The one thing I have learnt as a consummate clutz is how to fall well because I fall often: down steps, slipping on ice, on uneven pavements, on mossy jettys, over my own feet and down mountain paths. My advice is not to use your hands to block your fall because you will injure your wrist or hand, fall backwards and to just embrace the fall with no resistance because any tension in your body is likely to cause more harm. And this is how I found myself falling well down a steep and rocky mountain path at the Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools hiking trail dressed only in my bikini and walking shoes. After all the changing at the various pools I decided that it would just be easier to stay in my bikini before we went to the next pool and swum again. The cheap thrill of efficiency was soon lost in scraping my back and thighs and I instantly regretted not being more conservative for that extra layer of clothing protection.
But other than that minor mishap, we all really enjoyed our adventure to the Crystal Pools. The Crystal Pools is a hiking trail up the Steenbras River Gorge featuring a series of beautiful pools somewhere between five and six (we kept on getting confused by the number). It takes about 45 minutes to reach the first pool and from there each pool is about 15 minutes away from the next. Then as you head up to the last pool, you face a steep climb that seems to last forever with some dodgy loose rocks. The trail is relatively well marked out with yellow painted feet and green feet markers but invariably we ended up on a couple of wrong turns wondering how other people climbed up this way (they didn’t) but we were soon able to find the right path.
The pools are also popular high-jumping spots but I am not a big fan of jumping and had already had my thrill-seeking for the day by falling down the path. We saw some young guys jumping off one of the cliffs but no-one else in my group was tempted to join them. And to take things to the next level you can also go abseiling down into the pools with a couple of guys we met from Abseil Africa. Some of my group was inspired to come back and try the abseiling out. For me, the highlight of the outing was the absolute natural beauty and serenity of the hiking trail and surrounding mountains. And being able to swim in the spectacular pools, laugh with my friends under the waterfalls and lay out on a rock in the sun eating my lunch. Nowhere else I would rather be.
- Dates. The Steenbras River Gorge and Crystal Pools hiking trail is only open between 1 November to 30 April each year.
- Booking. You can book online at NatureReserve@capetown.gov.za. We had to book 2 months in advance to secure a Saturday booking but I believe booking for a weekday is easier. A permit costs R65 each and you can book for 2-10 people.
- Bring. Hiking/Walking shoes, sunscreen, swimming costume, towel, hat, plenty of water, camera, snacks and a something for a picnic lunch.
- Getting there. Drive out to Gordon’s Bay on the N2. Take the turn-off to Gordon’s Bay and turn left onto the R44.. After about 6km you will reach Sunbird Guest Lodge on the right-hand side of the road. Parking is just further along the road, over the bridge and on the right-hand side. Cross the road and walk along the fence to the entrance where you can present your permits.
- Trail. The hiking trail to the first three or so pools is relatively easy but still requires proper walking shoes. The second last pool is spectacular but a little tricky to access with lots of boulder hopping. The last pool at the top of the Kloof is a proper mission but well worth it for sweeping views down the valley and a delightful pool at the top.
- Baboons. We were told before entering the Reserve that there were no baboons spotted in the area. Apparently baboons can be quite a problem on the hike so this means leaving food at the bottom of bags and having some-one to watch the bags at all times.
- Trash. Please clean up after yourself. Our group found several plastic bottles which we picked up and had a whole collection at the end.
Disclaimer: Booking prices and details subject to change. Please check details with the City of Cape Town before booking.