Cape Town - For city-bound folk, Capetonians have easy access to a remarkably large selection of trails. I ran one of my favourites the other morning and, if traced on a classic, front-view, panoramic picture of Cape Town, it would create a kind of lopsided smile on the face of Table Mountain.
The morning dawned clear and sweet – without more than a whisper of a breeze. The classic meeting point for this route is the small parking lot on the left side of Tafelberg Road halfway up the zig-zag from Kloof Nek towards the cable station, so I left Jemimah (my jeep) there and headed up the Kloof Corner trail.
The trailhead is at the beginning of the “zag” where there’s a signboard and some green palisade fencing along the edge of the road. It’s a hard start, and since my running is nowhere near the calibre of local heroes like Andre Calitz or Ryan Sandes, the first kilometre was slow. I optimistically started off with an easy lope, but was promptly reduced to a strong hike and then a heavy lumber long before the path topped out.
The views over Camps Bay and the city were appealing, though, and gorgeous ribbons of colour graced the sky, so I tried to keep my chin up looking for rainbows and whales despite the rather sickeningly ongoing and early morning climb.
I’ve been told (by a friend and better trail runner than me) that keeping my chin up is also a solid technique for maximising my oxygen supply and getting up the hills more easily.
“Don’t bend over towards the ground, but rather stand up tall, put your hands on your hips, raise your head and breathe deep when facing a steep climb.”
I gave it a shot and can report that it may have helped a wee little bit, but it was difficult to tell in my morning haze.
At last, I scaled the steep stone staircase that constitutes the last bit of climbing to Kloof Corner, and got my breath back before starting off on the contour path towards Platteklip Gorge. This section of the trail traces the upper lip of that lopsided smile if you are still visualising the route against a backdrop of the mountain. I love this section.
It’s excellent running: relatively flat, but with some undulations and serious boulder-hopping to strengthen the legs. The path is made of rocky, root-spotted, ankle-twisting stuff.
The mountain, rough and broken off in chunks, hugged my right shoulder and there were open views over the city on my left. I felt separated from the madness in the grid of streets below.
Intermittently, I heard the blow of a tugboat working in the harbour; the sound clearly travelling up to where I was running, surrounded by rusty, ochre-coloured rock and purple-flowering fynbos.
I kept watch for oncoming trail runners, no-nonsense German hikers wearing socks and sandals, and the rarely encountered snake. None of which I saw that particular morning.
The route crosses the India Venster trail above the cable station and traverses a few waterfalls in winter or dry, dusty rock cliffs in summer.
Note of caution: these waterfall crossings are slippery when wet. Runners have fallen here with serious injury as a result. I can’t help but think of these stories every time I pass by.
After a kilometre or two, the contour path overlaps the Platteklip Gorge hiking trail for a short while and continues on towards the Devil’s Peak saddle steps.
There’s an upper and lower path, so I looped it and only did a small section of repeat trail on the out-and-back section just past the Platteklip crossing.
On the return, I headed down Platteklip towards the road, but took an immediate left across the stream, heading back in the direction of the cable car. This route is a bit more scenic and spat me out on to Tafelberg road, just before the Platteklip parking area.
The next section of the route starts the lower lip of the smile, and follows the jeep track diving down into Deer Park opposite the ablution blocks on Tafelberg Road. Here I flew down the steep cement and gravel track, branching left whenever an option presented itself. The pincushion proteas were in full glory, standing silent and still in the morning light, breathtakingly beautiful in their fortitude.
The path turns sandy and dances a bit with gravity, but I was now more fully awake and it was great running through Deer Park back towards Kloof Nek. German tourists are unlikely on this section but I kept an eye out for mountain bikers and dog-walkers. Always something to beware of when trail running…
Just before reaching the end of the route, there was a final climb with a few lonely trees standing like beacons at the top. I slid around the boom that guards the jeep track entry from Tafelberg Road and ran up about 100m of tar to finish by my jeep. That completed the morning circuit and delivered a huge smile – on my face as well as the mountain’s. - Cape Times