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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From Slob to Exercise Junkie in Two Days Flat!

 “No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being” ~ Ansel Adams

 

I trust you all had a fabulous Easter / long weekend.  Winter officially arrived in Cape Town this past weekend and it was cold and wet!

For the first two days of the long weekend I turned into an absolute and much-needed slob! I got snug and warm and watched endless movies and ate a horrendous amount of Easter eggs. It was sooo good!

But Sunday and Monday surely made up for my good-for-nothing-couch-potato state on the first half of the long weekend. On Sunday, Donna and I headed out towards the beachfront to do a long walk. We walked the first part on the beachfront and then veered off to walk some hills before heading back down to the beach.  We managed to walk an even, fast paced 8+km’s in cold and wet weather.

A stormy Cape Town with Table Mountain almost hidden by the rain clouds across the bay.

 

It was raining, it was cold but we were still smiling and we were still walking!

 

Some scenery along the way.

 

Reflections in the water ~ The sun finally came out for a short while although it didn’t last long.

 Then early on Monday morning, with the earth still wet from all the rain, I was up at 6am slipping on my hiking boots and heading out to pick Donna up.  We were meeting Thomas from African Outdoor Adventures and other hikers at Constantia Nek for a training hike.  It was a chilly start to the day but once we got moving and we started to climb, we warmed up quickly. We met some awesome people, who were not only great company up the mountain, but kept us entertained!

I must admit, I wasn’t overly excited about this hike as the plan was to head up Skeleton Gorge and back down Nursery Ravine, the exact same hike Donna and I had done just two or three weeks ago but I was in for a nice surprise! Besides the hiking trail being wet and muddy, we were greeted to the sight of gushing waterfalls and raging water down the gorge.  It was beautiful beyond words! However, never before did this sign mean anything until today…..

It was almost like we were on a completely different hike, the path from Constantia Nek to the start of Skeleton Gorge was strewn with small rocks, mud and tree debris, which had been washed down the mountain side and upon reaching the gorge we were greeted with the beautiful sound of rushing mountain water! The trail was quieter than a few weeks ago, who could really blame people, it was cold and with the possibility of more rain, if I had a choice I too would have stayed indoors!

From the bottom half of the gorge we walked alongside the heavily flowing stream until just after the ladders taking us higher, suddenly we were walking right in the middle of the gorge and zigzagging across the water gushing down. I am seriously delighted to say that my new hiking boots are 100% waterproof and trust me they got wet!!!

Making our way up the gorge. Forgive the out of “focusness”, between wet and cold fingers I was trying hard not to slip all the way back down to the bottom of the gorge!!!

 

Making our way up the gorge. Forgive the out of “focusness”, between wet and cold fingers I was trying hard not to slip all the way back down to the bottom of the gorge!!!

 

Donna, Thomas and Helga negotiating their way up the gorge.

My pants were wet ¾ of the way up due to having to climb up rocks right where the water was rushing down, but after having climbed up hundreds of steep steps on the way up, the ice-cold mountain water was refreshing to say the least!

 

As we got closer to the top, we spotted another beautiful waterfall through the trees. Amazing how a little bit of rain can change a hiking route!

 

 Enjoying the coolness of the spray of ice-cold mountain water!

 

Before we knew it we were walking on the beach sand on the top and the Hely-Hutchinson Dam was before us.  This time it was deserted. 

On top of the table, at the Hely-Hutchinson dam.

 

 It’s great having good contacts, Thomas who is involved with the Scout movement, had the keys for the Scout cabin on top of the mountain and so we got to have a nice lunch break on top where we could put on the kettle for some tea and we could relax over lunch before heading back down again!

 The view at the top from our lunch spot.

 

The scout cabin where we stopped for our lunch break.

 

 The Hely-Hutchinson dam on top of the mountain. 

 

 I learnt of a new trail while out hiking, the Orange Kloof Hoerikwaggo 2 Day Trail (32,9 km) ~ This pic is part of it ~ It has a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 12 hikers at a time. You will overnight at the Orange Kloof tented Camps in the heart of the Orange Kloof national forest. It is a protected area and public access is prohibited unless you are part of this Hoerikwaggo Trail! ~ My kind of trail, a must to add to my list!

 

 Reflections in the Hely-Hutchinson Dam

 

 On our way back down again.

 

The view from the top as we headed back down!  

We decided not to attempt Nursery Ravine on the way back down due to the steepness of the climb down considering the wet, muddy conditions so we took another route down that eventually hooked up with the Jeep Track and we headed back to the cars where we stopped at Constantia Nek restaurant for a well-deserved drink and to talk Kilimanjaro with Thomas and the others.

 

Drinks and chats at Constantia Nek Pub and Restaurant afterwards.

The most exciting part is that Donna and I think we have 95% decided on a date to leave and a route.  We will be finalising it all on Saturday….  It is all getting so real now!

Despite the wet and cold weather this past weekend it was great to be back on the mountain and out in the fresh air getting exercise again. Tomorrow afternoon we are heading out to do a quick climb up Lion’s Head after work ~ at least the sun is due to shine!  My body sure did miss the work-outs last week  ~ this mountain training is turning me into a fitness freak, haha, who would have thought!

 

All photos taken by me – 

 

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