Cape Town is one of South Africa’s adventure hubs. Table Mountain is a playground for hikers and rock climbers, while the Atlantic can be dived, kayaked and surfed. The Mother City’s varied neighbourhoods also ensure that fascinating cultural adventures can be had. We take a look at some of Cape Town’s most exciting outdoor adventures, starting with a cycling tour through Khayelitsha and the Cape winelands.
By Franki Black
The wind howled as we cycled towards Khayelitsha’s informal settlement. Up ahead in the road was a gathering of people and two police cars. I asked my guide, Mzukisi, what the commotion was about. “Ah, it’s just a bunch of people, nothing to worry about,” he said. As we passed the group I saw a car that had crashed into a shack. We turned into a sandy lane squashed in between tightly-packed homes and made our way to one of Khayelitsha’s many traditional healers. Mzukisi encouraged me to take my shoes off, before entering the healer’s house. Inside, relatives were watching a soapy on a flat-screen TV. Mzukisi handed me a sarong to wrap around my waist and beckoned me to follow him into the sangoma’s room. Weaver nests hung from the ceiling and strips of leopard hide dangled from the wall.
Seated in the corner, wearing three-quarter jeans and a soccer T-shirt, the sangoma welcomed me in broken English. He pointed to two burning candles and explained that fire is used to invoke his ancestors. He then showed me his collection of roots, herbs and graters. Mzukisi, acting as translator, explained that the training of traditional healers can take up to seven years. Sangomas are primarily specialists in the application of herbs, some of which have been used by the Khoikhoi and other indigenous people for centuries. It is said that everything from the common cold to jealousy can be treated by traditional healers. We wished the sangoma well and continued the ride.
Traditions and a strong sense of community remain central to life in Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s biggest and fastest-growing township. Mzukisi, a passionate resident and the most experienced guide at Bike & Saddle tours, was the perfect person to show off the unmistakable vibrancy of township culture. We made our way past sidewalk braais, groups of children and taxi ranks, while Mzukisi told me how his people sing together in good and bad times and how neighbours readily look after one another’s children. Visiting traditional healers is common practice and initiation ceremonies happen every December. I also discovered that township life revolves largely around status. “It’s all about what beer you drink, what brand you’re wearing and what car you’re driving,” Mzukisi explained. “I think it’s a good thing, it instills a sense of hope”. We reached the Khayelitsha Tourism Centre and walked to the top of a lookout point from where we could see Table Mountain, the sea and neighbourhoods dubbed Graceland and Harare.
Our township tour came to an end at the Velokhaya Cycling Academy. Founded in 2003, Velokhaya is where over 300 local youngsters regularly come to ride bicycles under the supervision of volunteers from the community. Amateurs and professionals can train on an exhilarating gravel BMX track built on the premises. Over the years the academy has produced a number of professional cyclists such as Luthando Kaka who was the first black South African rider to compete internationally as a permanent member of the European pro-team and Songezo Jim who currently cycles with TEAM MTN Qhubeka p/b Samsung, Africa’s first-ever UCI registered pro-continental road cycling team.
Into the Winelands
The second part of my day revealed a completely different world to the one we had just left behind. In an air-conditioned van we drove to Clos Malverne, a restaurant and wine farm situated in the lush heart of Stellenbosch’s winelands. Here we saddled up for a ride through the vineyards. Winding our way past elegant estates and soaring mountain ranges, we cycled from tar roads to dirt tracks. We stopped off at the J.C. Le Roux estate for a nougat-and-bubbly pairing. After a few glasses, we whizzed along farm roads where farm workers cheerily waved at us. Ending back at Clos Malverne, we ended off our day with a cheese platter and enjoyed a glass of the estate’s Silver Leaf Merlot. It’s hard to fathom that one city can offer such diversity.
In one day we had encountered two very different areas. The one is much poorer, yet more vibrant and lively, whereas the other is elegantly reserved, luxurious and comfortable. It is in these extremes that we find the beauty of living in this part of Africa. Mzukisi was particularly pleased to have a local South African join his township tour. “We don’t get many South Africans on our township tours,” he explained. Through Mzukisi, I discovered a fascinating new side of Cape Town, which is virtually on my doorstep.
Sign up for a cycling adventure with Bike and Saddle! Focused on adventure and luxury travel, Bike and Saddle offers a wide variety of itineraries throughout Southern Africa. All tours are guided and all fitness levels can be accommodated. Support vehicles and state-of-the-art equipment are provided.
More Outdoor Action in Cape Town
Diving with Seals: Have you ever wanted to come nose-to-nose with a Cape Fur Seal? Now you can do just that with Animal Ocean, a company that specialises in seal snorkelling excursions offered around Duiker Island in Hout Bay. Duiker Island is home to over 8000 playful, inquisitive and wild seals and thanks to cold water around the island, sharks are not found here. Animal Ocean provides all snorkelling equipment, drinking water, snacks, dive guides and a boat ride from the Hout Bay Harbour to Duiker Island and back.
Kayaking with Penguins: The best way to see the penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach is from the comfort of a kayak. Kayak Cape Town offers two to three trips a day leaving from the waterfront in Simon’s Town. As you paddle along in your two-seater kayak, your guide will lead the way past the Naval Harbour and out towards Boulder’s Beach where you will stop for a swim, tide permitting. Another popular paddling option is the monthly full-moon trip hosted between March and October when moonrise coincides with sunset. During this two-hour trip you will see the full moon rise over the bay from behind the Hottentots Holland Mountains.
Shipwreck diving: The seas off the aptly-named Cape of Storms swirl over hundreds of shipwrecks that make for exciting diving sites. Some of these are inaccessibly positioned at great depths, but many lie on shallow reefs ideal for exploration. Smitswinkel Bay near Cape Point is home to five relatively easily-reached wrecks to dive, including the Good Hope which lies at 30m. Beginner divers can opt to dive the small barge at Ark Rock near Simon’s Town. She lies at 11m and is easily navigable through an open hold. Just off Glencairn lies the wreck of a big quarry barge, which is often frequented by smaller shark species. The Brunswick wreck, an English East-Indiaman that ran aground near Simon’s Town in 1805 is a fascinating historical site to explore. Lying at 6m, the Brunswick is an archaeological site protected by legislation and largely overgrown with kelp. A variety of invertebrates and fish can be seen at the site. Shipwreck dives are fully arranged and hosted by a number of companies in Cape Town.
Contact: Pisces Divers: email@example.com; +27 (0) 21 782 7205/ Into the Blue: +27 (0) 21 434 3358; firstname.lastname@example.org/ Dive Action: email@example.com; +27 (0) 21 511 0800 [Source: www.southafrica.net]
Hot on Hiking: Cape Town offers many beautiful trails in and around the city. Trek to the top of Lion’s Head for panoramic views of the Mother City or opt for a gentler walk on its contour path. Table Mountain has an ever-surprising variety of routes zigzagging around and on top of the mountain. Platteklip Gorge, Skeleton Gorge, India Venster and Llandadno Ravine are some of the routes that take you to the top. The pipeline track, which starts on the Kloof Nek end of Tafelberg Road and stretches along the Twelve Apostles, is a relatively flat and very scenic trail. Cecelia Forest and Newlands Forest offer perfect terrain for a stroll with the family or a more strenuous hill hike. The Silvermine Nature Reserve found at the top of Ou Kaapse Weg also offers nature trails at their best and a dam ideal for swimming. Also be sure to visit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens for a picnic, a concert or a walk on the Boomslang.