Cape Town - Its name means “mountain in the sea”, but it’s more like the mountain in the billionaire’s back garden.
The famous Hoerikwaggo trail, which winds from Table Mountain to Cape Point, has to be rerouted over the coming months because it has been discovered that parts of the hiking route on Chapman’s Peak cross private property.
Tarcia Hendricks, a spokesperson for SANParks, said they had been approached by the De Goede Hoop Estate Trust to terminate public access to the trust’s land by April 30.
The park was made aware of this after members of the trust discovered the trail was on their land.
One of the group’s five trustees is British billionaire Lord Laidlaw.
The 70-year-old former member of the House of Lords was listed at number 100 in the British rich list of 2012 with a personal fortune of just over R11-billion.
In 2005, he made news when he bought the 23 200m2 De Goede Hoop Estate in Noordhoek for R106-million, making it the country’s most expensive mansion at the time.
The estate is tended by 20 full-time gardeners and 13 maids.
The Cape Argus has been unable to receive confirmation from the Noordhoek estate trustees that this is the property through which the trail passes, but several sources have indicated this is the case.
The part of the trail that will be affected is that stretching between the Slangkop and Silvermine tented camps.
The trail as a whole was constructed by hundreds of previously unemployed path-builders, and is described as an opportunity to let hikers walk in the footsteps of the Khoisan ancestors.
SANParks was quick to downplay the affect of rerouting the trail, with park manager Paddy Gordon saying it was just a case of “100m and a bit”.
“This won’t impact on the route – we will just create a detour and people can continue to move through there.”
An alternative route is expected to be finalised by the end of next month.
For now, the park’s website has listed a pair of alternatives for hikers, suggesting they start at Boyes Drive and cross the Kalk Bay mountains and Echo Valley to Silvermine. Or from Chapman’s Peak, over its saddle and up the southern slopes of Noordhoek peak to Silvermine.
This won’t be the first time Laidlaw has played a hand in reshaping Cape Town. The billionaire became a local hero when he stepped in to help residents of the nearby township of Masiphumelele after a devastating fire.
His donation of R9.5m helped build homes for more than 1 000 residents who were left homeless.
Cape Town was also a place he turned to for help, checking into rehab in the Mother City to deal with a long-time sex addiction in 2008.
This followed articles in the now-closed British tabloid, the News of the World, involving him in a sex scandal.
Repeated attempts to contact members of the De Goede Hoop Estate Trust were unsuccessful. - Cape Argus