We never planned to hike the mountains above Constantia Nek in Cape Town. I hadn’t even heard of the place that morning.
After packing up and checking out of our first Air BnB apartment in Cape Town, we took the shortest route to our next apartment rental in the seaside suburb of Hout Bay. The shortest route was over a mountain pass beside Table Mountain.
My eyes were glued to the window as the mountain scenery passed quickly outside. Leafy vineyards and dusty side roads. Were we even still in the city? The road wound upwards through the low mountain pass of Constantia Nek in a cacophony of green, before dropping back to sea level where the parched dry earth of summer reigned again.
I wanted to go back there immediately.
I always saw myself as a beach baby; growing up in a country where you are never far from the sea made it an intrinsic part of my life. I never knew the mountains then, or the special hold they would have on me later in my life.
My love affair truly began in Vancouver. With the majestic mountains that towered above the city to the north. The crisp, clean air and pristine lakes. The commanding views over the surrounding landscapes. The cute mountain critters.
I was hooked.
So it was no surprise that I fell for the pine scented mountains of Cape Town.
Our travel guide didn’t have any details of hikes around Constantia Nek or the surrounds but it didn’t matter. We would figure something out. I had seen cars parked along the road and I knew there must be some trails somewhere up there.
So after passing through a few hours earlier, we were heading back up there again.
Parking in the car park opposite the Constantia Nek Restaurant (the oldest in Cape Town), we wandered aimlessly for a while, trying to find somewhere we could walk. The first Wine Estate in South Africa, Groot Constantia, was down the road a ways and we considered walking down there but there was no footpath and we didn’t want to walk along the narrow road with cars whizzing dangerously close.
The back of Table Mountain dominated the view above the car park so we decided to look for trails around there. And we found one easily.
It seemed to be a trail to Kirstenbosch Gardens, located further around the mountain. It was late afternoon and we weren’t sure how long it would take to hike there (and back) so we decided to just start walking and see how we went.
The day was hot and the sun beat down on us as we started the long ascent above the car park. Despite the heat, the landscape was much greener than what we saw on our hike up to the top of Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge. Although we weren’t in an alpine climate, the number of pine trees and colourful wildflowers almost made me feel like I was back hiking in the coastal mountains of British Columbia or in Canada’s Rocky Mountains.
Although not as punishing as the Platteklip Gorge hike, the relentless heat made the climb seem much tougher. We frequently stopped to marvel at the view that we first caught sight of within minutes of hiking up the mountain path and that only grew more beautiful the higher we hiked.
I only realised how many vineyards there actually are in Cape Town once I saw the rows of vines stretched out and reaching to the coast below. We could see the beautiful Cape Dutch Groot Constantia nestled among the hilly vineyards and the surrounding mountain peaks lording over it all.
What made it even more special was the lack of people. It felt like we had discovered a local’s secret spot because during the hour and a half that we spent on the trail, we only saw four people. A vast difference from the climb up Table Mountain.
After climbing stairs that lead up the mountain for an indeterminate amount of time, the path started to flatten out as we skirted a ridge and rounded the side of the mountain.
I was on a high from the immersion in faux-alpine environs and the peace that radiated from this natural place. Trav was tired and hot and wanted to have a beer back by the pool of our apartment.
We started to head back the way that we came.
Walking back was easier; the air began to cool as the night slowly crept closer. The sweat chilled on my skin, lowering my body temperature and easing my heat-induced headache. I felt invigorated.
Back in the dusty car park we bought piles of farm fresh nectarines and a juicy pineapple – all at ridiculously low prices. I may not have made it to the end of the trail but I found my happiness for the day and that’s all you can really ask for.
I will have to go back some day and see where the path ends.