Walking up Lady’s Slipper

In a way, walking up Lady’s Slipper has become for Port Elizabeth like walking up Lion’s Head in Cape Town. At one stage only a few people did it, but lately it has become a very popular outing. Not very far distance wise, but a tough cookie as far as terrain. It has been on my “To Do” list for so long and the other day I decided to tackle it with the family in tow.

As the trail and mountain peak falls within private property under control of the Mountain Club of South Africa, you can’t accent without a permit. We left our car at the parking area at Falcon Rock Adventure Centre and this is also where you get your permit. The trail is open Tuesdays to Sundays (and public holidays) from 8am to 4pm with the latest ascent permitted at 13h30. Its best to walk early though before it gets hot or the wind comes up. Oh yes, and if you think you may need a rest stop in the next three hours, then do it here cause there are no facilities on the mountain.

The first section of the walk is fairly easy through the gum trees but once you hit the fynbos it starts to get steeper. About a third of the way up, we came to an open rock platform from where there are great views. This is also the ideal spot to take a breather.

When we got going again the gradient eased for a short while and then the big climb began in earnest as we make our way up a rugged section to the base of the rock cliffs. At this stage the kids went up ahead as the Damselfly and I just weren’t fast enough for their taste. Up to now it felt like we were walking away from the summit, but now we were heading eastward (towards Port Elizabeth) and the summit was waiting for us.

At this stage you can see the Telkom tower and all the radio masts to the left on the other summit. That wasn’t the summit we were heading to though. That one you reach walking up the access road from the back of the mountain and a mission for another day.

Although the path to the top is easy to follow and well maintained, it’s often just a rough track with lot’s of loose stones and quite steep in places, i.e. not something you’re just going to do in slops and with no water. In actual fact, you need to be at least walking fit, otherwise you’re going to really struggle to the top.

Reaching the top takes about an hour to hour and a half over a distance of about 2.5km. It may not be that far, but the climb starts at 265m above sea-level at the parking area and gains 338m to the 603m high peak. That’s an elevation gain of 1 meter every 5 meters, but hey, if the Damselfly and I can do it then so can you.

The view from the top is magnificent. To the west you can see Jeffreys Bay, the Kouga Mountains and all the way to Cape St Francis,

to the south the N2 is visible below, you can see the wind farm at Blue Horizon Bay and Van Stadens Mouth is that bit of white water in the valley, …

and to the east you can see Port Elizabeth on the horizon.

Turning around looking north you get glimpses of Uitenhage with the Groot Winterhoek mountain range dominating the skyline to the north with the Cockscomb at its western end.

What goes up must come down and when you go down you have to take it easy not to slip. There is also a second route (the red route) up (and down) which is much steeper, so if you’re a leisure walker like us, then it would be best to keep to the easier (green) route. But before heading down I just had to have this photo taken. Very nearly took the quick way down thanks to the wind that day.

I can definitely recommend the walk and even more so the view. Really worth the outing up.

More information on the hike up Lady’s Slipper can be found on the Falcon Rock Adventure Centre website

DIRECTIONS FROM PORT ELIZABETH

Driving on the N2 towards Humansdorp, take exit 713, R102 (R334) Uitenhage/Van Stadens Pass. Turn right and continue towards Uitenhage, 200m after crossing the railway line turn left onto a dirt road. Look out for the signs to Falcon Rock (1.2km).

Plaatbos forest and Storms River Pass

The Tsitsikamma is one of my happy places. It is where I go to recharge my soul and get close to nature and that is what we as a family did a couple of week ago. It wasn’t a comprehensive charge, but a quick visit one just to breath in the fresh Tsitsikamma air and get away from lockdown at that stage.

One of our stops for the day was the Plaatbos Forest section of the Garden Route (Tsitsikamma) National Park next to Storms River Village. The nice thing about Plaatbos is that it’s right by the village so you can take an easy stroll from your accommodation, it offers free and easy access, and there are various beautiful walks in the indigenous forest. 

You can either follow the different marked trails (green – 5km, red – 7.5km and yellow – 8km) through the forest or just walk along the historic Storms River Pass. 

The Tsitsikamma (or Zitzikama as it was known back then) was first surveyed by the famous pass buyilder Thomas Bain in 1879. He found it consisted of almost impenetrable forests and steep gorges eastwards of Plettenberg Bay, but he followed the ancient elephant trails through the forests to find the best way to traverse these gorges. Using convict labourers, the pass through the Storms River gorge was completed by 1884. By then the village was surveyed and laid out around the Duthies of Knysna’s hunting lodge which became an inn for travelers using the pass and still exists as the Tsitsikamma Village Inn today.

Walking through Plaatbos is more than just enjoying the indigenous forest with its trees and streams. If you keep your eyes open you will spot the little things. New growth on a fern, a little frog in a stream, fungus and mushrooms growing under a dead branch, a butterfly making its way from flower to flower or a Knysna loerie overhead in the treetops.

Suddenly I feel like hopping in the car to go and plug in my soul.

Port Elizabeth has some blooming good hikes

Flowers along the Sacramento Trail between Schoenmakerskop and Sardinia Bay

It seems that it doesn’t matter where and what time of year you go for a hike along one of the trails around Port Elizabeth, there is always plants flowering. It’s one of the great things of especially fynbos which is found along a lot of the coastal trails around here. Something is always blooming, doesn’t matter the season. With level 3 lock down allowing hiking, there’s really no excuse not to get out over weekend to go and experience the beauty of our region, even if you just go and walk the first couple of hundred meters of the Sacramento Trail in Schoenmakerskop.

Google Street View guy in PE

A month or two ago I was down in the city centre on a Sunday morning to take some photos and I noticed a guy with a funny thing on his back come walking up the road towards me.  As I passed I realised that it was the Google Street View camera. Cool! There may be photos of me taking photos of the Street View Guy on the net soon.
Fast forward to last week and Google launched 170 trails, all 19 National Parks and 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites throughout South Africa available on the Google Street View platform.  You can now literally follow a whole trail 360 degrees from the comfort of your chair and check it out before taking it on yourself.  
You can either go and search for the 170 trails on Trailfinder or go straight to Google Street View for a look.  

Baakens Valley trail view

Yesterday morning I hit the trails in the Baakens Valley just off Alan Drive with Chaos Boy to go and find a few Geocaches I haven’t had a chance to do.  It’s been a while since I’ve been on them and just realised again why the area is so popular with trail runners and mountain bikers.  Here Chaos Boy is enjoying the view of the river below at the one spot on the trail.