The day was perfect for a hike – cool winds and blue skies overhead – and our group set off in anticipation of cool forests, mountain streams and beautiful views. We weren’t disappointed. Orange Kloof is a particularly beautiful, protected area above Hout Bay, which we entered via the Constantia Nek parking lot, through the gates on the left, at the bottom.
It’s a restricted part of the Table Mountain National Park and you can only ramble through its splendour if you are in possession of a permit (you’ll need to book as many as 3 months in advance with the Hout Bay Forestry station) and a guide – ours was Clem, an incredibly fit and knowledgeable octogenarian who easily scaled hills and entertained us to anecdotal moments on the local fauna and flora and former hikes.
The Orange Kloof Forest trail is circular and takes one behind Table Mountain to the source of the Disa River and then back to the top end of Hout Bay. We didn’t do the full circuit, which is 8 kilometres and can take 6 hours. We cut out the bit to Hell’s Gate (the source of the river) and took a pleasurably ramble through the forest instead.
It is also another of the hiking trails in Cape Town that you can add to your child-friendly list.
Our four-year old completed the hike, although not without much wining towards the end, and a concerted effort on the part of his parents to get him to play ball but he managed it without any of the side effects that my husband and I displayed the following morning, gingerly grimacing when bending or stepping down stairs! (but then we’re so unfit, that octogenarians and four-year olds leave us in their dust).
Once in the valley all sight and sound of civilisation miraculously disappears and one could be miles from Cape Town without any trouble at all. Bird song, some of the most incredible mountain scenery and spring flowers accompanied us as we headed down towards Hout Bay. I confess to muttering silently under my breath as a downhill inevitably means an accompanying uphill, but it wasn’t until later that we had to ascend.
Our first stop was at one of the 5 Hoerikwaggo tented camps, set right in the midst of the beauty in Orange Kloof. We were all rather taken with the idea of spending a night here after wandering through the camp.
As one blog describes it, it’s a little like something out of Survivor, and easily provides accommodation like that found in plushy private game parks. There are a series of sturdy semi-permanent tents, each with a latte (gumpole) roof that extends at the back to form a sheltered verandah. Incredible to think that this part of the Table Mountain National Park used to be forbidden territory.
There is a kitchen, toilets that use only biodegradable soap, recycling bins and some fairly original lighting. Everything is linked by a curving boardwalk. There was also a communal room with a verandah that effortlessly extended into a firepit area done in a labyrinth style that spoke of nights under the stars and good company.
Everything from the kitchen counters, the tables, chairs and the walls are all crafted from alien vegetation felled and milled in the Table Mountain National Park, and other sustainable resources. And incredibly beautiful. The stone walls of the communal area in particular caught our imagination, and the design has a minimum environmental impact.
We subsequently discovered that 3 of the 5 overnight tented camps are open for hikers – Orange Kloof, Silvermine below Noordhoek Peak, and Slangkop Point. The Orange Kloof part of the Hoerikwaggo begins at Silvermine, and the trail price, for two days’ worth of hiking and an overnight at the tented camp is R420 p/p. The sleepover, for those who don’t want to bother with the hike, is R350 p/p.
A little later, after meeting up with a couple of horse riders on the path just above the outskirst of Hout Bay, we veered right into the afromontane forest itself, and this in particular was a treat. Filled with yellowwood trees, brackets, neat little flowers, fynbos, rocks that make good seats and numerous river crossings, our hike took on a new flavour.
We stopped again to sit under the trees and munch on a couple of sandwhiches – most of ours were already depleted as our son began eating the minute we left the parking lot – and it was these stops that really allowed you to drink in the surrounds, so I was glad of them. Clem, our guide, was so well prepared, he brought along boiling water and a separate tea bag!
Towards the end of the hike, we took a minor detour to where the river pools – a perfect end if you have kids along as there is a chance for them to paddle and play along the banks. Then it was uphill (mostly) and a return via a different path to the parking lot. At least a couple of times, Clem gave us a choice as to what type of trail we would like to follow, which made it interesting and gave the group a chance to design their own version of the trail.
Before the hike I had no idea that such a place existed. And I would do the hike again given the chance.
To Book this trail:
For further information, contact the Hoerikwaggo Trail Bookings Office on Tel: +27 (0) 21 712 7471 between 08h00 -16h00 weekdays