Lion’s Head

Lion’s Head is situated between Table Mountain and Signal Hill in Cape Town and has one of the most popular and rewarding hiking trails. The panoramic views of Cape Town, the Table Mountain range and the Atlantic as you wind your way up Lion’s Head as well as a view of Robben Island are part of what makes this hike so popular. Lion’s Head is 669m at its peak, but the hiking trail starts a fair distance up. The hike is free, but due to its popularity you may end up parking a fair distance from the start of the trail. The trail starts off on a large dirt road and then becomes a narrower stepped pathway, closer to the top there is a section that uses chains, but this can be avoided by an alternate route which is slightly longer but easy for those who like their feet on the ground or those hiking with children. The very last section is rather steep with some light scrambling and waist-height steps, but completely worth the effort. The same route takes you back down. Capetonians often do this hike to catch sunrise on top, or sunset on top and then hike down by moonlight (and headlamp). You will also often see those hiking with massive paragliding packs as there is a launch site on the way up.

On Mother’s Day last year my request was to do a family hike, and since it was Mother’s Day, how could my family say no?

On Mother’s Day last year my request was to do a family hike, and since it was Mother’s Day, how could my family say no? As a family who had only 2.5 months prior become a family of 5 we had spent a lot of time indoors and it was time to get out. Lion’s Head is one of my all-time favourite hikes and we have done it many times in the past as a couple and even with our eldest when she was little, but as this would be her first time hiking we set our goal at Wally’s Cave and not the top of Lion’s Head. The idea of Wally’s Cave got Emma super excited as she is probably the biggest Where’s Wally fan and thought that we were actually going to visit Wally in his cave. No matter how many times we explained to her that he would not be in the cave, she set her hopes on finding him.

A hidden two and a half month old Seth

Being a family of 5 packing, getting ready, toilet trips, breastfeeding sessions and more toilet trips took about an eternity but finally we were on the way with high hopes. On the drive to Lion’s Head we explained to Emma how strong she was and how capable we thought she was. (We also showed her some sweets that would be a reward along the way.) All in all we were motivated and started hiking around 8am.

The very start of the hike is steep and for a person with little legs and 2 two unfit parents carrying children the start was hard going. It wasn’t long and Emma started to moan a little, but we pointed out the beautiful view, some silver leaf trees (Leucadendron argenteum) and pretty flowers, this kept her distracted and she kept going. Fellow hikers on the route encouraged her all along the way and this really helped her to just keep going. We got to the turn off to Wally’s Cave as saw that the route had been closed due to erosion of the path. At this point I thought we had gone as far as we would go. We broke the news to Emma that we wouldn’t be able to go to Wally’s Cave but offered her the choice of going on toward the top (not excepting her to choose that option or to get to the top). She was disappoint that she wouldn’t be meeting Wally, but excited said that she wanted to go on. The trail changes to a stepped pathway and here a little girl needs to climb a little, this made it interesting enough for her to keep going. The moaning was minimal and when it started, we would set a little goal and promise a rest and a treat if we reached it. Before we knew it we were getting close to the top. We avoided the section with the chains and took the detour instead which may have been the quicker option as the queue at the chains is generally pretty long. Both boys had slept a fairly large portion of the way up and so apart from their weight they had been really easy. The last little section before you reach the top requires quite a bit of climbing, especially when you are 3 and have short legs, but our determined Emma pushed through and made it to the top. We couldn’t have been prouder of our girl who had hiked the entire way to the top herself.

A very proud Emma

It was also the day we realised that we can start hiking again as a family and the day that Emma decided that she was a hiker.

We made it! Our first summit as a family of five

On top we had a long rest, enjoyed the view, took photos and ate all the left-over snacks. It was then time to start our decent, but it was also getting close to nap time which meant Em’s mood was starting to not be as consistent. She did really well and we made some quick progress but then the wheels started to fall off a little and there was a stage that Brian had to carry her (and Jude in the backpack) for a section. We rested as she needed and tried not to rush her. She was so proud of herself and still encouraged by all the friendly hikers on the trail the commended her on her achievement. She then continued to walk until we were about half way down the dirt road when she just sat down and would not/could not go any further. We let her rest and tried to encourage back to her feet but she did not want to go any further. A friendly stranger hiking with her two girls and husband walked past and stopped and chatted to Emma a little, she kindly offered to carry Emma the last couple of 100 meters to the end of the hike. The drive home from the hike was quiet with 3 sleeping babes in the back seat. That was my best Mother’s Day yet. It was also the day we realised that we can start hiking again as a family and the day that Emma decided that she was a hiker.

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