A summer’s day in winter

‘Twas a blistering late winter’s day… Yes! You read that right. Bang in the middle of two cold fronts appears a sparkling summer’s day with no time to acclimatise to the 28 degrees beating down on us as we toiled up the sharp end of Table Mountain from Kloof Nek, bound for the contour path. This very steep ascent offers no mercy to young or old, with steps made by giants and the briefest of zigzags to lessen the incline. The guide books say 20 minutes, but not in our universe – more like 45+ with frequent stops for water and a chewy sweet to give us the energy to put one foot in front of the other.

It was one of those days where you could see the coastline all the way up to Langebaan, albeit slightly smudged and blue like the distant mountains of a TInus de Jong or Pierneef. As we rested on the warm slabs of old seabed, the ripples evident in one of the layers across the entire mountain face, we marvelled at the views, the fact that we had made it to the highest point of the hike and that it was almost all downhill from there after a 4km traverse along the face of our favourite Natural Wonder of the World. This is not a hike for a hot day, and how could we have known that temperatures would soar – the only evidence of winter was the abundance of water, lying in muddy puddles along the narrow, precipitous track, tumbling in sparse curtains over our heads as we passed underneath, and pooling in the ravines along the way where the dogs could splash and we had a chance to wet our hats and hiking towels!

We came across many foreign visitors who were blown away by Cape Town’s beauty and already had plans for a return. Most were on their way up Platteklip Gorge in the heat of the day, with no shade on offer and not terribly suitable clothing and shoes in some cases. We asked if they had enough water and they cheerfully waved their 1-litre bottles – sadly, nowhere near enough to stay hydrated – and we cheerfully waved them on, delighted that we were not on that route. It was wonderful to interact with visitors to our shores who were obviously thrilled with the Mother City.

As the morning wore on, the heat beat relentlessly off the rockface, and there were many moments when I thought I couldn’t put another foot in front of the other. Eventually we reached the blissful shade alongside a tumbling stream where the contour crosses Platteklip Gorge and spent a welcome half-hour of R&R at this busy intersection of ascenders, descenders and exhausted resters. Then it was once more unto the breach as we climbed the last uphill before branching off towards Devil’s Peak and the zigzag down to the cars waiting at the end of Tafelberg Road. Many of us were ready to kiss the ground, I think!

After four hours in the intense heat, it was once again a reminder that the essentials of hiking equipment are: more water than you need, a sachet of hydrating powder, a banana and apple, a hat and the ability to take off most of your clothes! Even the spectacular views and beautiful fynbos and birds along the way cannot sustain the body.

One thought on “A summer’s day in winter

  • Aug 23, 2022 at 5:44 pm
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    You have really excelled again Pamela, so informative.Thanks Brian x

    Reply

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