The edited version of this article appeared in the Sunday Times SA on 8 December 2019
NATURE, FOOD & WINE
Author and pro mountaineer Tim Lundy is a fresh air fanatic with a passion for a good ramble. With thirty years of guiding under his belt he has become something of a legend in the South African hiking fraternity and his latest guided tour offering is a triple whammy for nature lovers, foodies and oenophiles. With a choice of five stop-start walks through the Western Cape’s exquisite Hemel-en- Aarde (Heaven-and-Earth) valley, the recently launched Glamtrails showcases the best of what this extraordinary part of the Overberg has to offer in terms of fauna, flora, landscapes, the Hermanus harbour and the blue chip Walker Bay wine collective. This is sustainable tourism at its best!
The initiative, borne out of a convo between Lundy, his wife Gillian and the late Ezanne Newton Johnson took several years to plan. Thanks to input from botanist and conservationist Frank Woodvine and invaluable introductions to private landowners by Bevan Newton Johnson, Lundy was able to curate a sumptuous portfolio of family-friendly hikes that unmask the region in a splendid and unusual way.
THE FERNKLOOF TRAIL
Rising above Hermanus in the Kleinrivier Mountains is Fernkloof, an 14km2 Nature Reserve with a 60 kilometre network of well-maintained paths that snake around the berg like a fine white ribbon. This Glamtrail begins at the Botanical Centre, and climbs to an elevation of 321m up a path that’s steep but hardly noticeable because of the subtle gradient. Before you know it you’re at the landmark bench installed in 2015 on the occasion of the aforementioned Mr. Woodvine’s 85th birthday, in honour of his stellar contribution to conservation.
At 300m it’s the ideal place for a breather and the sensational views across Hermanus and the Atlantic are the payoff. Right from the start, the footpath is flanked by fynbos, the fine-leafed scrub adapted to inhospitable soils and the undisputed star of the Cape floral biome. The Fernkloof reserve is said to be the only place on earth to host so many different species – around 1600 – in such close proximity.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Restios, papery Everlastings (above), fuchsia pink Ericas and pincushion Proteas are a constant and the peppery scent, particularly strong in the early morning, is everywhere, so breathe deeply. Although the walk is to time, Tim’s pace is unhurried with plenty of opportunity to rest, ask questions and take photographs.
The wildlife here – baboons, klipspringers, dassies and antelope – keep a low profile and as bird life goes, mostly orange breasted sunbirds, rock thrush and Verreaux eagles can be spotted. The first wine tasting, a conservative tippling considering that one still needs to do a bout of walking afterwards, happens about 90 minutes in, at Hamilton Russell, the estate that pioneered viticulture in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. The second tasting, an hour later, is at Bouchard Finlayson, the award winning boutique winery, and the fitting finale to this trail is a slow lunch, with wine of course, at The Restaurant at Newton Johnson, a fitting finale to the day’s excursion.
2. CREATION HIKE
The hike from Creation Wines has a completely different look and feel. A wide dirt track cuts through the private lands of Nidderdale fruit farm, ending at the Ataraxia wine lounge on the hilltop, a stylish tasting room built to resemble a chapel.
With the Babylon’s Tower peak looming to one side and rolling hills and vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see, it’s a stunning locale best appreciated over a glass of chardonnay. Back on the move, the route loops back past the vines, through fern thickets, shady pine forests and meadows of swaying heather.
This last leg of the walk is especially serene, the silence interrupted by Piet-My-Vrous (red chested cuckoos) chirps and the crunch of dry leaves underfoot. Small dams fringed with ochre water invite a moment of contemplation and the excursion ends two hours later with a gourmet food and wine pairing back at Creation, one of the most outstanding destination estates on the West Coast.
Book a hike through www.glamtrails.co.za / @glamtrails on Instagram / prices start at R2100pp and include all the tastings at blue chip estates and gourmet lunches
Explore Hermanus https://hermanus-tourism.co.za/
Hang out at Onrus Beach and lagoon
Browse jewellery at Geta Finlayson Studio www.geta.co.za
Go whale watching (best between July and November)
Staycation: Voormanshuis on Creation Wine Estate
Getting there: The N2 towards Botrivier and then the R320 towards Hermanus
Don’t forget: hat, sunblock, walking shoes, water, camera