Goodbye to a hiking inspiration

MikeLundy books

Mike Lundy, Cape Town’s most famous hiking author, passed away yesterday, at the age of 74.  People have said marvellous things about him but one comment stood out for me when my friend Frank, also a hiker, said: “Contrary to most work of other hiking authors, his books can actually be used to follow a trail.” This is true.

I felt a connection to Mike, for several reasons. When I got into the hiking thing a few years ago it was one of his books – Easy Walks of the Peninsula – that I used to get me going, proudly ticking off the walks as I completed them. I then met his son Tim via his Facebook hiking group and even took the 4-legged wonder on her very first hike to Silvermine with Tim and a group.  Tim is a professional hiker and mountain guide, as well as a member of the mountain rescue team, so his level of hiking is way above my huff-and-puff style and I haven’t hiked with Tim again, much too embarrassed. But I do follow his exploits, online via Facebook and Twitter, doing what his dad called ‘armchair hiking’.

This blog started as a result of a few encouraging friends who liked photos I was posting on Facebook and who told me to do a photo blog. Most were hiking photos, mainly taken in Silvermine, my favourite place. The photos are not great but the encouragement was.

Confession: my fitness level has dropped so much that I haven’t hiked at all for a couple of years. Years of smoking have taken their toll and even the slightest slope leaves me breathless. But now that I have quit smoking, yes I have and this time I think it’s permanent, I expect some improvement and the ticking off in Mike’s book will resume. And the cave walk, I haven’t forgotten that one, it’s lurking in the back of my mind with the rest of my life’s shameful procrastination.

Mike Lundy no doubt inspired thousands of Capetonians to explore their surroundings –  his departure is a big loss to the hiking community, not to mention his family to whom we send warmth and condolences.

destroo grave

Cobra Camp – one of the easiest walks in the book and if not for Mike’s book I would never have found these graves at the start of the walk. The Destroo family has apparently some vague connection to my late father’s family (Destrieux) but I have never been able to discover much.


Near Kleinplaas Dam – another easy-peasy walk.


Silvermine has many different walks and the variety of flowers is amazing. Recent fires have caused this reserve to be closed to the public until it is deemed safe.

yellow flower Kleinplaas

A little retro adventure

chappies net 2

Chapman’s Peak

Today, out of the blue, I was asked if I wanted to go for a motorbike ride with someone I’d never met. Yeah yeah, I know, but it’s a Facebook thing and it came about after a long debate on art. I jumped at the chance because it’s been years since I rode a bike, and after some discussion about jackets and boots (it’s over 30 degrees today so this didn’t sound right but ‘safety first’) I was ready and waiting at the gate with my camera. I had visions of selfies in the rear-view mirror like so many other people seem to manage easily, but those are not as easy as you think.

So, off we went to look at the burnt-out mountains. First we sped off down the motorway towards Ou Kaapse Weg at over a zillion miles an hour.  I held on very tight. We stopped twice to take photos and look around. We went over Chapman’s Peak which has reopened despite what I think is considerable danger of falling rocks. After out first stop I was comfortable and let go of  Marius. I held the handy bars at the side and even leaned back gently against the container-thingie. Totally cool!

Downside of riding a bike: The clothing. The jacket I wore weighed a ton and made me very hot when we were not moving. The helmet soaked my head with perspiration. The gloves are as thick as a mattress so there’s no chance of holding a camera. Getting on and off is a very graceless affair with rude words.

Upside of riding a bike: You see more than from inside a car, much more. Fuel consumption is way better than a car.  Nipping in and out of traffic and getting up Ou Kaapse Weg in minutes is a joy. People look at you but they can’t actually see you under the spacesuit. The road really does come up to meet you, especially going around the bends of Chappies and that hairpin bend on Ou Kaapse Weg, but you can close your eyes.


The desolation of Silvermine.

silvermine 2

Check it out! The ‘boney’ in question BMW 1200, because when it comes to bikes, size does matter.

silvermine seed looking for a home

This little seed was rolling around looking for a home.

silvermine new life

Life sprouting already.

silvermine sign

This sign ..

silvermine sign not burnt

and this sign … why has this one survived?

silvermine other photog

We weren’t the only ones taking photos.

silvermine false bay

In the background, Muizenberg mountains where it all began.

chappies net

Chapman’s Peak. The nets are still there but have been heated so much that they need attention and may not be strong enough to hold large boulders.

chappies still beautiful

Chappies still manages breathtaking views.


There we go, the perfect selfie.


We can see clearly again

alphen 10 march

What a pleasure to see the mountains clearly again and to not have the stench of fire in ones nose while walking the four-legged wonder.

Last week was hell. Mountain fires, the hottest day in 100 years, driving through smoke, smelling smoke all the time. It’s not over yet because the mountains are still burning in Jonkershoek near Stellenbosch, and other regions, but the Peninsula is back to normal, whatever that is.

If you’re on Facebook check out these excellent photos from the Silvermine area (only part of the 6000 hectares that burnt last week) – fire is always so photogenic.

My previous entries about the Tokai Manor House and ghost received hundreds of hits last week because there were rumours that it had burnt down so people were Googling it like mad. It has not burnt down, it is still there. The surrounding plantation did burn however, and a few houses in Zwaanswyk.

And of course these fires didn’t actually fit in with my planned tours but some improvisation around clients’ special interests helped a bit, and I even landed up being a guide in my own old neighbourhood. Check it out here. I’ve just received awesome feedback from them so clearly I did something right.

Ok, enough blowing my own trumpet; it’s wine o’clock and the garden needs watering – I have a special way of combining the two.

Noordhoek Peak

Table Mountain and Lion’s Head are the iconic mountains to climb in Cape Town but Silvermine Reserve has many more  advantages for me.  It takes me just a few minutes to reach, it’s big so has a large variety of paths short and long,  fabulous fynbos with masses of proteas, a dam in which to cool off at the end of a hike, and the views change constantly as you change direction and climb – one minute you’re overlooking Muizenberg and the Cape Flats and a few minutes later you see the whole of False Bay to Simonstown. But keep walking a little longer and higher and you’ll have views of the Atlantic seaboard all the way from Kommetjie to Hout Bay with The Sentinel far below looking almost insignificant, and Chapman’s Peak Drive winding its way around the mountain like a narrow ribbon.

I also like Silvermine because it’s only frequented by picnickers, hikers, climbers and other like-minded folk.  Vida even has a special permit – she loves the fynbos, I’m convinced she reacts to it differently to the plants elsewhere, must be the scent.

Silvermine has two entrances with the main one being the most popular because the area is larger, and one can braai (wind depending) or picnic around the dam, whereas the other entrance (Silvermine East, on the left after the first gate when coming up from Tokai) is less well-known but just as lovely and it has an amazing waterfall. The main entrance is also home to tented accommodation that forms part of the famous Hoerikkwago Trail, a trail of 3 to 5 days, depending on how much you want to do.

On the day these photos were taken we were 7 adults, one 3 year old and 2 dogs. The child and one of the dogs were carried most of the way. The hiking books and maps call this a 2-3 hour walk but we took almost all day because we dawdled and stopped many times to appreciate our surroundings and take in the views, especially the highest point which is Noordhoek Peak. Coffee, tea and several well-earned rolls later we were ready for the descent which was a piece of cake after the slow ascent. A barefoot paddle in the dam ended a perfect day!

Just writing this has made me want to do it again, soon!

Reluctant climber

Once upon a sunny Sunday Heather and I decided to go to Silvermine for a little hike, as we are wont to do quite often.  My friend Gaetan, the expert rock climber, suggested we should include some abseiling. I’d been bragging about my abseiling activities in Silvermine so Heather was game.

A disclaimer at this point is necessary: I did advise Heather that we would have to walk around the mountain back to the car because the only other way out is to rock-climb up and out and we are not rock climbers. Everyone was in agreement. Everyone.

Heather abseiled down, all good. When it came to my turn I did a cold-feet chicken-shit wussie-faced job. Nothing, none of Gaetan’s inducing could get me to step backwards into the void. Heather waited patiently below, enjoying the view, as Gaetan tried to sweet-talk me over a cliff. No way. Eventually he gave up, hopped down to join Heather and that’s when the fun really began.

He convinced her that walking around was boring (only for wussies) and she should climb up. I positioned myself, changed the camera batteries and waited. It’s amazing how even when you’ve known someone for decades they can still surprise you.

It took hours and hours, I lost count. Two kind strangers gave advice from below, Heather used some of the rudest words ever heard, Gaetan gave patient encouragement from above, Heather shared more obscure words, I took a gazillion photos of the sky, the birds, the scenery, some other climbers, more scenery, and many aspects of the long climb to freedom. I was nervous.

She made it to the half-way point and collapsed on the ledge (you can see the ledge below) in a very unladylike fashion, told us to eff off while she enjoyed the view and drank some water. The ascent continued. This part took about an hour to just get going because there were no visible/novice footholds and her arms and legs were packing in by now.

By rock climbing standards it’s not a difficult climb but for someone who had previously only done a level-7 climb this was a masterful feat. I would have freaked out and bawled and panicked (as I did on the level-7 climb). But she did it and even managed to laugh her way out of the top section which involved climbing through a sort of hole in the rocks.

Then we had to get out of Silvermine – with minutes to spare before the gates shut. But that’s another story.

Her arms were so sore and stiff, it took Heather several days before she could change gears without wanting to cry.

R-e-s-p-e-c-t !!


A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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