After several years of watching my sister and her fiancé spend summer weekends trail running along the Rocky Mountains, we were longing for an trail adventure of our own during our Cape Town trip. With the Grandparents to watch the kids, we had ample time to get away and explore. Table Mountain was an obvious choice as it was easily accessible from Ian’s parents house, but I was looking to explore an area I hadn’t been before. Using the website and app Trail Run Project, we found the Bastille Day 25km (15.5 mile) course. This race is run in June starting at the Berg River Dam area of Franschhoek about an hour from Cape Town. Franschhoek is a beautiful wine area and vineyards surrounded the mountains.
We were out of the house by 6:00 am and on the road to Franschhoek. The app gave coordinates for the starting point of the route. A basic search the day before we left didn’t produce any sort of special requirements to get around this area on your own. GPS dropped us in the general vicinity. We could see the dam and the mountains, but no place to park car. There were gates that closed off the entrance to the mountain area and sign with information about obtaining a permit. This was apparently a new regulation after mountain biking trails had been expanded in that area. We saw a house and a small lodge along the water. After some negotiations with the owners, they allowed us to park inside their fence. Happy to be out of the car and moving, we starting jogging along the road looking to get into the trails. Dead end again and after about a mile of running around the perimeter, we approached the lodge owner to open their private fence for us to enter. They told us that the start of the race course was just beyond the fence.
I had loaded the course map onto my GPS watch, but was still unfamiliar with following the route while running. The Trail Running Project App shows you where you are on the map as you go along, but it will not tell you where or when to turn. We settled for that navigation in the end and for the most part it was reliable. We under estimated the conditions some, despite our research. We didn’t take into considerate that this race is run in the winter (cooler and rainy) and we were attempting it in the summer. The routes were overgrown with foliage and thorn bushes. The trails were extremely rocky and much was it was covered in loose stones. It lent much more for hiking and not as much for running, at least for these Michiganders. A section of the uphill was spent climbing on hands and feet up a steep incline. It was worth, as we came to our highest point and started running around the mountain. Sweeping views of the vineyards were our rewards. We ran down into a valley between 2 crests. We got caught in some convectional rain and despite there being a draught in the western cape the protea flowers were thriving along this section. We lost the course crossing over a river. Shortly after I tripped and fell into a pile of stones and we decided to run the 1.5 miles back along the service road to the dam to finish. Check out our adventure on Ian’s or I’s Strava pages (mine was minus a few miles tinkering with my watch).
Overall, it ended up being about 13 miles of difficult terrain and beautiful views. While I would have preferred a trail that would have been more run-able, we had a great time adventuring out of our normal comfort zones and straight into some type 2 fun at its finest.