Hiking Table Mountain 2

Yesterday proved to be a perfect Western Cape autumn day, plenty of sunshine and absolutely no wind. It was not surprising, that in the afternoon I grabbed my backpack and some orange juice and headed to the mountain.

To save time I went to the top via the cable car, I didn’t want to go completely mad and walk up via Platterklip Gorge.

Disembarking from, the cable car I tried to avoid the crowds and headed straight for the path that takes on to Mclears Beacon. As you cross the ravine at the top of Platterklip Gorge the crowds thin out.

Towards Kommetjie from the top of TMNP

It is a rare privilege to be blessed with a day when there is no wind on top of the Mountain. But I always maintain that April is one of the best months to visit Cape Town.

Towards Hout Bay

Walking past the dams Woodhead, Hely-Hutchinson (Wynberg’s answer to the lack of water supplies, )De Villiers (another effort by Wynberg Municipality) Victoria and Alexandra making up the five main dams on the top of the mountain. As is normal after a long dry summer Woodhead was completely dry Hely-Hutchinson very low and the others also dry.

The part of the route I was walking on now forms part of the Hoerikwaggo Hiking trail, a two night hike that crosses the length of the Table Mountain chain. My aim was not to go to Mclears Beacon but to strop off just before at a laklet which has no name, that I often visit in the spring when it is full of water. The laklet is well hidden from all the main paths laying behind thickets of Restios .

When I arrived there I was greeted by a bed of brown moss some 150 mm thick, what a place to camp if camping was allowed on the mountain. Laying on the moss relaxing it is probably more comfortable than the average mattress.

The lakelet at the end of winter full of water

The dry lake after summer

After some well earned refreshments I headed back the way I came, but as it was getting on for 5 o’clock there were no other walkers around, and hardly a sound other than a helicopter droning in the distance, high angle rescue teams out practising on the face of the Central Table.

As soon as i crossed Platterklip Gorge  I was back in amongst the crowds and tourists. However a very pleasant and worth while afternoon hike of approximately 2 hours and 8 kms.

Green Moss when the lake is full

Towards Muzenberg from the top of Table Mountain

The moss in the dry lake the most comfortable bed you can find!


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April 17, 2011 · 2:06 pm

Spectacular Augrabies Falls

The Augrabies Falls in

the Northern Cape

Province of South





A closed bridge from Upington towards the Augrabies Falls National Park should not prevent you from visiting. “The water levels are very impressive. Water flow is at 5000 cubic meters per second  – double the figure of last year’s floods,” says Communication Manager Henriette Engelbrecht.

Augrabis Falls all photographs by Park manager Steven Smith

As an alternative route, Henriette recommends that visitors, take the Groblershoop road from Upington and turn off at Louisvale towards Kakamas. Those coming from Kimberley should also turn at Louisvale.

“The main road is likely to open again during the middle of the week but we cannot say for sure as conditions may change.” If you are planning to see the falls it is best to take a high clearance vehicle or 4×4.

Some viewpoints have been closed for safety purposes but many are still open for the public to enjoy. On Saturday the park had 1800 visitors and on Sunday 1000 people made their way to marvel at the parks thundering waters.

“The smaller waterfalls (some 25 falls) are probably the most spectacular to see. The main falls, see photographs below, are covered in mist from the water’s spray.”

The park is quiter during the week. On weekends, If parking does becomes a problem, shuttles are arranged to transport visitors to the park and later back to their vechiles.

To find out more contact the park on +27 (0) 54 452 9200 or visit http://www.sanparks.org/parks/augrabies/ for more information.



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Eco-bulbs ‘a health hazard’

Energy-saving light bulbs were at the centre of a fresh health scare after researchers claimed they can release potentially harmful amounts of mercury if broken.

Levels of toxic vapour around smashed eco-bulbs were up to 20 times higher than the safe guideline limit for an indoor area, the study said.

It added that broken bulbs posed a potential health risk to pregnant women, babies and small children.

Eco Bulbs

The concerns surround “compact fluorescent lamps” (CFLs), the most common type of eco-bulb in Britain, which are mini-versions of the strip lights found in offices. 

The European Union is phasing out the traditional “incandescent bulbs” used for more than 120 years and is forcing people to switch to low-energy alternatives to meet its climate change targets.

A CFL uses a fifth of the energy of a conventional bulb and can save £7 a year in bills. However, critics complain that CFLs’ light is harsh and flickery. Medical charities say they can trigger epileptic fits, migraines and skin rashes and have called for an “opt out” for vulnerable people.

Incandescent bulbs do not contain mercury, along with other variants of energy-saving lights, such as LEDs and halogen bulbs. The study, for Germany’s Federal Environment Agency, tested a “worst case” scenario using two CFLs, one containing 2 milligrams of mercury and the other 5 milligrams. Neither lamp had a protective casing and both were broken when hot.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Wilhelm Klauditz Institute found that they released around 7 micrograms (there are 1 000 micrograms in a milligram) per cubic metre of air.The official guideline limit is 0.35 micrograms per cubic metre.

Federal Environment Agency president Jochen Flasbarth said: “The presence of mercury is the downside to energy-saving lamps. We need a lamp technology that can prevent mercury pollution soon.

“The positive and necessary energy savings of up to 80 percent as compared with light bulbs must go hand in hand with a safe product that poses no risks to health.”
During tests the German government agency’s researchers were alarmed to discover that some bulbs had no protective cover and broke when hot.

High levels of mercury were measured at floor level up to five hours after the bulbs failed.

A spokesman for the agency said: “Children and expectant mothers should keep away from burst energy-saving lamps.

“For children’’s rooms and other areas at higher risk of lamp breakage, we recommend the use of energy-saving lamps that are protected against breakage.”

However, the UK Government insisted the CFL bulbs were safe – and that the risk from a one-off exposure was minimal.

The Health Protection Agency says a broken CFL is unlikely to cause health problems.
However, it advises people to ventilate a room where a light has smashed and evacuate it for 15 minutes.

Householders are also advised to wear protective gloves while wiping the area of the break with a damp cloth and picking up fragments of glass. The cloth and glass should be placed in a plastic bag and sealed.

CFLs are not supposed to be put in the dustbin, whether broken or intact, but taken as hazardous waste to a recycling centre.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The mercury contained in low-energy bulbs does not pose a health risk to anyone immediately exposed, should one be broken.”

Friends of the Earth said the switch to low-energy bulbs would reduce exposure to mercury from coal-fired power stations.

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Poisoned Rhino Horns to Stop Poaching?

People who ingest the horn, a common practice among some Asians who believe it to have medicinal properties, could fall ill, as a result of the horn being treated with the toxic ectoparasitacide, used to control parasites. But the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve says the horns will also be treated with an indelible dye to discourage ingestion.

Rhino Horn

The owners of the reserve insist they are not vigilantes and don’t want to make anyone ill. “The treatment of the horn benefits both the animal and efforts to stop poaching,” explains Lorinda Hern, the reserve’s spokeswoman. “Our greatest desire is that no person ever touches a rhino horn again. Failing that, however, we do want to strike fear in their hearts, so they know we mean business.”

Several months ago, Hern’s father, Ed Hern, the reserve’s founder, drew fierce criticism when he announced he was experimenting with cyanide to inject into rhino horns, after poachers struck his reserve. “We wanted to inflict the same kind of suffering our animals had to endure on anyone involved in the vile activity of poaching,” the reserve explained in a statement. “We began researching the possibility of poisoning our rhinos’ horns, so any individual who knowingly handled or consumed the horn would either become seriously ill, or even face the risk of death.”

The idea was motivated by the need to treat the horn, and thus the animal, against parasites such as ticks, instead using conventional pesticides. “Such substances are not intended for human consumption and although not lethal in small quantities, remain extremely toxic,” the reserve states.

Hern says her father’s initial response was driven by emotion. “Once we reconsidered and got the necessary legal advice, we decided we weren’t going to right a wrong by doing another wrong,” she told the Saturday Star. “We have found a way to still get our point across, but without doing anything illegal or maliciously trying to hurt someone.”

In the past two months, all the reserve’s rhino have been treated with the ectoparasitacides and are in “excellent health” and carefully monitored.
Unlike parasite treatment, which typically involves the rhino being dipped, the rhino are darted and a hole is drilled into their horn to inject the pesticide, which also contains the indelible red dye.

“We have reason to believe that, if other rhino owners followed sui, the perception that rhino horn is no longer beneficial to humans, but potentially dangerous instead, could very well be the impetus needed to eradicate poaching entirely,” says the statement. Conventional methods to fight poaching, including dehorning, microchips and tracking devices have failed and a rhino has been slaughtered roughly every 30 hours in South Africa this year.

Faan Coetzee, of the Rhino Security Project of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, questions the ethics motivating the reserve. “It’s still a poison. The problem is these guys (poachers) are going to kill the rhino anyway and hopefully someone gets sick. But is that a way to think? Let’s not dabble in these things,” he said, pointing out that tranquilising carried a risk to the rhino’s health and was expensive.

But the reserve stands firm. “We’re not interested in causing anyone’s death; we merely want the killing of these gentle, majestic creatures to stop. If we have to cause a few individuals some discomfort to accomplish this, we’re willing to take our chances. Although we in no way intend to enforce vigilante justice on innocent people, we want to send the message that poaching has dire consequences.”

Wildlife vet Dr Charles van Niekerk, who is involved in the research, says this is one “arrow in the quiver” in the fight against rhino poaching. Other private rhino owners are on board, he says but won’t divulge more. The research is still in the initial stages. “People have asked how we can treat all the rhino in South Africa. We’re not deterred by number. And people must not be blinded by the cost – all the money in the world won’t bring the rhino back once it is gone.”

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Canned Lion Hunting Blow

This means that 24-month re-wilding period stipulated in the Threatened and Protected Species Regulations to prevent canned hunting cannot be enforced. Nearly all of the lions hunted in South Africa are raised in captivity. The NSPCA is opposed to the breeding of predators for hunting and has repeatedly made its position known in this regard.


The industry has grown significantly since 1997 when the issue first made international headlines. The lack of adequate legislation in this regard and the issuing of permits to legally allow for the keeping and breeding of lions has contributed the problem which now exists in this country. Lion breeders have claimed that the 24-month period is not financially viable. 

“The NSPCA is concerned about the welfare of more than 4, 000 lions currently kept in captivity,” said Brenda Santon, Manager of the NSPCA Wildlife Unit. “It has become the job of the NSPCA, a non-profit organisation, to police the welfare of these captive animals, as well as the spin offs from this trade which includes lion cub petting and walks with lions.”

In a similar vein, the Department of Environmental Affairs featured leg-hold traps and hunting with dogs in the Norms and Standards for Damage-Causing Animals, which were published for comment on Friday, the 3rd December 2010.

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Christmas Greetings from Chelsea Morning

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The Smitswinkel Tented Camp is the latest edition and the fourth tented camp/overnight facility available within

Table Mountain National Park (TMNP). The camp is set in the shadows of a weathered flowering gum plantation,

and is situated just off Plateau Road, about 300m from the entrance gate to the Cape of Good Hope.

All the tented camps were built with the concept of “touching-the-earth-lightly”. This means that previously

disturbed sites were selected for the location of these camps, and the design and materials ensure minimum

environmental impact during the construction of the camps. Labour intensive construction techniques were used to

create jobs and black economic empowered SMME’s were sourced to build these camps. Each of the tented

camps can sleep up to 12 people sharing, and are provided with communal kitchen and bathroom facilities. The

new Smitswinkel Tented Camp is the exception, where each unit has its own kitchenette and en-suite. All units

have self-catering facilities.

Smitswinkel Tented Camp

The opening of the Smitswinkel Tented Camp coincides with a new strategy of Table Mountain National Park,

which is to open the tented camps to a wider target audience and not only to hikers. In the past because the tented

camps were directly linked to the Hoerikwaggo Trail only hikers could book the tented camps. Now, the camps are

available to all nature lovers; including families and friends, hikers, cyclists, trail runners, or surfers to their

favourite surfing spots at Slangkop, Kommetjie or Misty Cliffs. Without having to hike the Hoerikwaggo Trail, family

and friends can spend time at any of the camps, select more localized short walks and enjoy the beautiful natural

surroundings that the Table Mountain National Park provides. The tented camps vary from offering an Afromontane

Forest at Orangekloof Tented Camp, to a Lighthouse and Marine theme with whales in the background at the

Slangkop Tented Camp in Kommetjie. With the new strategy also came a revision of the pricing system which has

seen a decrease in price of the product. Prices per person range from R200,00 to R250,00 per night.

All the tented camps are built on the Hoerikwaggo Trail. This famous trail ― following the entire spine of the

peninsula mountain chain ― is 97km in length; from Cape Town to Cape Point or vice versa. The Khoisan term

“Hoerikwaggo” means “mountains in the sea”.

Department of Economic Development and Tourism


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Filed under Accommodation, Cape Town, Hiking, Table Mountain, Western Province Travel