We originally planned to do this hike during Sanparks free week but life is busy. So busy that I was on leave that week (12th – 17th September) and couldn’t even take advantage of this 1 week a year opportunity.
Several went away for the weekend, others are nursing injuries, 1 was sick and another sent her apologies. Fortunately, Nasheta and Zaida together with their clan did confirm or I would have had to do a solo (not that I mind) but this hike is for the beginners to see the views. I haven’t been to Elephant’s Eye in over 3 years and was at Hout Bay Lookout in December 2014 (prior to the devastating March 2015 fires). I’ve uploaded some before and after fire photos as comparisons (its much greener now since the fires though)
Anyway, prior to sending out the hike details, I go onto the Sanparks website to check the prices and gate times. R45/adult and R25/child and gates open at 8am during off-peak season with on-peak starting in October when gates open at 7am. Saturday night an Instagram follower asked me if I’m interested in doing this hike with him and meet at 7am and replied that I am actually taking beginners on the same hike but we going to the Look-out as well but the gates only open up at 8am (according to the website)
Get to the gates at 7:30am only to be told that on-peak season started on the 01st September and told them they need to update their website! I message the group but there’s no signal and was only prepared to wait until 7:45am for anyone who didn’t confirm. It’s cold at the gates but when we got to the parking area, it’s hot! @8am!
With iffy signal at best, I check in 4 Adults and 7 kids with an ETA of 12pm into Mountain Tracking and hope that my message goes through somewhere along the way. The plan was to go to Hout Bay Look-out first but then decided to do Elephant’s Eye first (just in case I get complaints about doing something harder after doing something easy lolz)
I brief the group and go over Baboon rules. I wasn’t aware that there are now baboons in the area as there weren’t any when I did my first rock-climb in January this year. Nasheta was very concerned for the kids but I told her they wouldn’t be a problem (according to Shaheen who confirmed that as long as we obey the rules, it will be fine)
My sweeper was a newbie hiker but I didn’t mind that I didn’t have a more experienced hiker as the route is pretty exposed so confident that I wouldn’t ‘lose’ anyone along the way. We are finally off after group photos with our first stop at the ablution blocks.
I am so very chuffed to see all the greenery and flowers blooming after the fires which practically destroyed the area but also pleased to see a flower I have not seen before (or can’t recall as it was standing out from the fynbos – big bright and orange) and veer off the path to take a photo 😛
Liparia splendens ssp. splendens is classified as Vulnerable on the Interim Red Data List. The greatest threat is to the populations in lowland fynbos, as lowland fynbos is seriously threatened by urban development and agriculture. Liparia splendens is listed as Schedule 4 Protected Flora according to Western Cape Nature Conservation Laws Amendment Act, 2000.”
I decided to take the shortcut up the steps instead of the longer mountain bike track and make sure that my sweeper is always within eyesight. If I don’t see him, I wait for them to catch-up. Turn right towards the Eye and just before the trees (what was left) I see the troop of baboons. Oh crap. Ok, tell the group to stick together, no loud noise and no sudden movements. I don’t know the behaviour of the troop so gna stick to the rules as I have kids with me so veered off the path and slowly made our way alongside the baboons and of course watching them and taking photos. The babies were so cute!!! I got my phone out too late to take a photo of one hanging from a branch but he fell off as I was taking the photo.
We watch groups further ahead who didn’t go off the path like we did and another veteran solo trail runner just shout ‘move move’ and the baboons moved! They are more afraid of us than we are of them it seems. Still, I wasn’t about to take any chances with kids in my care as we do have food which they could probably smell in our back-packs.
With the troop ahead of us, the group is at ease and we are still taking it slow and with one of the little girls by my side, a mommy baboon with her baby slowly came past us and quickly ran off. My heart went out to these animals as their home was destroyed by the fires and now they are forced to share their space with ours. How traumatic it must have been for them running away from the fires then. They are not aggressive like the ones we encountered a while back at Crystal Pools. That troop basically escorted us out the area but this troop is so timid. I’m not saying that you should go out and pet them as baboons are temperamental and anything could trigger them.
It was amusing going up to the cave when I turned around to see Nasheta and Zaida taking photos of the view when I saw a baboon going right up to them and sitting on a rock. Shouted to them that they shouldn’t turn around but they took the opportunity to take selfies with the baboon lol.
Up the zig-zag path we go and when we go to the straight path, I tell the group they can go ahead to the cave as I’m going to wait on my sweeper. When he caught up to me, he tells me not to make any sudden moves as there was a baboon right on his tail lol. I turn my back to the mountain to make space for the baboon to pass us but he was so afraid of us that he rather jumped around. I could hear there was quite a few people in the cave and shouted to put their food away as a baboon was coming. I then hear the screaming and commotion the baboon was causing and was told that one girl threw her smoothie just like that in her bag and another was too slow and the baboon grabbed something from her. That group promptly left the cave but we stayed watching this baboon scavenge the cave and waited for it to come out before we went in.
After some photos, the group wasn’t prepared to snack there as the baboon was still at the bottom of the cave so made our way to Hout Bay Look-out and reassured them that it was a flat easy walk with no steps. Flat easy walk was torture in the heat! The sun was really beating down and feel that I haven’t acclimatized to this weather yet and if I’m suffering, how must newbie hikers not be suffering! I had on sun-screen but that didn’t deter the flies and other bugs from flying onto my neck or face. Its walk walk walk, stop to regroup and walk some more and was looking forward to sitting on the benches enjoying the views until I got there and realised that the benches could have been burnt away from the fire and got to the Look-out to just that! The benches are gone! Oh well, we are there for the view after all. BUT! Oh gawd, the swarm of tiny flies was annoying that it eventually chased us away as you can only ignore it for so long.
It’s almost 12pm and with my ETA being 12pm and as we had signal there, I update Tracking to extend our ETA to 12:30pm BUT then Zaheer’s thighs went stiff! He could not move and was in pain and we had to wait a while for his muscles to loosen up. This was his very first hike after all and we are taking longer than expected. It was a sloooooowww torturous walk back for him and tell the rest of the group they can go ahead and wait at various points as I’m sticking with him, his wife and my sweeper.
I took a packet with for litter but didn’t pick up along the way as I didn’t want to attract the baboons with a packet of litter hanging from my back-pack but I did pick up 2 cans as it was unsightly and with fire season approaching fast, just the right amount of heat at the right angle, could start a fire in the area (again). I wish litter bugs would realise this!
Side Note – Last Saturday was International Coastal Clean-up and joined the 2 Oceans Aquarium at Soetwater which is a cumulative coast. Despite almost weekly clean-ups, there’s always litter washing up on this beach. The staff has to free a Garnet that was trapped in fishing line which is one of the more harmful items to our marine life (including coastal birds)
We eventually reach the cars at 13:05 and check out of tracking. Was an enjoyable hike despite the heat and had an adventure with the baboons!
Until my next mountain adventure (whatever that is) ciao for now and thank you for reading. (Even longer one today as had lots to write about haha)
PS – only published this blog a day later as….life is busy