“Do you want to join me to recce an alternative route from Smitswinkel to Simon’s Town?”, Santie asked. Love to, I said. The recent fire above the town had burnt the Swartkop ridge to a crisp and the route along the ridge from Smitswinkel to Simon’s Town,  a spectacular traverse, has been closed indefinitely by SANParks. And it is a key segment on Santie’s Cape Point to Cable Car guided, slackpack hike – so she urgently needed an alternative route. The most likely route appeared to be a walk along the coast from Smitswinkel Bay, past Partridge and Miller points, Boulders Penguin Colony to the old naval town of Simon’s Town.

My cellphone battery died so the track is truncated.

The term “recce” should have served as a little warning, however. For Saffers of a certain age who were conscripts, the word is forever associated, positively or negatively, with a near-mythical special forces unit, “The Recces”, renowned for legendary escapades in the bush and by sea, and for brutal selection courses. And so we descended the track down to the Smitswinkel cluster of holiday shacks and set off north along the coast. With the tide quite high, we were quickly confronted by huge granite boulders, crumbly cliffs and a small swell smacking into rocky gulleys. Having passed what looked like an “escape route” after an hour’s worth of scrambling, we decided to backtrack and take it. In any case, the route would be too ropey to subject paying customers to. The “escape route” wasn’t much of a path and it was steep. It eventually led up to the road, but one had to crawl or bend double to negotiate the thick bush that formed a snag-filled tunnel. Either this is a poacher’s path or a track that animal’s use. With a ripped backback and a sprained finger I eventually emerged on the road, thankfully.
Smitswinkel view south
Negotiating boulders
The rest of the walk was fun as a little later we were able to follow the coast mostly and enjoy the splendour of this coastline. By the time we stumbled into Simon’s Town for a well-deserved beer and dinner, the sun had dipped behind the peninsula mountains (we did start a little late in the morning, expecting an easy hike …). Even Santie was pretty knackered – which is saying something. However, she has since refined the route, using the town’s tuk-tuk as a shuttle, to make it interesting and fairly easy

Once again, Simon’s Town’s history and character had piqued my interest, so some weeks later Marion and I played tourists and spent three days taking in the museums, the atmosphere and the eateries. I spent an enjoyable few hours in the Naval Museum, which is surprisingly large, free and fascinating. Some of the exhibits and models were of particular interest because my mother’s family used to host naval seamen during WWII. One sailor, who became engaged to my aunt, served on board the aircraft carrier Hermes which put into the naval dockyard for repairs for about three months, and then left for Ceylon where it was sunk in the Bay of Bengal. He perished along with 306 other crewmen. There are other museums and sites of historical interest that demand another visit.

Simon's Town

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