Scaling the heights

One of our hiking group’s most strenuous trails is the infamous Vlakkenberg – dubbed Vlakkenberg with an L by one of our number, a name which has stuck due to its perfect description. Last week it was back on the agenda, but my memories of my only attempt back in 2017, when I was a hiking novice, kept me away from this one. The account of that walk is below, and doesn’t differ from their recent experience, which was probably even more arduous after a few years of erosion!

2017:

Just when I thought we had reached the zenith of our group’s hiking capabilities, I am again astounded by the capacity of the, let’s face it, elderly to climb every mountain. I say elderly because a recent newspaper report referred to a 63-year-old as ‘elderly’ and at 61 I am the youngest. We are constantly put to shame by the octogenarians, and having completed a hike up Vlakkenberg adjacent to Constantiaberg, I can safely say that it is ticked off the bucket list (not only mine, but a number of others).
The walk commenced at Constantia Nek and immediately we set off straight uphill, with fairly rough steps making the going uneven. This soon developed into a steep stone path with some heaving up required – excellent for the thigh muscles if you have any – and from time to time I stopped to admire the ever-expansive view and marvel at how high we had climbed. It was in fact very tough going, with no respite from the upward toil, and easily outclassed the steps of Friday up to Just Nuisance’s grave on top of Red Hill. In fact, it outdid every walk I have done since June. My first walk then was from Constantia Nek up to Eagle’s Nest, which was now way below us and looked like a gentle stroll in comparison. How far I have come!

As always, there were plenty of flowers to admire along the way, and such a variety. There are also huge piles of long-dead trees lining the track, looking like ideal fuel for a runaway fire. The southeaster was blasting across the southern Peninsula at the time, but we were only treated to the gentlest breeze, and shade was completely unavailable. We all looked a little less than glamorous after the descent, but this was soon remedied by a delicious lunch on a sheltered patio adorned with ancient vines!

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