New hiking guide for beginners

Evelyn Holtzhausen, of Wynberg, has produced a new hiking guide, Hiking Cape Town.

A former journalist and co-founder of a public-relations firm, Evelyn Holtzhausen, has written a book for beginner hikers.

Hiking Cape Town is aimed at first-timers with one or two “reasonably strenuous” hikes thrown in, says Mr Holtzhausen, of Wynberg.

He says he caught the hiking bug as a teenager, accompanying his cousin on excursions to the Drakensberg.

He has since hiked many of the major trails in South Africa, America, Spain and Norway and leads hiking groups. He is also an advocate of shinrin yoku (forest bathing).

“Shinrin yoku emerged in Japan over 50 years ago to encourage people to enjoy local forests. In Canada, it is medically prescribed for stress relief and has been scientifically linked to a number of health benefits, such as boosting concentration and lowering blood pressure,” he says.

If visions of removing clothing on a wintry day put you off, have no fear, Mr Holtzhausen says you don’t need to take your clothes off to enjoy a forest bathing experience – the “bathing“ is a metaphorical allusion to experiencing nature in a mindful way.

“But, fully clothed, you’ll emerge from the practice divested for a while of the anxieties, stresses and pressures of daily life as you absorb the benefits that flow from slowing down, breathing fresh air and simply being present in the healing energy, the essential oils emanating from trees in the forest.”

Work on the guide began around August 2021, and over 600km and climbs equivalent to twice the elevation of Mount Everest later, the book was ready to go to print, says Mr Holtzhausen.

The 35 hikes in the book – from the front face of Table Mountain to gentle rambles along the coast at Cape Point – range from easy to moderate, with several more demanding trails a short drive from the city.

Mr Holtzhausen took most of the pictures, but there are also contributions by hikers in his group, including Neil McLagan, Jayshree Govender, Gabi Traut, Sean Robertson and Lucy Schnell.

“My hiking group hiked the routes with me; we took measurements and discussed prominent landmarks. I did some hikes twice to check, and I also used the excellent Slingsby maps to verify distances,” he says.

Each description specifies the approximate walking time, distance, difficulty rating and terrain. More challenging extensions to some of the routes are provided for a more strenuous workout. Full-colour maps and photographs illustrate the routes, and information boxes offer insights into interesting aspects of the specific trails.

Mr Holtzhausen says he has one regret with the finished product. “I’m sorry that I didn’t ask people not to litter very prominently in the book. There’s so much more litter on the mountain these days. I think many first-time mountain users do not know any better and need to be told.”

He says the Palmiet River hike in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, at Betty’s Bay, is his favourite route. “It’s an easy walk in a stunningly beautiful area and a river in which to swim at the height of summer. I also like hiking the contour path from Rhodes Memorial to Constantia Nek, with a stop en route for coffee and toasted cinnamon buns at the Fynkos restaurant at Kirstenbosch.”

As for safety, Mr Holtzhausen says you are safe if you hike in a group, keep to popular routes and hike in daylight. “It’s also best to avoid known danger areas and keep an eye on news media who will warn of incidents and therefore, of areas to avoid. Fortunately, I have not had any incidents myself in the more than 600km I hiked for this book.”

Hiking Cape Town has 35 hikes from the front face of Table Mountain to gentle rambles along the coast at Cape Point.