Circular route morning hike – up Cecilia Ravine and down Nursery Ravine
There is an overwhelming number of choices for hiking Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain, from all sides of it, the list is endless and is a hiker’s paradise, and once you have found your trail it is, sometimes, unimaginable to realise that civilisation lies just below, but it sure is an escape from the throes of everyday life! On this particular day, we decided to conquer Cecilia Ravine (or as Vanessa termed it, often, as the “ Cecilia Buttress”).
So early on Saturday morning, just as the moon had set and the sun had arisen, 4 of us brave ladies, parked the cars at Cecilia forest car park and headed off along the short jeep track before taking a right turn heading towards the entrance to the “Secret Forest” and meandering our way through this remarkable space, listening to the gentle running of water, and the cacophony sounds of the early morning until we connected, once again, with the jeep track at the next level. Again, we continued along the track until we found another path heading up, of course, to connect us, yet again, to another level of the jeep track. For a July morning, we found that we were stripping off layers of our winter wear rather hastily into our morning walk, and it was not too long before we were wearing just one layer, as it certainly was a rather warm winter’s morning! From this level, we continued until we reached the dead gum tree forest with Kirstenbosch Gardens below us and since the pathways are well demarcated, finding the path was easy, so upwards we went, and not by easy fate either, we were pushing ourselves, sweat and some serious huffing and puffing, and more importantly, increasing the heart rate, stretching the legs over high rocky steps with the support of the rock holds to help heave the legs over those elongated rocky steps, but those thorny bushes could do with a trim! This certainly was not a difficult 45 degree upward climb, setting yourself at a good rhythmic pace, felt great!
A short stop on the first pinnacle overlooking the bay and Kirstenbosch dam below, before continuing up towards the next peak.
The challenge to the next peak was getting ourselves through a narrow crevice of rock and have to admit, there was a brief moment of doubt. The gap was rather narrow and wondered whether it was possible to get through it but with a few twists and turns, we all did it, and then negotiating our way through the final gap (Cecelia Buttress) up to the tea spot!
After our tea break, we continued to the top of the mountain, leaving the path and back onto another jeep track, with the De Villiers dam straight ahead, and the overnight cabin for the Hoerikwaggo trail on our right, and a rather interesting drinking spout, certainly did not win any designer award of the year and do not believe that there is much of a success rate to have just a wee gulp of water from it!
This was the easiest stretch of our hike along the plateau until we changed the plans slightly and decided to head off towards the Hely-Hutchinson and Woodhead dams/reservoirs – also where the museum is housed which is rather interesting and worth a visit.
Again, the pathways are well sign posted and we walked alongside the two dams eventually veering off to the right and therefore leaving the dams behind us and heading towards the views of the Hottentot Holland mountain range again, with Newlands directly below us. We were greeted by an assortment of trees tops that just seemed to be a little out of place here, there are conifers, oaks (to name but a few), standing tall at the top of this section of Table Mountain. We negotiated our way down the rock path to the floor of the forest. On a historical note, this area was previously a nursery and judging from the amount of trees still firmly rooted in this space, it all makes sense and probably where the name “Nursery Ravine” is derived from. However, since the writer clearly has a lack of knowledge on trees, it is difficult to advise on what variety of tree species are still in this area, but can only hope that they will remain in this space for eternity.
It truly is a spot to see for yourself if so inclined to do so. It is one area where you would want to spend a little more time, if you have a love for forests! Beware, however, of the boardwalks, they are slippery when wet!
But time waits for no man, we need to get down the mountain….so we continue, and then we have visuals of the slope below and, seriously, it is a sudden drop downwards looking from above! Are we ready ladies? This was not what had been expected at that precise moment. Personally, my reaction of this trek going down was a repeat of Platteklip Gorge although not quite as tough! Nursery Ravine is open and exposed, it certainly is not a gorge enveloped by trees on either side of it as is Skeleton Gorge which was my initial thought. However, you need to be cautious and watch your ever step since there are loads of boulders on one section of this pathway which may be challenging, then followed by a path forming another section zig-zagging the downward thread. Again, the path is well marked and well maintained, but you will need your hiking poles for Nursery Ravine, whether you go up or down, but a recommendation. You need to have your wits about you too, slower your pace, watch your footing!
Another section of this path takes you through yet another forest eagerly awaiting your arrival and further down, listen and you will hear water, and had there been more rain, the waterfall would have been a sight to behold, the sounds of water surrounded by the dense foliage, a marvel of nature. And finally, reaching the jeep track level marking the end of the tough section and heading back on those jellied legs towards the entrance to the secret forest, allowing us to slowly meander our way through this tranquil area.
Agh, life is good, so, so good! To Table Mountain National Park personnel, we commend you on a job well done, thanks for all the signage and maintaining our mountain pathways!
Written by Lorain | Photo’s by Tania | Our hike was guided by Vanessa and Hillary 🙂