Table Mountain Activity Guide. The Hoerikwaggo Trail

Cable Car Station, Table Mountain.Photo: Shaen Adey ©
Nowhere else in the world is there such a dramatic mountain only minutes from the centre of a vibrant, cosmopolitan city.

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Siyabona Africa recommended book on Table Mountain:
Table Mountain Activities
Authors: Shaen Adey and Fiona McIntosh.
Copyright © 2004 Struik Publishers Cape TownTable Mountain is a special place. It is not only an icon for the Western Cape and South Africa, but also a spiritual centre that uplifts those who live and work in its shadow, and who take to the mountain for recreation and to escape the shackles of everyday life. The mountain is majestic, moody and alluring, yet I am constantly surprised by how few Capetonians have ventured onto its slopes and climbed through the imposing rock cliffs to enjoy the peace and far-reaching views from the plateau.The Table Mountain Activity Guide aims to inspire all to discover this precious World Heritage Site for themselves. It covers the main activities that take place on Table Mountain, Devil's Peak and Lion's Head, as well as things to do and see on the spine of mountains that run the length of the Cape Peninsula. Some of these activities are hard-core adventures, others easy walks and more indulgent pursuits such as enjoying a gourmet meal in a classic vineyard setting. The main hiking trails are described, along with the flora, fauna and historical features that you are likely to see along the way.While a book of this size cannot be comprehensive on the subject, we have described the major animal, bird, reptile and plant species that you are likely to come across. Similarly the list of trails includes all the main trails, split into levels of difficulty: from easy strolls to scrambles that require some mountaineering experience. To aid you in your choice of trail we have marked the start and end points on a detailed map, given the approximate duration of the hike, and shown the major highlights and attractions along the way by means of icons.And, once you have worked your way through our selection and crave more, we point you in the direction of specialised guidebooks and maps that will suit your needs. Where relevant, you will find the contact numbers of permit-issuing authorities, guides and other useful sources of information. The review of the restaurants and wine farms that grace the mountain's slopes, and a selection of inspiring viewing points, should guide you to find a quiet place to relax and soak in the ambience of this magnificent rock surrounded by ocean.The national botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch form part of Table Mountain, as does Silvermine and the Cape of Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park, and these areas offer some special interest trails to explore, particularly for those who are physically challenged. And finally, if you wish to ensure that Table Mountain remains pristine and safe, we tell you how to get involved in volunteer programmes and conservation schemes.We hope that the Table Mountain Activity Guide will inspire you to get out, and explore and appreciate this World Heritage Site to the full. Table Mountain is where I go for soul food. I hope it touches you in the same way. Playing it safe. Don't underestimate the mountain. Table Mountain is high. At over 1km (0.6 miles), it is only 300m (984ft) lower than Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom. But, because a cable car runs to the summit, many people are seduced into thinking that they can go up totally unprepared.You can walk to the top in a little over an hour and, on a fine day with the sun shining and the mountain framed in the deep blue of the sky, it looks benign. But, if the wind gets up or the mist comes in, conditions can change rapidly and it is easy to get into trouble. If possible, take a cellphone with you and when in trouble:
  • Call Metro Wilderness Search and Rescue on 10177
  • Vodacom, MTN and Cell C network users can dial 112

Some general warnings

Your chance of seeing a snake on Table Mountain, far less being bitten by one, is low. But, if you do see one on the path, keep still, and give it time to move off. Be warned that many of the trails are quite 'bushy', particularly in spring and summer. To avoid being scratched, wear sturdy footwear, long pants and long- sleeved shirts. The main plant to avoid is the Blisterbush, which can inflict a nasty rash.Regardless of the conditions in which you start, carry a sunhat, sunscreen and plenty of water. Heat exhaustion and sunstroke can easily occur on a long day out. There are only a few perennial streams on Table Mountain, and you are taking a risk if you drink from these. Don't feed the baboons. It encourages them to approach humans and they can then become quite aggressive. Please don't feed the dassies either.Walking with dogs. An Environmental Management Programme for walkers accompanied by dogs in the Table Mountain National Park is available from most of the park's operational offices. Briefly, dogs are allowed on most areas of the mountain, provided they are under voice control at all times. They must also be on leashes from the parking areas and entrance points until they reach the footpaths. Dog walkers are required to carry a WILD Card and a leash with them.Dogs are prohibited from the Cape of Good Hope, Orange Kloof, Groote Schuur Estate, Rhodes Estate Game Camp and the Klawer Valley Restricted Military Area sections. They are also not permitted in the Oudekraal and Newlands picnic and braai areas, though they may enter The Glen and Van Riebeeck Park/Deer Park areas if on leashes. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden has its own restrictions.

Go Wild!

A WILD Card allows visitors a significant saving on entrance fees to any of South Africa's National Parks. South African residents and Southern African Development Community (SADC) nationals can choose between a WILD Card that allows free access to all National Parks, or simply for the Table Mountain National Park. (The card for South African residents is valid for one year, while SADC nationals pay the same rate for six months of access.)Alternatively, South African residents may apply for a WILD Card that allows free, unlimited access to all Cape Nature Conservation reserves as well as SANParks, or just to all SANParks in the Western Cape, and all Cape Nature Conservation reserves for one year. Mountain bikers and people walking their dogs must be in possession of a valid WILD card. Non-residents can pay discounted entrance fees to the Table Mountain National Park by buying the International WILD Card, valid for a maximum of ten days within a period of 15 days from date of first use. International WILD cards can be bought at any one of the SANParks gates (within Table Mountain National Park these are Cape Point, Boulders and Silvermine).

Table Mountain Safety

General Guidelines

  • Always go prepared and take wind- and waterproof clothing. Make sure you have adequate water (particularly in summer) and food.
  • Always inform someone of your intended route and keep to it.
  • Always keep to well-used paths.
  • Avoid routes that are too difficult or long.
  • Do not descend unknown ravines or cliffs.
  • Every party should have an experienced leader and must always  stay together - travel at the pace of slowest member of the group.
  • Heed signs of danger.
  • Make use of a quality map of Table Mountain.
  • Never hike alone - the ideal party size is four people.
  • Watch the time and avoid walking in the dark.
  • Watch the weather. Don't continue in bad weather and, if you are caught outside, try to find shelter.

If An Accident Occurs

  • After reporting the accident, wait for the rescue team to arrive.
  • Do not leave an injured person alone. If possible, send two people for help.
  • Do not move an injured person unless they are in a dangerous position.
  • Keep calm and think clearly.
  • Make note of where the injured person is and look out for landmarks.

Avoid These Dangerous Areas

  • Dark Gorge and Els Ravine
  • First and Second Waterfall ravines
  • Fountain, Blinkwater, and Slangolie ravines.
  • Window Gorge.

Conservation Guidelines

  • Do not litter - leave only your footprints behind.
  • Do not pick them.
  • Do not roll rocks or throw stones down cliffs.
  • Fires and camping are not allowed on the mountain.
  • Reproduced courtesy of the Mountain Club of South Africa.
  • Respect other people's rights to peace and quiet.
  • Stick to the existing paths.
  • Taking shortcuts causes erosion.
  • The flowers and plants are there for everyone to enjoy.
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