Fancy footwork: glam hiking trails (with wine!) in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley
Glamtrails are wonderful way to wander through the Overberg, then restore yourself with food and wine, writes Allison Foat
Author and pro mountaineer Tim Lundy is a fresh-air fanatic with a passion for a good ramble. With 30 years of guiding under his belt, he has become something of a legend in the South African hiking fraternity and his latest 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 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 Walker Bay wine collective.
The initiative took several years to plan. Thanks to input from botanist and conservationist Frank Woodvine and invaluable introductions to private landowners from 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.
We tried two of their trails:
FERNKLOOF TO BOUCHARD FINLAYSON
Estimated time: 4 hours (stop-start)
Grading: 2B (some mild climbing)
Rising above Hermanus in the Kleinrivier Mountains is Fernkloof, a 14km2 nature reserve with a 60km network of well-maintained paths that snake around the berg like a fine, white ribbon.
The trail 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 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 star of the Cape floral biome. The reserve is said to be the only place on Earth to host so many different species - around 1,600 - in such close proximity. Restios, papery everlastings, bright 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.
As for the bird life, mostly orange-breasted sunbirds, rock thrush and Verreaux's eagles can be spotted.
The first wine tasting, a conservative tippling as 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.
CREATION WINE FARM TO ATARAXIA AND BACK
Estimated time:: 3 hours (stop-start)
The hike from Creation Wines has a completely different look and feel. The wide dirt track cuts through the private Nidderdale fruit farm, past rows of elegant poplars and ends 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, meadows of swaying heather and, for a while, in the shade of a pine forest.
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 with water in an extraordinary shade of ochre 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.
THE OTHER TRAILS
OLD HARBOUR TO NEW HARBOUR
Estimated time: 2 hours
Grading: 1A (an easy stroll)
This mostly flat, urban stroll along the Hermanus coast ends with a tour of a working abalone farm and a tasting.
BOUCHARD FINLAYSON TO NEWTON JOHNSON
Estimated time: 2 hours
Beautiful country trails lead up through a spectacular kloof for lunch at Newton Johnson's The Restaurant, with spectacular views of the valley.
DE BOS ESTATE
Estimated time: 1.5 hours
The trail by legendary local botanist Frank Woodvine takes in the estate's incredible vegetation, and leads up to a look-out deck with some spectacular views before winding down to the Frame House refreshment station.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
The hikes cost from R1,400 to R2,200 per person depending on the trail and the size of the group. The price includes certain travel costs, meals, wine tastings and pairings and the guiding fee. For details see glamtrails.co.za or call Tim on 083-444-5267.