Hiking from Slangkop to Silvermine

The 75km Hoerikwaggo Trail is a 5 day, 4 night hiking trail from Cape Point to Table Mountain. For locals and visitors this is a significant amount of time and takes a lot of co-ordination. The great news is that the trail can be broken up into a single day hike or a 2 day hike or any combination of overnight options. Accommodation on the trail is in the Tented Camps – permanent camps built especially for the trail and well equipped for self-catering hikers. For want of a better term, the camps are rather like a “bushcamp”

Leaving Kommetjie

Leaving Kommetjie

I recently hiked the longest day (and arguably the toughest day) from Slangkop Lighthouse in Kommetjie to Silvermine Nature Reserve above Noordhoek. The entire day is 21km but is absolutely spectacular with a combination of beach, mountain and fynbos reserve.

The day starts with a beach walk – walking is relatively easy but we were lucky to get the low tide mark, reckon it could have been a lot tougher in soft sand. The beach walk takes you around Kommetjie, onto Noordhoek Beach where you walk along the long stretch of white sand. It was spectacular in the early morning, with that promise of a good day in the crisp sea air. There were quite a few surfers out, especially on the Kommetjie side. There were more surfers than oystercatchers and seagulls! There had been a lot of rain in the previous weeks so we ended up doing a couple of “river” crossings along the beach… but it did feel good to take off the boots and immerse the feet in the icy water! Look out for the wreck of the Kakapo which ran aground in 1900 and is a great photographic moment along the beach. The 9km beach walk should take about 2 hours and it was good to take a break at the end of the beach before heading up Chapman’s Peak .

Chappies is the first ascent of the day and is about 600 metres upwards. You head up through the milkwood forest at the end of the beach, cross the road and then begin the slog to the top of the peak. I think this is my favourite section of the entire Hoerikwaggo Trail. It’s a clear path, fairly steep in parts with a few scrambling bits to keep it interesting and it winds up with glorious views of Hout Bay and Noordhoek. The path eventually curves behind the mountain and you emerge to see 360 degree views of the peninsula. Take a look at the video if you don’t believe me!!! This section should take about an hour and a half. We had a rest and a snack at the top just to revel in the beauty!

The path takes you down from Chapmans Peak to the Nek so you descend about 270 metres, on an easy path although a few loose stones so worth taking care with your footing! There was a full forest of proteas to distract us too, so quite spectacular walking and lovely to change the muscle groups after the upward haul.

After Chapman’s Nek you have to go up again. This time you are heading up the shoulder of Noordhoek Peak to reach the Silvermine Plateau. It is a steady 350 metres upwards and can be quite tiring as its getting towards the end of the day. From the top of Chapmans Peak to the shoulder of Noordhoek Peak took us about 2 hours. At the top of the ridge, you can do a 100m dash to the top of Noordhoek Peak which is too your left but none of our group were particularly interested as we knew there was still a good hour of hiking to go and cold beverages were in the fridge with our name on them!

Dropping down into Silvermine is a lovely stretch of the legs and you have 2 options – you can stay on the wide, clearly marked jeep track all the way down to the reservoir or do a minor detour on a smaller path through fynbos. We opted for the smaller path as it felt a little less crowded after our semi solitary day, having passed less than 10 hikers. I really enjoyed this last section enjoying the flowers and the ease of the path. As you get to the reservoir, turn right by the Silvermine river and follow the path until it interests with a bigger path and finally the main road which leads you to the camp itself.

The camp itself has one of the best fire places of all the tented camps, a deep sunken pit to gather around. There is nothing quite like sitting around the campfire after a good day’s hike, and a hot shower. We had arranged for our sleeping gear and food supplies to be brought to the camp and I must confess that the Hoerikwaggo Trail is absolutely perfect for having an evening with little luxuries without having to carry ALL your gear as on some of the longer trails in South Africa. Slackpacking gets my vote!

Silvermine Tented Camp sleeps 12 people. There is one 4-sleeper tent and 4 x 2-sleeper tents, with a beautiful central boma, fully equipped with all you need. All the camps have been constructed on distressed sites and built using alien vegetation, mostly sourced from within the park. There is no electricity but solar power gives some lighting and lanterns are provided although it is a good idea to bring your own torch or flashlight. Each camp is themed according to its location and the Silvermine theme is mountain fynbos – there are lots of plants in the wooden and rock walls around the lapa.
It’s a beautiful setting and the delight of Silvermine is that the gates close and there is no access into the reserve so it is exquisitely quiet, save the sound of the birds and the breeze. Firelight, stars and a good night’s rest – what a pleasure and a treat.

It is completely optional whether to hike the next day which was our original plan, however one must note that the Table Mountain National Park is still a wild place where the weather can change without warning. In fact the 2nd day, we had planned to walk from Silvermine to Orangekloof in Hout Bay but the weather changed overnight as we were deep in slumber and the conditions were so dire that it was positively dangerous to be out on the trail so we saved that for another day!

Like many Capetonians who hike regularly, I was always a little reluctant to pay for hiking and sleeping in my own backgarden! However I can confidently claim that this is a spectacular and worthy experience. It’s not far to travel to get started and the trails are well kept. The signage is perhaps not as clear as it could be and it is recommended to take a guide with you. A guide is not just a route direction but they have a wealth of knowledge to enhance your experience with tales related to the history, geology and botany of the park and the Cape. In addition the guides have training in medical matters and mountain safety, which for me is worth every penny! Get out there!

Contact Cape Point Route to Book your Guided Hoerikwaggo Trail:
2-3 persons: R1,250 pp
4-6 persons:  R850 pp
7- 12 person: R650 pp
Includes:  Transfer to starting point, porterage service to overnight camp, qualified hiking guide for full day, accommodation in tented camp.
Excludes: All meals & beverages, Bedding & Towels, Return Transfer

Cape Point Route offers day tourspackagesaccommodationactivities and car hire in Cape Town’s south peninsula in addition to teambuilding events in Cape Town.  Call 021 782 9356 or visit www.capepointroute.co.za 

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