With rainy winter days, viruses taking their toll on our family and attending all the children’s birthday parties in Cape Town, it had been a couple of months since our last family hike. Spring on the West Coast is a colourful display with August and September being peak flower season in the West Coast National Park. I’d been seeing beautiful photos all over social media and we finally got a healthy, sunny, open weekend so we decided to go hiking.
There are few short day walks as well as some over-night hiking trails in the park. We selected the 7km Geelbek trail. This trail starts at the Geelbek Information Centre and is a circular, flat walk through the beach veld.
From the moment I told the kids that we were going to go hiking, Jude insisted on going on my back which isn’t our norm. Jude usually starts off with Brian and then at some point we swop boys. So after applying sunblock, Jude was loaded into my Ubuntu carrier and Seth into Brian’s baby hiking carrier and we set off.
The hike starts off through some wild grass fields. Here we saw some beautiful orange daisies and other brightly coloured flowers. I didn’t take many photos of the flowers because we were planning to go up to Postberg (the main area for spring flowers) after the walk and drive around to see the flowers there, but as it turned out, we had actually somehow already missed the best of the flowers of the season and they were somewhat underwhelming in the Postberg area. In the past we have been there in August and September and the fields of colour are breath-taking, our trip this year just didn’t quite meet my expectations.
The start of the hike is well signed with route markers. From the grassy fields you then move into more dune fynbos type vegetation. At this point Jude started asking if he could walk a bit, I didn’t think that this was a bad idea as he is quite a weight, but I soon regretted my decision. Firstly, our pace slowed down significantly, to not-really-moving-at-all kind of speed. Secondly, this portion of the hike is sandy and being a 3-year-old boy he walks in a way where basically shovels the sand directly into his socks and shoes. This caused him much distress and he stopped multiple times to empty the sand which was a futile exercise. Eventually I told him that he needed to get back onto my back, which he flat out refused. I then kindly offered him Brian’s back which he also refused. After the most epic tantrum, which even made the resident ostriches run away in fear, we settled with having him back on my back.
The next turn took us onto a white road/jeep track. On this road we saw so many tortoises. Jude started enjoying his elevated position, as from this vantage point he could spot the tortoises before Emma. We must have seen over 50 that day. We saw many other interesting little creatures on this hike including big red and black grasshoppers, large black centipedes, lizards and pretty butterflies. Along this road we met up with a group of about 10 female ostriches and ended up walking quite a long distance down the road next to them. Unfortunately, they ended up being a distraction that caused us to miss our turn off.
We had been on the jeep track for a while and knew we needed to turn off to head back through the grass to Geelbek, but this was the only part of the hike that was not well signed. The path that turns back is a narrow single track and not obviously visible from the jeep track. It is also signed for people coming from the opposite direction. So between the distracting ostriches and the poor signage we missed the turn off and continued down the jeep track for another 1.5km. Eventually Emma had had enough and just wanted to stop and rest. To prevent the mood from dipping too low, we stopped and had a lunch break. We knew we had gone too far but couldn’t figure out how we missed the path. Brain managed to find the path on Google Maps so we turned around and headed back down the jeep track that we had just come up. In this direction it was actually pretty easy to spot the foot path and we took it.
It was warm, but there was a lovely breeze. Emma was a bit over it so to distract her we sang and played I-spy, of course Jude just kept spying tortoises. Emma was at the point of giving up about 1 km from the end, so I took Jude off my back and tapped into her competitive nature and told her it was a race back to the car. I also told them that we could buy some ice-cream once we got back to the little shop at the information centre. She somehow rallied and found the energy and she and Jude ran most of the last km back. Jude, our little tank, kept stepping in the mole hills, tripping, falling, getting up and just powering on. This was quite the sight. We made it back to the car in high spirits and although the shop did not have the promised ice-cream, it did have cold juice and that seemed to be sufficient with the promise of ice-cream at home.
We then spent another couple of hours driving around exploring the park. We saw mountain zebras, bontebok, springbok and more ostriches. The viewpoint in the Postberg section over-looking the lagoon and Schaapen Island is spectacular. It was a lovely day out, our 7 km hike turned into a 10km hike, but this was achievable for Emma because it is mostly flat terrain. There are other walks in the park and some of the routes can be done on a mountain bike too. Also, just to note that there are Cape Cobras and Puff Adders in the area, I am so grateful that we didn’t encounter either of these, it could be because hiking with children is noisy. That may also be the reason why we didn’t see any steenbokkies or duikers during our hike. I would definitely recommend this hike for beginners or families with young children as the route is easy, pretty and has interesting critters along the way.