India Venster – A Window over the Mother City Post Updated on 09 July 2018 The word ‘venster’ is the translated Afrikaans word for ‘window’. This trail is called India Venster apparently because the ravine in which it is located resembles the geographical…
This hike offers an up close and personal experience of the natural beauty that Hout Bay has to offer
Updated on 02 February 2019
The wreck of the BOS 400 barge is located off the coastal suburb of Hout Bay in Cape Town. According to Wikipedia,
“The BOS 400 is a French Derrick/Lay Barge that ran aground while being towed by the Russian tugboat Tigr on June 26, 1994. The Tigr was chartered to tow the BOS 400 from Pointe-Noire in the Republic of Congo to Cape Town, South Africa. The tow-rope broke loose during a storm and causing the vessel to run aground off Duiker Point near Sanday Bay. Despite several towage attempts, the shipwreck was considered a total loss as salvors were able to recover little from the wreck.”
On Saturday 09 December 2017, I was invited to join in this hike organised by Cape Hikes. I have waited to visit the wreck of the BOS 400 for quite some time so jumped at the chance. The Cape Town weather gods tried their best to scare us off going through with it, but they could not convince 7 of us to tackle the trail, despite gale force winds, an overcast sky and intermittent rains. Unfortunately, neither Belinda not Nina could not join us as they were attending an event with Pitpals, the pitbull rescue organisation that blessed us with Nina. This was also the reason why we did the full hike and not the dog friendly route as Nina was not among the hiking party.
On 02 February 2019, I was invited again by Stuart of Cape Hikes to do this hike again, but this time Belinda came along. Nina had to sit this one out again, because it really isn’t a dog friendly trail to the wreck. This blog has been updated with extra info and photos taken during this second experience.
The Speedy Review (tl;dr)
This is an interesting trail, with a good mix of flat, easy terrain and tricky, slippery terrain. The BOS 400 is one of the better wrecks I have had the privilege of seeing along the Cape Peninsula. The route is entirely out in the open and there are no water points along the way. It is essential that you take precautions against the sun and have at least 2 liters of water with you. If you want to take your children or dog along, remember that you won’t be able to follow the route outlined in this post, but instead you will need to follow the easier child/dog friendly route.
Nina rated this trail 0/5 paw prints, because the full hike is not recommended for dogs or small children and she was sad to be left at home while we had all the fun. There is a shortened version that is dog friendly, but stops far short of the BOS 400 wreck.
The Nitty Gritty
The hike starts at a small parking lot at the end of Eustegia Way, Hout Bay. This is also the parking area for bathers wishing to visit Sandy Bay, the most popular nudist beach in Cape Town. Alas the weather was appalling, so the only natural beauty we were able to witness along the trail was of the regular flora and fauna variety. Humans, clothed or otherwise, thought better and stayed indoors and out of wind and rain. Except us, of course, who travelled quite some distance for the privilege of a experiencing a weather beating of significant proportion. The photos I took on the trail do not do the bad weather any justice at all. The sign above warns beach goers against getting naked in the parking lot and walking to the beach unrestrained by fashion. We didn’t require any convincing as we needed all the layers we could muster to protect ourselves against the elements.
We started the hike at 06h05, after waiting for a few stragglers to arrive. Capetonians are not known for their punctuality. The sun was already up for over an hour by that stage. We ascended a brick paved hill and after about 300 m, we turned left and headed down toward Sandy Bay beach. This route took us across a sand dune channel that later proved a challenge on the route leg of the hike. After crossing the sand dune, the path split in two. A gentle inclined jeep track headed off to the left and a second path headed straight across and down to the beach. The jeep track is the more dog friendly option, but seeing as we did not have a dog with us, we headed through the boom gate and straight down a gravel jeep track to the beach.
On our second experience of this trail, we chose to turn left on to the jeep track, called Rocket Road, and do the trail the other way round.
The wind was very strong at this point and the rain clouds were passing threateningly overhead. The path turned toward the left and after a short distance, we turned right on to another path and headed down and out on to the beach. The distance covered to where we turned right on to the other path was 1.0 km.
At 06h28, we arrived at the beach where we spent some time exploring the boulders and taking in the view. The beach was actually quite sheltered from the wind. After a short while, we headed off and hugged the coast line passed a large tree trunk sitting above the high level mark. We turned left and headed straight up an obscure path. At 06h46, we reconnected with a lower footpath after covering a distance of 1.84 km. We continued walking along that footpath along the fire ravaged coast line. There were a few hollowed out rocks along the way that could provide excellent shelter few a couple of hikers in bad weather.
At 07h18, we reached a t-junction in the trail. A path lead off to the left and steeply up the mountain. A second path headed off to the right and toward a small rocky island called Oude Schip Island. It was at that point in the hike that the wreck of the BOS 400 barge came into view in the distance. The distance covered to that point was 3.17 km.
We opted to go to the right and explore the rocky island below. On that small island is what is left of the wreck of the fishing trawler Harvest Capella that met its journey’s end in 1986. We were not able to get across to the island as the tide was high and the water crossing was dangerous due to the turbulent sea conditions. If you intend to explore this island, you will need to check the tide tables to make sure that it’s low tide when you reach that point in the hike.
After spending a short while making sure that there was no chance we could cross over on to the island, we turned back and headed up the mountain. This was quite a steep ascent from the rocky island to a block house, called The Rocket House, situated halfway up the mountain side. It is believed that the Rocket House was constructed way back in 1913.
On our second crack at this trail, we timed our arrival at the Oude Schip Island perfectly, at low tide, and crossed with ease on to the island. We followed a sandy trail to the wreck of the Harvest Capella that sat perched on top of a collection of large boulders. I was surprised to see how much of the wreck still remained and took a few photos from different angles.
At 07h42, we arrived at the block house after covering a distance of 3.85 km. We took a short break there. The solid structure offered some temporary shelter from the wind. From that point on, the hike changed from being an easy going walk into a technically challenging hike. It is not advised that small children or those with a fear of heights to proceed beyond that point. The terrain was loose underfoot and there were several occasions where the path clung precariously to the edge of a cliff with jagged rocks far below. One of these rocks actually had a face on it looking up at us. Or perhaps it was the remains of an ancient hiker who fell to his death a long long time ago.
After the short break, we headed diagonally down the hill toward the edge of the mountain again. There were one or two occasions where we lost the path and had to look for it again. The loose soil, shale type rocks and the steep gradient made the going quite difficult. I lost my footing a few times, but luckily managed to avoid falling. We edged our way along the path and eventually reached the BOS 400 wreck at 08h47 after covering a distance of 5.56 km. We had a lunch break there admiring what was left of a magnificent floating barge and the powerful surging sea that continued to pound it from all sides.
Here are the links to our YouTube channel with videos taken at the wreck on 02 February 2019.
At 09h15, we got up and marched on back the way we had come. The return leg proved just as tricky with some of us losing the pathway briefly before arriving back at the blockhouse at 09h53 for another short respite. The distance covered to the block house was 7.22 km. Our fearless hike leader, Stuart, took the opportunity to look for an alternative route back as we had taken a bit longer to reach the wreck than he had planned. The weather and terrain were starting to take their toll on some members of our hiking party at that point. At 10h00, Stuart signaled to us that he had found a path just behind the blockhouse that headed straight up the mountain and joined with the gravel jeep track. After a few audible grumbles about going up a hill again, we were all happy to find ourselves on a flat jeep track that would take us all the way back to the start in no time.
At 10h25, we took the left fork in the track and headed down toward the first sand dune we had crossed. The distance covered to that point was 8.53 km. Before crossing over the sand dune, we all had to stop and put on wind breakers of some kind and a head covering to shield ourselves against the sand storm waiting ahead of us. The wind was so strong that it created a wall of stinging sand that we had to physically punch through. We each walked through one at a time leaning over against the wind, covering our faces and learning from the person who had gone ahead of us. We excitedly exchanged ‘war stories’ on the other side as though we had survive an epic natural disaster! There is a video of our escapade on the Cape Hikes Facebook page.
At 10h43, we ended back at the parking lot and the end of a very enjoyable and challenging hike. The total hiking distance was 10.64 km due to a shorter return leg along the gravel jeep track.
Watch the Relive video here to get a good idea of the route and the elevation profile of this hike.
This great trail is in the heart of residential Flamingo Vlei
On Thursday 03 August 2017, Belinda and I were introduced to this walking trail by ‘CMIYC’ (Catch Me If You Can) women’s running group. Continue reading Rietvlei Section Walking Trail, Table View
Elephant’s Eye Trail
On Sunday 14 May 2017, we were invited to join friends of ours on a hike to the Elephant’s Eye cave, located in Silvermine. Silvermine forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. Access to Silvermine Dam is controlled by a boom gate operated by SAN Parks. A ‘My Green Card’ or a Wild Card will get you in for free. If you don’t have one of those, it will cost you R50 a person. During that time of year, day visitors need to be out of the park by 18h00.
I had a vague recollection that I had done this hike before, when I was still at school. I had no actual memories of the hike though. That said, I have very little to no memory of my schooling either. Actually Varsity is a blur as well. Anyway, we had heard so much about Elephant’s Eye Cave that we both decided to do it. Again. Or for the first time. Who knows!
How to get there:
The entrance to Silvermine Nature Reserve is just off Ou Kaapse Weg. A short distance after the turn-off, you will reach a security boom, where you can pay your entrance fee or show your Wild Card and get in for free. You will travel for approximately 2.7km before reaching the parking lot.
There is a sign-post which directs you to the start of the Elephant’s Eye trail –
The trail starts at the following coordinates: S 34⁰ 04.513′ E 018⁰ 24.052′
The Speedy Review
The trail to Elephant’s Eye cave is an easy walk, suitable for the whole family. It is short (5km there and back) and the views over the Southern Suburbs are beautiful. The first time we did this hike, we did a detour after the cave to the view point over Hout Bay – it extends the walk a little bit, but the terrain remains fairly flat, and believe me, the view at the end is so worth it.
I wouldn’t really classify this as a hike, more of a walk (or suitable for an easy trail run). If you have 2 hours to spare on an afternoon, it is a great way to get out into nature.
There is no signal from just after the main entrance until about 1km into the trail, so make sure you make all necessary calls and send all the messages you need to before you get there.
There is also not much shade at all on the trail, so ensure you have enough water, sunscreen and a hat. If you go later in the afternoon, there is a bit of a shadow from Constantiaberg Peak over the last section of the trail near the cave, but for the rest, you will be out in the open. If you are taking your pets along, make sure you stop and rest frequently, and have enough water for them.
Nina rated this trail 4/5 paw prints. This trail is the perfect distance for Nina, especially for an afternoon hike.
It did get rather hot, but an earlier start next time should solve that problem.
Blog Post Updated
We did this hike again on 04 April 2018. We have included a few new photos as we had Nina with us and we wanted to get her impressions of the trail.
The only difference with the second time round is that we walked back along the same route and did not go via the Hout Bay view point due to time considerations. The stats for the second hike, in total, were as follows:
Distance: 5 km
Time Taken: 2 hrs
The Nitty Gritty
We started hiking at 14h14 and walked passed a dogs only poo bin. The trail began with a wide jeep track. The temperature was recorded at 28⁰ C with a slight breeze. Just 3 minutes into the hike, we passed an ablution block on our left hand side and it was open. Useful information if you haven’t had a chance to go before the hike!
At 14h25, the jeep track began to ascend gradually. At 14h28, we turned right off the jeep track on to a narrow path. This is a short cut alternative to following the jeep track as it winds its way in a zigzag pattern up the hill. The distance covered to this point was about 900 m.
Looking back at the ground we had covered, we had a bird’s eye view of the Silvermine dam. Even here the dam level has been affected by the drought conditions.
At 14h32, we joined the main jeep track again. After about 20 meters, we turned right again off the jeep track and on to a trail signposted for Elephant’s Eye. A security alert sign has now been erected there warning hikers of the safety risks in hiking in that area. That section of the park should only be hiked in a party of 4 or more.
We followed the trail through a pine forest that still showed signs of the recent devastating fires in amongst the new growth shoots.
The trail then curved to the right and up to the Fire Lookout Station. It has a commanding view over the southern suburbs below which extends all the way to Gordon’s Bay.
We reached the Fire Lookout Station at 14h56 [1.98 km]. The elevation was 571 m. After briefly inspecting the Fire Lookout Station, I turned around and I got my first look at the Elephant’s Eye cave. The sun was shining directly at us so I was not able to get a clear photo of the cave’s entrance. I did manage to get a few photos of the view from the Fire Lookout itself.
At 15h01, we walked a short distance, back the way we had come and turned right on to the trail to the Elephant’s Eye cave. The trail started immediately with an incline. At each subsequent intersection, we kept right and after about 7 minutes, we reached a ‘contour’ type path that led us to the entrance to the cave. It is then that you really begin to grasp how big the cave really is.
We reached the entrance to the cave at 15h11 [2.46 km] and had reached an elevation of 623 m. The inside of the cave itself was quite surprising. There are several rocks dotted around on the ground that are covered in a fine layer of smooth sand while the roof of the cave can best be described as an enormous vertical garden of greenery. The time taken to reach the cave was about an hour which included quite a few stops to take photos of the scenery. The GPS location of the cave is: S 34⁰ 03.612′ E 018⁰ 23.702’E. We left the cave at 15h29 and headed back the way we had come.
After we left the cave, we decided that instead of returning on the same trail we had walked, we should rather turn right (away from the pine forest) and walk to the view point overlooking Hout Bay. We were not sure how much time this would add to our overall journey, but guessed that it would be no more than an hour extra. That actually ended up being a good guess. The trail became a wide jeep track again as we walked toward the view point. At 15h51, the jeep track joined up with the original jeep track from the start and headed off to the right, toward the mountain peaks. The jeep track then ascended gradually toward the viewing point.
At 15h57, we turned right off the jeep track and on to a narrow path marked “H T” in yellow, alongside a yellow shoe print. The distance to this point was 4.7 km. The elevation was 613 m.
At 16h12, we reached the viewing point over Hout Bay, directly above Chapman’s Peak Drive [5.48 km]. It’s the kind of view that forces you to take a step backwards in surprise that something can be so beautiful. We all sat down and let the view, the sun and the breeze wash over us. There was cell phone signal there so we made the most of the opportunity and sent photos of the view to our families and friends and wished our Moms ‘Happy Mother’s Day’. The elevation, at this point, was 613 m.
At 16h30, we left the viewing point and headed back on the trail and on to the jeep track again. After walking over the hill, we walked down a cement jeep track [7 km] toward the Silvermine dam. At 17h03, we turned off the jeep track and on to a path that took us toward the dam.
At 17h08, we turned right off the path and on to a wooden board walk that continued around the outer edge of the dam. The sun was beginning to set which turned the dam into a smoky black mirror. We arrived back at the start again at 17h16 for a total walking distance of 8.47 km, that took us around 3 hours to complete.
The trail markings on this hike are in the form of signposts, silver plaques and silver circular maps mounted on low rock pillars. There was one yellow shoe print on the trail, near the Hout Bay viewing point.
There are no distance markers on this trail.
The route we walked had a total walking distance of 8.47 km. We walked a circular type route, but there were also a combination of other alternate routes available. The standard disclaimer for any hike in the Table Mountain National Park is that alternate routes should only be attempted if you have someone in your party that is familiar with the route to be taken and that enough time has been allocated to complete that route in daylight hours.
The hiking stats for this hiking trail are:
|Trip Odometer||8.47 km|
|Moving Average||3.8 km/h|
|Overall Average||2.8 km/h|
|Max Speed||8.2 km/h|
|Elevation||442 m – 623 m|
I have attached a GPS trip log for the hike, including a side elevation profile: