Travel Diaries: Hiking the Kasteelspoort route up Table Mountain, South Africa
I love hiking. I’m not a runner, I despise jogging but I can walk and walk for hours. I also love kickboxing and those are my two main forms of exercise: walking and kickboxing. In Autumn 2019 I had a bout of illnesses, I caught a bad cold, then got norovirus, then fell down some stairs and badly sprained my ankle and then I got norovirus again. Yes, it was pretty unpleasant and at this point, I got pretty fed up with life as you can probably imagine. The doctors said I couldn’t exercise again for at least 6 weeks which meant starting again very gently in mid-January. This was really upsetting as I love to stay active but I tried my best to relabel it and be grateful that I had more time to devote to building this blog.
Right now, I am writing this whilst sitting in South Africa, in a beautiful villa in Camps Bay near Cape Town which is definitely another thing to be grateful for. And this morning I ticked something off my bucket list, which was to hike up Table Mountain.
I first came to South Africa in 2005 with my family and I really wanted to do it back then but I’d just had a very serious accident and wasn’t well enough. Typically, I wasn’t on top form for this trip either as my fitness levels were low and my ankle still bothers me a bit but I didn’t want to waste the opportunity so we went for it.
As we are in the height of summer we set off early at 8 am and chose a route that stays on the Atlantic side of the mountain so that you are in the shade for the first part as the sun rises from behind it. You get incredible views back over Camps Bay and the Atlantic Ocean
The route we chose was the Kasteelspoort which starts near Camps Bay and then goes up over the 12 Apostles side of the mountain.
Things you will need to hike the Kasteelspoort
Good shoes, suncream and a lot of water!
I would not personally recommend this route for children the elderly. My friend who was pregnant met us at the top and went via cable car. That being said, about halfway up we encountered an old couple who walk it every day and seemed a lot more spritely than we were! It all depends on what you are used to.
We continued all the way to the cable car station as that’s how we wanted to get down again. All in all, it was around 7km and took us 4.5 hours including a few short breaks.
X marks the start point where we set off! This was about halfway up.
You start on a jeep trail which feels nice and simple...
...before finding yourself on terrain like this. That’s my friend Rob doing an impression of a mountain goat.
It was tough. To be completely honest if I had known how tough it would be I probably would have chosen a different route given how unfit I was at the time. It is steep and rocky terrain and you are clambering up big rocks for sections as well as ladders, it is not for the faint-hearted. And then there is the heat to contend with (WEAR A HAT). But it was a real personal challenge for me to do it and get my head back to a place where I feel active again. When you’re feeling out of control, take it back by doing something you can feel proud of and that pushes you out of your comfort zone. The euphoric feeling afterwards is the best ointment money can buy. Also, it forces you to be present. You have to focus on the task at hand, choosing where your feet go and paying attention to your body as falling over could literally be deadly at some points.
By the time we reached the end, and there were many moments where we thought we were climbing the last peak only to get to the top of it and see 3 others still to go. We were all exhausted but especially me as my fitness level was so far below the others. But it was great to have a bunch of my best and most supportive friends on the hike to encourage me. If there had been someone less fit or able than me I would have spent the whole time worrying about them and feeling guilty as I chose the route. We were a group of six and it meant that at times some could power on ahead whilst we took it slower, and vice versa.
The worst point was where the path took you all the way down a steep valley and back up again. I had a serious sense of humour failure at this point but with no choice other than to keep going, I pressed on. I don’t have photos of that section as I was in a seriously dark mood. But short of calling in a helicopter to rescue you...you’re stuck. Another good analogy: when the going gets tough, keep going!
When we got to the tourist centre at the cable car area with all these people who had ridden up I felt like shouting I WALKED HERE YOU KNOW but to be fair I needn’t have bothered as I resembled a sweaty potato. I fell upon a packet of biltong and a bottle of cold water and slumped into a chair. I kept looking over the edge and thinking, did I really hike up here? Proud moment.
No photos of me as I was not camera ready. In any way.
We got the cable car back down (Although three of the group chose to run down because they were completely insane) and then went back to our villa, ate lunch and flopped. I am now reading by the pool and considering a gin and tonic at any...minute...now...