‘Glam’ hiking trail shows off best of Walker Bay

Posted on 27 February 2020

A new set of walking tours showcase the best of the Walker Bay wine region.

What: Glamtrails
Where: Hermanus area, Overberg
Who: Louise Topping

The hairpin paths in Fernkloof Nature Reserve ensure an easy ascent. Image credit: Achmat Booley

As I got out of my car at Fernkloof Nature Reserve, the Black Southeaster whistled through my fleece jacket and stung my cheeks with icy droplets. Not the best day for a walk in the country… I was meeting Tim Lundy to try out one of the new Glamtrails, which he designed with his wife Gillian.

With permission from landowners, Tim has developed five routes that immerse you in the area’s natural beauty, while indulging in some of the most delicious food and wine available in the Cape. It took some trial and error. ‘The first few times, we included too many wine-tasting stops and guests ended up rolling rather than walking to the end!’ he chuckled. ‘Now the tours are more balanced.’

Tim Lundy is an accredited mountain guide, author of Family Walks in the Western Cape and has a weekly hiking programme on Cape Talk radio; There are 60 kilometres of self-guided walking trails in Fernkloof Nature Reserve. Image credit: Louise Topping

We set off up the well-tended trail at Fernkloof, hardly feeling the incline. The rain eased and on entering the kloof, the wind dropped. It was a short walk to the waterfall through sheltered Afromontane forest, the only sounds a babbling stream and our footsteps on the boards. Tim clearly loves the area and has a wealth of knowledge about it. I learnt that while the nature reserve makes up only a tiny fraction of the Cape Floral Kingdom, it hosts 18 per cent of its plant species. ‘Due to this diversity, there are flowering plants all year round. There’s something beautiful to see no matter what season you visit.’

When we got back on the stony mountain path, the sky had cleared. We took our time to appreciate the herby scents of flowering proteas and ericas, and before I knew it we’d reached a height of about 320 metres, with sweeping views of Walker Bay. After a short traverse along the lofty ridge, we descended into the Hemel-en-Aarde valley.

Photographer Achmat Booley makes friends with two of the valley’s horses. Image credit: Louise Topping

Expectations are naturally high when you go to a place called ‘Heaven and Earth’. Nestled among the fynbos-covered mountains rising behind Hermanus, it easily lives up to its name. Its blend of salty-cold Southeaster (heaven) and clay soil (earth) produces the strongly individual wine varietals the area is renowned for. Many of the farms form part of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, promoting conservation of threatened indigenous vegetation. This means that vineyards cover only part of the farmland, with the rest being rehabilitated to its original state.

The valley has an eccentric history too. During the 19th century, there was a toll gate that bankrupted farmers – only those lucky enough to own a horse with four white feet were exempt. Then there was the Scottish farmer who had her staff attend elaborately solemn funerals for her horses. After crossing a few private farms, we reached Hamilton Russell, where a log fire crackled in the tasting room – a converted 120-year-old bywoners’ cottage. Here I tried the signature Pinot Noir, the wine of choice for Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth at their meeting in 1996.

The Hemel-en-Aarde valley as seen from The Restaurant at Newton Johnson. Image credit: Achmat Booley

Nicely warmed up, we headed out and made our not-so-regal way around the dam and through a pine forest, emerging on
a quiet country lane lined with cypress trees. We happily rambled past pastoral scenes, stopping a bit too often to take photos of the curious horses. None of them had four white feet (I checked).

The route passed through Bouchard Finlayson’s vineyards for another tasting. By this time the sun was properly out so I opted for the cool Chardonnay. With
so much to enjoy, it was difficult to hurry, but we needed to pick up the pace if we were to make lunch at The Restaurant at Newton Johnson.

We got there in time, and looking over the valley from a windswept height, I ate West Coast mussels with gnocchi and herbs foraged from the nearby shoreline, paired with a Spanish-style Albarino wine. I felt a visceral, or perhaps just gastronomical, understanding of that perfect heaven-and-earth balance this valley seems to have attained.

Hamilton Russell, originally a sheep farm, was the first winery in Hemel-en-Aarde, with its vines being planted in 1976. Image credit: Achmat Booley

Fitness Factor 5/10.
The walks are mostly rated as ‘moderate’. The paths were in good condition and not very steep, so it wasn’t strenuous at all.

The valley is a pocket of natural beauty and the walks allow you to enjoy it at the right pace, whatever the weather. You also
cross terrain you wouldn’t normally be able to access. Tim plans on offering multi-day trails in the near future, and I can’t wait.

From R1,500 per person, including transport from Hermanus and back, all meals and two wine tastings per farm. (Drinks with meals not included.)

The Details
We did the Fernkloof to Bouchard Finlayson walk (with lunch at Newton Johnson added). Other options include Creation to Ataraxia (with food and wine pairing), De Bos with its lofty viewpoint and ‘glamping’ picnic, and a shoreline walk in Hermanus (with a visit to an abalone farm). Distances range from three to seven kilometres (two to five hours). Routes can be tailored to suit you. 083-444-5267, glamtrails.co.za

Text: Louise Topping

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