Tomorrow I begin a hike in the Hottentots-Holland mountain range. The mountains are part of the Western Cape Fold Belt and form a barrier between Cape Town’s metropolitan area and the southern Overberg coast. There is one major highway that crosses Sir Lowry’s Pass and the Hottentots-Holland Mountains. The range is primarily Table Mountain sandstone and forms an impressive sight to the east of Somerset West and Gordon’s Bay. Steenbras Dam on the eastern slopes of the range is one of Cape Town’s main water suppliers.
We follow the Hoerikwaggo Trail. “Hoerikwaggo is a Khoisan name given to Table Mountain by the nomadic Khoi people who hunted and gathered on the mountains. Constructed by people from the townships of the Cape Peninsula, the Hoerikwaggo Trail links Cape Point to Table Mountain. During construction there was emphasis on leaving little or no environmental impact on the earth.”
The hike passes most of the five dams on Table Mountain – Woodhead, Helly-Hutchinson, De Villiers, Alexandria, and Victoria – built between 1896 and 1907. At the top of the mountain there is a small but amazing waterworks museum displaying artifacts used to build the dams. These include heavy machinery and tools unbelievably hauled all the way up the mountain! Some animals that live in the part of the range we will hike include Klipspringer and Mongoose.
“At the start of the Great Trek in 1835 when migrants decided to leave the Cape Town area, or Cape Colony as it was known then, the first mountain range they crossed was Hottentots-Holland. Cuts and wheel markings from their ox wagons can still be seen in rock formations on Sir Lowry’s Pass.”
“The climate in the Hottentots-Holland is typically Mediterranean but cooler and more verdant than other areas in the Western Cape. Annual precipitation exceeds 1500 mm (60 inches) and summertime temperatures rarely exceed 25 °C (78 degrees). Snow is not unusual on the higher peaks in the northern section of the range, like Verkykerkop, Somerset Sneeukop, and The Triplets. This area and the other ranges to the south are the hub of the Cape floristic region with the most biodiversity in the entire fynbos biome. The surrounding lowland valleys have rich alluvial soils supporting viticulture and other deciduous fruit farms.”
Binny Ridgway of Ridgway Ramblers organized and led the hike. She’s a professional adventure guide and knows Table Mountain well. We begin at Constantia Nek and hike up the Constantia jeep track, the easiest way up the back side of Table Mountain. Parts of the jeep track are paved and parts are dirt and sand with loose gravel. A 70-year-old Englishman (John May) in a wheelchair and his wife (Tandi) are in the group.
Binny hired four strong young men to get John’s wheelchair up and down the mountain! One of them, Chris Laidler, is a member of the Table Mountain Rescue group. Chris, Yango, Richard Baxter, and Charles Charivanda will help John “realize his dream of hiking up the mountain”. On the way up, “two guys will pull, one will steer, while one rests”. On the way down, “they will attach the ropes to the back of the chair so they can act as a brake”. The way down is much more difficult. Big rocks and sandy patches could cause the chair to stop suddenly!
We overnight in the Overseer’s Cottage on top of Table Mountain. It’s a well-equipped cottage with hot and cold running water. We’ll hike during the day and enjoy an evening braai (barbecue) overlooking the brilliant night lights of Cape Town’s southern suburbs. A sunrise over the Hottentots-Hollands will be memorable. This hike will be another wonderful experience of the beautiful Western Cape – more photos to follow….