Silvermine/Elephant’s Eye/Hout Bay Lookout

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)

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Briefing and head count

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.

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First break while legs are still fresh

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 😛

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Diana kindly commented with the following link….(Mountain Dahlia aka Liparia Splendens)

http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantklm/lipariasplend.htm

Conservation status
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)

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I won an eco-friendly straw…

http://www.streamstraws.com/

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

 

Silvermine/Elephant’s Eye/Hout Bay Lookout

Ultra-Trail Cape Town

No, I didn’t run.

So after the Blinkwater Rescue, I saw that Hiker’s Network Mountain Rescue was looking for volunteers for the Ultra-Trail run and I thought that this would be a chance to give back so I signed up, not knowing what I was letting myself in for.  Closer to the time I asked Anwaaz what time I need to be at the start and he told me 5am.  Ok that is doable.   I was also told that I need to be available for a couple of hours.  Ok that is doable.  I had visions of spending the day on top of a mountain and that I can do, even if there’s nothing to do and I would be very happy!

a view I can stare at for hours and not be bored (pic taken from Devil's Peak on another hike)
a view I can stare at for hours and not be bored
(pic taken from Devil’s Peak on another hike)

It was only during the week that I did a bit of research on the trail run and read that one of the routes is actually 100km long!  Who would/could run 100km on the mountain?!  I know I can’t!  I was also added to the Whatsapp group with my fellow volunteers from HNMR.  It was only the night before the event that I was informed that I needed to be at the base at 4am! Say what?!  Ok, no use complaining as I did volunteer and I was told that I need to be available for the day.  Not knowing how long the day was going to be….I didn’t have half of what was required for the event so Rashaad kindly offered to lend me his technical stuff which I picked up on my way back from the airport, after I dropped my brother and his wife off at 6am Friday morning. Also, why is there bumper to bumper traffic on the N2 that time of the morning?!

Meet Fatima-Rashaad ^_^
Meet Fatima-Rashaad ^_^

I am also house-sitting this weekend and I still needed to pack, go visit my uncle in hospital, take my mother shopping and shower and stuff that I only got into bed about 11pm setting my alarm for 2:20am.  Koesiesters needed to be sugared, 2 flasks coffee, lunch and supper, about 3.5l water plus snacks and my prayer clothes in addition to technical stuff was packed making my 60l bag quite heavy but I need to be prepared hey.

Hello 4am!
Hello 4am!

So after only 3 hours sleep, off I go at the crazy hour of 3:40am and I’m at Gardens Rugby Club by 4am and wait on the rest of the volunteers and offer them koesiesters as they arrive.  A brief was given and I’m assigned with Film and Event Medics, Steve and Warren and we are posted off to Constantia Nek.

My home for the day
My home for the day

A coffee detour was made and we arrive at our destination round about 5:30am and we wait.  The marshals and water station peoples were still setting up and oh yes, it was drizzling.  The drizzle didn’t let up until after 2pm! Non-Stop!  It was cold so lots of coffee was consumed which meant lots of trips to the porta-loo was made which gave me a chance to stretch my legs as the paramedic vehicle is quite cramped and not made for passengers.  I walked around a bit and chatted to the other peoples until I was cold and returned to the warmth of the vehicle.  Repeat…several times…At this stage I am grateful that I am not cold, wet and miserable on top of the mountain but have the shelter of the vehicle.  Its one thing hiking in the rain (which I love!) but something else standing around and getting cold in the rain.

6:30am set up
6:30am set up

Volunteer Wildfire Services was set up there as well for some training out in the field and hugged and chatted with them a bit thanking for them for their service.   One of the veteran ladies were stationed at Tokai forest when the tornado like fire-burst happened in March and they were right below it!  See #Supporting our Heroes blog post.  Goosebumps!  They risk their lives to put out wildfires!  How amazing are they?!

Love these guys!
Love these guys!

Anyway, we wait.  The first runners were expected around 7:30am and I want to cheer!  I want something constructive to do! I took photos lol.  Steve and Warren are used to this so they doze off quite a few times and it felt like a stake-out to me!  To keep busy, I eat -_-

shoes in the rain are for losers! :D
shoes in the rain are for losers! 😀
and we have a runner!
and we have a runner!

One of the other Water Station volunteers were wearing flipflops in the rain :/  and eventually the runner start to trickle in and I get to take photos of them and cheer.  The 100km and 65km split is at Constantia Nek as well which was a bit confusing for some of the runners as they didn’t know which way to go.  I notice the runners’ legs.  All muscle!  And how it flexes as they run. Absolutely no fat!  When I’m not out in the drizzle, I’m in the para vehicle chatting to Steve and Warren and listening to the comms radio and a few injuries are reported at Woodhead dam.  There are people stationed there so my help was not required.

The cut-off time for the 100km was around 9:30am I think so those who didn’t make it to the Nek by that time, had to do the 65km.  I can’t remember what time the 65km was but eventually we were the only people stationed at the Nek besides the Marshalls. We were waiting for the 100km runners who went through Orangekloof and turned around in Hout Bay and those who didn’t make it back to Constantia Nek by 3:30pm had to go back via the contour path.

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When the sky started to clear and the drizzle let up!  I rejoiced!  I could play outside haha!  Which meant taking photos of flowers now.  Not much else to take photos of considering that I was in the area for about 10 hours!  When the last of the runners were out of the immediate vicinity we are now moved to Alphen Trail Aid station but not before making a detour to Constantia Village for Coffee!  I first go up the wrong trail (diep river) and turn back, cross the road and walk along the Alphen trail looking for the water point and the 100km Sweepers comes through.  We take photos about 5pm when I am called back as we are going to Cecelia Forest now.

Alphen Aid Station
Alphen Aid Station

The walk back to the vehicle was the longest short walk I’ve ever taken!  My legs are tired.  From what I don’t know.  It’s not like I ran/walked 100km, not even 1km!  Not much happening at Cecelia forest and when the sweepers pass by, we are called back to base at about 6pm!  YAY!

Cecelia Forest
Cecelia Forest

Steve and Warren is relieved from duty and I must stay as I am on Mountain Rescue standby until the last runner comes in.  The Rugby WC match is on and some are watching in the Pub and others are watching inside the tent.  I explore a bit taking photos of this and that and end up at the finish line and cheering with the others as the runners came in.  Prize-giving was at 6:45pm and there was still many more runners still to come.

Rugby..
Rugby..
Women's prize-giving :D
Women’s prize-giving 😀

After sunset, the runners came in with headlights on and we cheered and admired these guys’ perseverance and tenacity and determination to finish this race regardless!  I can relate as well as I had lower back pain when I did the 30km big walk (Yes I know it’s no trail run!) and 15km in, the pain shot through me that I had to stop at every medic and every pharmacy for a massage and deep heat patches and stopping every few meters to rub my back with Voltaren gel.  I remember thinking of quitting but the thought of quitting made me want to cry so I soldiered on and finished the walk in pain!

Started with headlights, ending with headlights!
Started with headlights, ending with headlights!

One international runner bowed his thanks as he came in and bowed a few times more.  I went after him to take a clearer pic hehe.  Some other guy from overseas as well ran in sandals and the crowd (what’s left of them) is now waiting on Gift who won the Comrades this year.  He eventually came in at 8:10pm!  It was also now Cut-off time and the flood lights go out at 8:25pm and the very last runner was accompanied in with the flare 😀  How cute!

Running in shoes is so last year!
Running in shoes is so last year!
Respect!
Respect!

We had our debrief around 8:45pm and its home time!  It was a looooong exhausting uneventful day as far as Rescue is concerned but that’s a good thing isn’t it.  Also, carrying someone down the mountain in a stretcher is heavy work!  Doesn’t matter how slightly built the patient is as dead-weight is probably double that and carry downs are at the slowest of paces.

Debrief! Hikers Network Mountain Rescue standing down!
Debrief!
Hikers Network Mountain Rescue standing down!

I have a new-found respect for trail runners.  I’ve only ever seen them on the mountain running past and thought why would they want to do that.  I’m hiking for the love of nature, the beauty surrounding me, the sights, the sounds and the smells.  Taking it all in and bonus, the endorphin producing exercise. Before the trail run, I had no idea the distances they run and challenges to their bodies.  Watch this space, I may become a trail runner as well 😛 Ok, I confess its something Bestie and myself have discussed a few months ago but haven’t gotten around to actually starting lol…I first need to righten my eating habits and start training – to trail run..

Will I volunteer for the ultra-trail run again knowing what the day can be like?  Yes 🙂

Thank you for reading.  Need to write my hike blog now hehe

PS…between writing this blog and actually posting it, I’ve made new friends on Facebook with a few runners from Thailand and South Africa.  The trail run bringing people together from across the Globe 😀

Ultra-Trail Cape Town