery Ravine.

Looking back over the views of the dams.

Looking back over the views of the dams.

Beautiful rock forms on the back table.

Beautiful rock forms on the back table.

Making for another perfect photo opportunity!

Making for another perfect photo opportunity!

Ready to head down the steep Nursery Ravine.

Ready to head down the steep Nursery Ravine.

The only way was down!

The only way was down!

The first lot of steps going down.

The first lot of steps going down.

Beautiful views as we descended.

Beautiful views as we descended.

Back on the ground in Kirstenbosch, looking up at where we had just climbed.

Back on the ground in Kirstenbosch, looking up at where we had just climbed.

Back on the ground in Kirstenbsoch, heading back to our cars after another great hike!

Back on the ground in Kirstenbosch, heading back to our cars after another great hike!

Back at the car, we were all in one piece and full of smiles after another incredible morning spent on the mountain. Heading home, for once not the driver, I sat back and smiled as I counted my blessings for being so lucky to live in such a beautiful city! Upon arrival back home there would be no nice little afternoon nap for me as I had a ‘date’ with my sister-in-law and my two gorgeous baby girl nieces. As they say, there is no rest for the wicked and life is certainly never dull in this neck of the woods!

~ All Photos By Me ~

P.S. If anyone is wondering, the wedding I attended recently was a huge success and great fun! I ended up taking a good friend with me and we had an absolute ball, despite the fact that one of my colleagues now firmly believes I “bat for the other side!” Although, sometime in the early hours of the night the groom tried to squash that rumour by saying he knows otherwise because he had inside information about a particular ‘story’ or should I say ‘event’ that became public knowledge in the halls of where we spend our days….  Ah yes, long live the big mouths who can’t help but spread the (good) news! Haha. All is well and ends well ~ the wedding was so good, we danced the night away and finally headed to our car at 2:45am on Sunday morning. Thankfully we were booked into a lovely little B & B just down the road and soon sleep would take over!

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Reaching For The Sun

 

As Capetonians we are so incredibly blessed to have such a magnificent mountain such as Table Mountain, literally in our back yards!! Known as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, this magnificent mountain stands proud of the city as it dominates our skyline.

Yesterday, Donna and I headed out to hike up Skeleton Gorge with our route back down via Nursery Ravine. It was another gorgeous day here in Cape Town and we were eager to get back on the mountain. 

Skeleton Gorge ~ Our route up the mountain.

 

Right, not difficult at all, noted!!  

 

 Donna, my hiking partner, ready to go!  

The route up Skeleton Gorge ascends steeply from the beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens, following a magical forest gorge up the back of Table Mountain. The route has some adventurous climbing on a number of wooden ladders to help us hikers get over some steep, exposed and rocky areas.

For those who need the proof ~ Yup, I was definitely there!

 

Just one of the ladders helping hikers over the steep rock patches.

We were surprised to find the route rather busy, and at times I found myself wishing for the silence of the magical forest we were waking in but then again maybe we had just being spoilt with the solitude of hikes such as Fish River Canyon and Otter Trail. It’s funny how we get used to things and then sometimes crave it when we can’t have it. But much to my delight, in the end, our hike turned into a rather social one. A number of times as passing other hikers many a conversation formed, laughs were shared and there was so much camaraderie as we made our way up the steep ravine!

Hikers making their way up the wooden ladders.

Despite the number of people feeling energetic enough to venture out on this mid-week holiday, we were hiking through an indigenous forest with foliage of Yellow and Ironwood trees overhead and we had the feel of pure organic earth underfoot. I was in my happy place!

 

From stairs, to rocks to ferns. Such incredible beauty all on one hike!

Before we knew it the sun started peeking through the tree tops and we could see the blue sky above. The soil and rocks beneath our feet turned to glorious white sand and for a moment I forget I was on a mountain!  We knew we were nearing the top and the “beach” on top of our beautiful mountain was close.  Around another rock, one last climb up and suddenly we emerged into a glade of sunlight and the mountain top “beach” lay before us.

The tree’s parted and the blue sky appeared. We were near the top!

 

The rocks and soil made way for, um, beach sand! Yip you could be forgiven for wondering if we were still on the mountain!

 

The tree trunk graveyard on top of Skeleton Gorge. Maybe that’s where the name comes from…. 

I must admit it was almost eerie! There was practically no one around, except for one group that were just starting to make their way down again and then we were left there on the “beach” with dead tree trunks sticking up out of the sand. It looked like a tree graveyard and it really was eerie. I was almost grateful it was sunny and there was no mist from the usual cloud cover on the mountain as that would have just been down right creepy up there!!

A view of the “beach” in front of the Hely-Hutchinson Dam.

 

Unusual rocks on the “beach” at the top.

 

Part view of the Hely-Hutchinson Dam on top of Table Mountain.

As we made our way forward past the graveyard of trees, we were rewarded with the sight of our very own mountain top dam, called the Hely-Hutchinson Dam.  This was a perfect lunch spot! We found some nice flat rocks on the white sand and lunch was served! During lunch we chatted excitedly about our Africa trip. Ideas of what we want to do, options of where we can go and of course talk of Kilimanjaro! When lunch was snuggly in our tummies we both lay back, lazing like lizards in the sun on our rocks and before we knew it, we were both dozing away in the warm sunshine!  This surely was the best way to spend a mid-week day off.

 

After our super-long-lazy lunch it was time to head back down the mountain via Nursery Ravine.

Heading back down the mountain was no different from going up, we stopped and had some interesting chats with some French visitors who were having lunch and red wine on the dam wall and shortly after leaving, while walking along the dam wall we bumped into a doctor and his dog, whom we then walked a quarter way down Nursery Ravine with until we went our separate ways.

Nursery Ravine was simply breath-taking and involved hundreds and hundreds of steep steps with sheer cliff walls on the side, which also offered welcome shade from the afternoon sun. On our way down we bumped into a young man running up this ravine. He stopped to let us pass by and naturally a conversation ensued mostly to check his mental wellness… I mean seriously, running UP this route. Insane I tell you!!!!

Donna, sitting on some seriously steep stairs (the picture really doesn’t do it justice) admiring the view that lay before us. Absolutely love this picture of her sitting quietly, taking it all in!

 

The steep stairs leading down Nursery Ravine.

 

Just one of the gorgeous views that greeted us as we headed down Nursery Ravine.

 

Beautiful flowers among the fynbos.

 

A Protea, South Africa’s National Flower.

Reaching the bottom late in the afternoon, two satisfied hikers, this surely was a great hike full of beauty, exercise and perfect for our training! We will be back and next time we’ll be going UP those stairs of Nursery Ravine, except we certainly won’t be running!

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, it was like heaven in a pair of hiking boots! No pain, ultra-light and super comfortable.  I am happy to report, me and my feet are still on talking terms!!

– All photos taken by me –

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