Hout Bay: from which you can access a wide section of sand dune on which youngsters spend a large part of every weekend riding the sand waves. It’s also a way to reach Sandy Bay, although the path in from Llandudno is by all accounts easier, or join part of the larger Karbonkelberg Traverse – one of the six best Cape Town trails, according to Getaway magazine …
I had never seen the strip of coastline between Llandudno and Hout Bay. From the top of the hill, looking down over Sandy Bay, this part of the coastline is exceptionally beautiful. For miles there is no apparent development (this changes as one heads out on the contour path towards Hout Bay and Llandudno makes its presence known) but in the brief moment that we crested the rise and stood looking out over the bay, my breath was taken away.
It was a perfect day. The sky was a brilliant blue, and the waters below us were clear and calm, disturbed only by the restless surfacing of whales and their calves. There were no fewer than five whales in the Bay in and around Sandy Bay, some of them fairly close to shore – an awesome experience for me as I feel an incredible affinity with these giant beasts of the ocean.
Each of us was heard to mumble gratefully that if it weren’t for the fact that this portion of coastline forms part of the Table Mountain National Park, man would no doubt have ruined it for us with development, for what an incredible view and outlook! There is a wildness and nakedness seldom apparent in Cape Town any longer. The board in front of us instructed that we had reached Sandy Bay Nek with Sandy Bay down to the right (no, we couldn’t see from up here just who had clothes on or off), whilst Rocket Road took one along the contour path. Residents of Hout Bay are familiar with this contour path and we were passed en route by joggers, dog walkers and hikers.
A sand dune lay right in our path as we started out and someone described how sand blows in eddies from Sandy Bay back down to Hout Bay along the way we had come, moving sand into ever changing dunes in much the same way as it would if this were a desert. There is a particularly unusual view of Sentinel Peak from here as you look back towards Chapman’s Peak, and I kept stopping to watch the whales and drink in the views, which in hindsight I probably should not have done as we got caught in the heat of the day on the vertical climb back from the shipwreck.
The Oude Skip Hike (or Oude Schip), named after the shipwreck and also known as the Sandy Bay shipwreck hiking trail, shares portions of its hike with the larger Karbonkelberg Traverse, which is roughly seven hours of hard walk from Hout Bay harbour to Llandudno around the coast. We didn’t walk along the coast but up on the contour path above the coast. It is part of a longer walk from Llandudno to the wrecks, but we found joining at Sandy Bay more than long enough, as we were with young children.
At a given point along the path look out for the cairn (it’s fairly large, so you won’t miss it) that marks the start of the descent to the shipwrecks. There are two of them – a rust bucket on the Oudeschip point itself (when it is high tide, part of the small rocky outcrop into the sea is cut off from the mainland), which are the remains of the Harvest Capella that was wrecked here in 1986. The other is apparently the remains of two ships – the Maori 1909 and Bos 400 from 1994, a little further up the coast on the next outcrop of land just before one rounds the bend into Hout Bay. So don’t attempt this hike, if you do want to descend, at high tide.
It’s a steep decline down to Oude Skip point. The first bit of the hill you’ll have some help in the form of innovative steps made up of stones held by sturdy wire in the shape of steps, but from then on, you can end up having a pretty slippery time of it, as a lot of the stones and soil have been eroded and are loose. I wouldn’t advise pushing on to the second wreck along the coastal path – it is clearly marked as unsuitable for day strollers and would probably need a guide.
At the start of your descent, down past a lookout hut, there is a sign signifying that from here you’re welcome to push on to Hout Bay, but that it’ll take you a further 6.5 hours to do so on the coastal route. By this time though, I was pretty distracted by the whales. Halfway down I became aware that a mother and her calf were swimming right up against the shore and that half of our party hadn’t even seen her! What a fantastic sight! So close – we were only about 300 metres away from her.
We stumbled over boulders once down at the bottom, until we reached the ‘island’ where there is a wonderful space to just sit and drink in the views. It was pretty devastating to see the amount of litter that had washed up in the area usually under water during high tide. Slops, plastic bottles, old car seats, tennis balls, and endless paper bags brought sharply home to us the effort we all need to make to prevent this nonsensical devastation of our natural heritage!
Over sandwiches and ice cold watermelon (how is that for planning!) we managed to see a seal sunning on the rocks, whilst watching a number of speed boats head out our way to catch a glimpse of the whales. As we approached the island there was already a boat that had been stationed close to a mother and calf someway off the shore for sometime, which I guessed to be scientists or whale monitors. I’m amazed that, despite the need for licences to go close to whales, people think that if they have a boat they can simply do as they please – speedboats came within metres of them.
The way back was pretty tough going as we ascended in the heat of the day. We were tired and certain younger members of our party were particularly unwilling to do the climb at all, although sitting on shoulders was out of the question!
Photographs taken on the Oude Skip Hike