If I were to describe my perfect day, this would pretty much be it. On the final day of our New Year’s holiday in South Africa, we embarked upon an action-packed Cape Point adventure that I would have thought was impossible without the aid of a body double (and a helicopter!). It turns out we didn’t only survive the day, we thoroughly enjoyed it and by the time our weary heads had hit the pillow that same evening we were planning how to get back doing more of the same.
Our lively and enthusiastic group met a good half an hour before the suggested 9.30am start time for our first activity; paddleboarding through the canals of the V&A Waterfront. Eagerly sizing up the largest boards, the biggest is best for balance, and meeting our accomplished adventure guides, which included experienced naturalists, national trail runners and the current four times South African surf champion, Nikita Robb, among others. No competition there then!
There were a few first-timers in our group so there was ten minutes “quiet time” whilst we took on board the basics; kneel down, pop up and paddle. Simple. Throw in a few passing boats, their wake, low bridges and each other, not quite so simple. However, aside from the initial wobble, and thanks to a few additional tips from the guides, who were within a paddles’ reach, we made it to the One and Only hotel for a coffee and muffin break without anyone capsizing. On the way back to base, feeling a lot more relaxed, everyone revved it up a gear, not quite racing, but when a guide shows you how to go faster….Just don’t stop, as that is, I can testify, when you lose your balance!
A quick outfit change was required before our next activity; hiking in Table Mountain National Park. Our jovial driver/ photographer, John bundled us into our AUV (Adventure Utility Vehicle), packed to the roof rack with top of the range equipment, gourmet snacks, cool drinks and bright coloured suncream (which got everywhere and take ages to remove, thank you Ingram). Driving around from the City Bowl through Camps Bay to Hout Bay, it was hard to imagine the leftover Christmas pudding and sub-zero temperatures we had left behind in the UK only days previously. The beaches were packed and the iconic mountain was winking at us to get on up and take in that incredible view on one of the cities’ beautiful blue sky summer days.
Here we handed over to Graeme, our experienced hiking guide, part man part mountain goat, ex-South African Special Services, a freefall skydiving instructor with over 100 marathon distance races under his belt. Whilst John drove our AUV around the iconic Chapmans Peak drive to the Silvermine Dam, we embarked upon a rather steep, but scenic, incline up the Blackburn Ravine. This is where it pays to choose your fellow hikers wisely, our group was the perfect balance of being up for it (and up for taking frequent breaks) and full of entertaining stories. Two hours later we were at the top, on slightly wobbly legs, taking in one of the Cape’s best panoramic views.
From here it was a gentle walk down to the Silvermine Dam where a gourmet picnic, courtesy of Franck Dangereux (don’t you love that name) of The Foodbarn restaurant was laid out with a coolerbox full of chilled Windhoek lager and South African wines. Did I mention that one of our guides, Lucien Beaumont, is a professional chef and his family own the Beaumont wine estate in nearby Elgin? With 8 years of safari guiding experience at the Londolozi Game Reserve, he is the perfect person to show off this part of continent enthusiastically and is eager to share his knowledge and passion for the region in a relaxed yet professional manner. Time for a cool down, we were pleased to discover that the water in the dam was the perfect temperature and full of goodness from the fynbos which it filters through – ‘autumnal’ in colour, it is effectively like swimming in rooibos tea!
From here it was a short drive around the peninsula to one of the Cape’s top surf spots, Surfers’ Corner in Muizenberg. It was nearing the end of the day, the surf shops were shut, the beaches were clearing and the waves were empty, maybe someone had pre-warned of our arrival….maybe there was something we had missed regarding the resident Great Whites?! Either way, we had our Escape + Explore boards atop the AUV, reserves of energy to burn, and the waves were waiting. It was Nikita, the surf champion’s, time to shine and impart her years of honed surf skills onto a group of novices. After a ten-minute briefing on positioning, how to paddle, how to stand up and most importantly – how to protect our heads from an out of control board, we were let loose. I am happy to report that despite the strong winds and our tired limbs, we all managed to stand up and acquired more aches – in our bellies, from laughing a lot!
Once we had awkwardly pushed, pulled and dragged each other out of our wetsuits, no easy feat, we hobbled over to the newly opened surf hangout, Tiger’s Milk (part of the Harbour House group) for a well-earned and much-loved South African tradition; sundowner drinks on the terrace. Of all the day’s activities to fail at, it was the story telling, eating and drinking that finished me off – my weary head never made it to the pillow, it hit the table first! For anyone in need of a reminder of what it feels like to learn something new, to push yourself physically, to reconnect with nature, to be inspired by local experts, and laugh a lot with new and old friends – book yourself a trip to South Africa and spend a day or few with our wonderful adventure guides and AUV!