Back Up, Peter Ridgway, wrote this account of his experience of the 75km hike. Without his assistance the walk would have been impossible.
When Binny resigned from fulltime employment after some 14 years with the same employer, I was a tad nervous. How were the animals and I going to survive the day with her at home – two self employed persons working from home could be problematic. I needn’t have worried. After an already planned month holiday in the English Lake District – 150 miles of mountain biking and 50 miles of hiking, things should have settled down. However, the Ridgway Ramblers name was conceived by a friend and Binny proceeded to get her advanced mountain guide qualification assessed and completed. It was over yet another cup of tea in July 2009 with fellow mountain hiker Kirsty Gordon, that a non-stop hike from Cape Point to the bottom of Platteklip Gorge, half on road and half on mountain, was conceived. The SPCA was identified as an appropriate charity to support and the planning started.
I gracefully excused myself from any involvement, other than being on the day backup. A pedometer was purchased and Binny’s fuel bill reduced drastically by her walking to any shop in Claremont and Kenilworth – she was averaging 10km a day for week days in August and September. This flat walking was supplemented by at least 2 longer mountain hikes a week in the mountain.
Planning with the SPCA intensified in October and a 20km test mountain hike from Kalk Bay to Constantianek was done in September. This was to form the start of the night section of the planned hike. Nobody took much notice of the 37km from Cape Point to Kalk Bay. It was the 38km from Kalk Bay to the foot of Platteklip Gorge via the mountains at night was the part that everybody was worried about. The planning was now over and Saturday 3 October 2009 arrived. The appointed day arrived and we were up at 05h30 to ensure that nothing was left to chance. The girls loaded into my bakkie to get to the start with Barend and I following to hand over the dogs at 12.00. (No dogs allowed in Cape Point. The first 14km of the walk). By the time we left, I had forgotten about the medication Kirsty had asked me to collect , and more importantly had forgotten about Dan dropping off a head torch for Kirsty to use during the night hike. While speeding along the M3, Dan phoned as asked about the torch. Luckily I had forgotten about the medication so I had to go back anyway and also fetch the torch. As we were driving towards the Cape Point Nature Reserve gate I saw an Isuzu bakkie with canopy drive off into the distance – no cellphone reception at the gate. Stop! Luckily it was someone else and they were still at the gate. Barend still wanted to go to the point and we couldn’t go in the reserve because we had Roderick and Judy with us – certain children are not allowed in the park. We eventually made a plan and I was then racing back to Claremont with the dogs and the task of collecting two different types of headlights for Kirsty. At 10h00 I fielded a call from Binny requesting that I prepare a flyer that the walkers can distribute when people ask what they are doing and where they can donate. I was now trying to work out the sequence of events to ensure I can arrive back at the Cape Point gate at 12h00. The appointed pharmacy was notorious for always taking its time processing prescriptions. Also, I didn’t have the script and looked slightly different to Kirsty except for the natural blonde hair and curvatious figure. And, what the hell should I put in this flyer and how am I going to make sufficient copies. I couldn’t go straight to the pharmacy because I couldn’t leave the dogs in the car as it was becoming very hot. In fact it was about 5 degrees warmer in Claremont compared to Cape Point. With the dogs back at home and flyer typed and in the process of being printed, I collected the medication with relative ease as blondie had phoned ahead and it was ready for collection.
I now switched to Binny’s “Ridgway Ramblers” branded car and raced to Cape Point at 11h30 after having to fill up with fuel for the day. I arrived at the Cape Point gate at 12h15 and attempted to hand over the dogs to Binny, but the leads were in the bakkie which was now racing its way back to Cape Point with Jenny and Wendy who had only walked the first 14km section in the reserve. The dogs and I now drove ahead and I felt like Mother Hubbard busying myself with cutting the 2800 flyers which were printed on 200 pages of 14 a page – it was cathartic. It wasn’t long before I was moving from shady spot to shady spot dispensing flyers, water and words of wisdom to the intrepid walkers. All were complaining about how hard the road surface was – most were used to hiking in the mountains, and the road was perceived to be a doddle, but Maggie steamed ahead like an express train with the fear that “if I stop I’ll get cold and sore”. Maggie was nursing a heel injury she sustained on the 20km warm up hike, the good doc Roland was feeling a bit footsore, and Table Mountain National Park rangers Bradley Mzwandike–Wana and Khuselo Mafuya looked easy, while their German Shepherds loped happily along after a good watering. Despite the excellent conditions along the main road through Simons Town, Glencairn, Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay, the road was hot, busy and pretty boring. The dogs were regularly watered and cared for, but were taken off the road at Simons Town due to the heat reflection off the tarred surfaces. We forget as humans that dogs on four legs are more exposed to the reflected heat than we humans are. Various groups of people with their dogs joined the hikers en route. I was fortunate enough to share the car with Harry the Boston Terrier as well as Fury the German Shepherd – Judy our Jack Russell cross Ridgeback was not as delighted. Doc Roland decided to call it a day at Glencairn after his foot which had been troubling him from the start gave in. I dropped him off at a friend in Glencairn Heights for diagnosis (my feet hurt) and treatment (gimme a beer). The traffic through Fish Hoek was busy as many people were enjoying the first really warm day in spring at the beach. Maggie was the first to reach Café Olympia in Kalk Bay followed closely by Brita. Bradley and Khuselo were in such deep conversation with each other after failing to catch the speeding Maggie, that they forgot to stop at Café Olympia. After realizing that they didn’t stop I proceeded to pursue them, but got caught in the stop go section of the road construction. Just as the queue started moving again I spotted them from behind realizing that they forgot to stop. They suddenly stopped dead in their tracks and spun around with very wide smiles on their faces and laughing. They had managed to almost walk to St James.
Café Olympia was the first official rest stop for the walkers. Most people used this as a supper stop before the start of the mountain hiking section. Most walkers did the first 37km in about 8 ½ hours. At this point Maggie decided that she would not do the mountain section as her heel was troubling her. Kirsty was also feeling uneasy, but decided to continue and reassess her position at Oukaapseweg, 6km into the mountain section. One person whose name I have failed to record decided to call it quits in Simons Town and joined Roderick and Judy in the bakkie with Hilton and Marilyn (Barend and Maggie’s children). Roderick enjoyed the never ending attention (including snacks which he stole from unsuspecting people) – we are still enjoying Roderick’s smelly farts! Judy spent the most of the time looking tortured, as is her most classic look with things out of the ordinary – she hates change. The 38km section from Kalk Bay to Platteklip Gorge was started by Binny Ridgway, Kirsty Gordon, Brita Unite, Lindy Croxford, Mary Murphy, Helen Beatham, Candi Horgan, Bradley Mzwandike-Wana and Khuselo Mafuya. Dave Foster, Abrie Swanepoel and Doc Billa Eickhoff joined the group for the 38km mountain section, while Kim Muller, her daughter Jessica and friend Jane joined for the 6km crossing to Silvermine.
Now that the road section was completed the real hiking began. Casualties to date were Maggie and Doc Roland. Other walkers at various sections en route to Kalk Bay were Jenny Stern, Wendy Gersie, Michelle Hogg, Michelle’s friend (not Pooh Bear), Sally Cox and Norma (the desert walking icons), Irene (Harry the Boston Terrier’s mom) and friends, Jan Meyer with his beautiful German Shepherd and Virginia Davids.
With the group now being off road and out of cellphone contact for a while, I retired to Felix Unite’s home for a few moments distraction of a braai with Kim Muller and Billa Eickhoff’s husbands. Peter Muller was on call to fetch Kim, Jess and Jan at 08h30, so after a litre of cooldrink and some crisps we proceeded to Oukaapseweg at 20h15. Of course they were not there at the appointed time so we walked along the road for a while until we saw their lights in the distance. At this point Mary and Helen (the Irish chicks) were taking strain and I sensed a bit of concern in the group at how the average pace had drastically dropped. Kirsty decided to call it a day and the rest topped up with water for the next 14km section which would have no water stops or flowing streams en route. We decided to transport everyone from Silvermine south to Silvermine north in the vehicles as the traffic on Oukaapseweg was just too unsafe to allow tired bodies and minds to negotiate on foot – 12 hours and 43km down 32km to go. Hilton Blumeris (head of security Table Mountain National Park) also met everyone at Oukaapseweg. Rangers Bradley and Khuselo were in radio contact with his control room at all times – everyone felt very safe and secure.