Hike #3: Echo Valley and Boomslang Cave

Last week, the 52hikists completed our third hike of the year. It should have been our fourth, but we made a serious tactical error the week before and ended up with no choice but to climb Lion’s Head on a Sunday morning at 6am on the first day in weeks that the wind stopped blasting. The result: five million-gazillion-jillion-trillion other walkery people, all heading up the same tiny pimple of a hill.

We did not join them. Instead, we sensibly retreated to the nearest Vida and pretended to have done lots of exercise while slurping double lattes and strategically planning our next three hikes to avoid any future possibility of hiker jams. Each of us was allowed to choose a hike and a date. Alison chose Boomslang Cave because she’d done it once before years ago and, since everyone forgot to bring a headlamp that time, she didn’t see much, because there’s a limit to the speleological exploring you can do with five people gathered around the light of two very old cellphones.

Unfortunately, even though Alison brought a headlamp this time, she did something wrong with Map My Run, and this was the only map her phone recorded:

Not a route map

So, instead of proper data, here are Alison’s hand drawn (in Photoshop) map of the route, and some slightly imaginary stats.

Not Entirely Accurate Boomslang Cave Hike Details

Distance: More than 0.63km

Duration: 3 hours. Sort of. Roughly. If you muck about on rocks lots. Probably less if you don’t.

Steps: one meeeelion (ish)

Calories: Not as many as there are in a portion of Kalky’s vis ‘n tjips, unfortunately

Elevation gain: Lots of up and down, okay

Starting elevation: Boyes Drive

Max elevation: St James Peak

Yes, very childish, but it is rather annoying to go on a three-hour hike and discover that, despite your best efforts, no map was made.

10 tips if you want to do the Echo Valley and Boomslang Cave hike

  1. Make sure everyone in your group remembers to bring a headlamp. This will come in handy when you manage to find the cave.
  2. In order to find the cave, use Google Maps on your phone. (It both kind of sucks and is really handy that the cave entrance and exit are shown on Google Maps.) We recommend entering at the ‘exit’ and exiting at the ‘entrance’, because the entrance is actually further up the path, and it would be a shame to just hike up to the cave, go through it and then go back the way you came (not to mention also against our Guideline).
  3. The better cave entrance (or ‘exit’) is not the low, obvious one with lots of sand in front. It’s the one that goes through a big crack in a pile of rocks that you have to climb up and then down into. We didn’t post a photo of it because we wanted to preserve some of the mystery.
  4. Get someone who isn’t afraid of bats to go first. In fact, if you are afraid of bats, the dark, or confined spaces, just go around the outside and meet your friends on the other side. This cave is full of all three.
  5. Try to visit in spring/summer. Apparently a flock* of Schreibers long-fingered bats like to hang out in this cave in late summer and most of winter, and it’s really not nice to disturb them. (Also, you will get rather muddy if it’s been raining.) There is also a pod* of Cape Horseshoe bats in the Bat Chamber. Be very, very quiet and don’t shine your torches on them. It’s not polite.
  6. Crawling through a cave in the dirt means you end up covered in sticky, dark brown sand. Best wear long pants.
  7. For heaven’s sake, don’t add to the graffiti problem. If you are the kind of person who thinks it’s cool to write their name on nature, I am sending powerful killer vibrations through your keyboard right now and you will die in the next 30 seconds. Bye.
  8. The caving part of this hike is fun, but don’t miss the Spes Bona Forest (the return route on the map) which most of us thought was the real highlight of the hike.
  9. After this hike, you will be ready for some vis ‘n tjips at Kalky’s, so bring at least R50 for hake and chips and another R20 for a cold drink.
  10. However, you will not be ready for the Freak Wave that klaps one of your crew (and a couple of other people) while you’re walking innocently along the harbour wall, resulting in a visit to the Constantiaberg Medi Clinic and 11 stitches in the victim’s lip. None of us will ever walk on that wall again…

*I’m not sure what the collective noun for bats is and it’s been a very long day so I feel like I can just wing it here. If you know, or if you aren’t too lazy to Google it, please let me know.

Photos from the Echo Valley and Boomslang Cave Hike

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