The Highlands Trail is a unusual trail in the Kogelberg that traverses farmland and wilderness, lagoon and beach. Access to Iona Farm where the trails starts and ends can be from either side of the Kogelberg. In this instance we wanted to dump our equipment at the overnight stop in Kleinmond so we drove the long route in to Kleinmond, dumped our overnight equipment and food (after locating the keys) and took one car to Iona Farm. All in all it took a good 2-3 hours of driving from Cape Town to the start so an early start is highly advisable.
The weather was pretty threatening and later on would play a big part in our hike but when we started we had light drizzle every so often. We started at about 11. in the morning. The first part of the route passes through farmland and while the route is quite easy, the vista’s are also somewhat tedious. The cooler weather made this easier to walk; this is not a hike we would like to do in mid-summer.
Occasionally the route markers are absent and you need to follow best guess to make your way along the route. Toward mid afternoon we came to the edge of the plateau and glorious views over the lagoon. From here it was a descent through fynbos that had clearly been burnt about 2 years before, with many burnt trees. On the way down the rain started to get heavier. After quite a lengthly descent we crossed over the road and things really went pear-shaped. In the absence of markers we turned right whereas we should have gone left. The right took us along a road whereas going left would have taken us down to the lagoon and along the edge. As it turned out either route OK but you do have to head towards the Rooisand car part on the right hand route that we were on which means turning off at the point where the road curves up towards the Kogelberg.
The real killer was the rain. It poured down on us for a good 2 hours so that water poured out of our shoes every step and raincoats become saturated. Considering that it was February, it was an extraordinary quantity of rain. Eventually we reached the Rooisand car park with water streaming off us in all directions and no sign of let up. What we could not find was the path to cross the lagoon. After some short searching and deciding that hypothermia could become an issue if we did not keep moving, we turned up towards the main road to try and reach our overnight hut. After an amazingly long walk we turned onto the main road and tried to hitch a ride, not surprisingly no-one offered us a lift. Eventually we took shelter in a shed and contacted a friend in Kleinmond to give us a lift to the hut which they ever so kindly did. Naturally the rain eased off as soon as we arrived at the hut!! The Frank Robb hut is a very basic hut with minimal washing and cooking facilities but that day it was a fantastic break from being rained on…After drying off, hanging out sodden clothes to dry and making a fire and food we all felt a lot better and retreated to sleep.
The next day dawned clear and sunny and despite some comments about abandoning the day we got going pretty early (8am). A short walk to the nearby golf course made everyone feel better and we easily picked up the route from the corner of the parking area. The route traverses the side of the mountain above Kleinmond, staying on the same level for quite a way and giving good and changing views over Kleinmond. As the path curves around the corner, however, the hard work starts as the path heads up a valley behind the mountain we had just crossed the front of. Once we got to the nek at the top of the valley, the path turned left and headed upwards again towards the ridge. To the left are some strangely shaped “finger” rocks. The path up is a brutally short climb to the top and once there we could look over the Kogelberg towards the Palmiet storage scheme and back towards Kleinmond.
After a break we followed the path along the ridge, traversing some relatively precarious drop off’s and accompanied by spectacular views over Kleinmond. Once around the edge we followed the road which drifts down into the Kogelberg and then turns right towards Iona. This is a long section and again not something we would like to do on a hot day. The rocks are white and the reflected glare is incredible as is the heat. Even on this relatively cool day, it was very hot hiking on this section. Eventually, we passed plantations of palm trees and made our way down to Iona Farm. We then still had to drive back to the overnight hut and collect our things before taking the long trek back to Cape Town.
All in all this is a good, fun hike with some boring sections that just have to be negotiated and some fantastic scenery. An added complexity is the need to book the accommodation separately from the hike so early booking is important. The photos of the Highlands Trail are here