Goodbye Sheffield

And so we did get our snow in Sheffield. And we had huge fun in it until late last night.

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But our concerns about getting out of my parents’ rather steep road were also well founded. The roads around us were littered with abandoned vehicles and there were plenty of accidents as well.

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Other methods of transport may have been more appropriate.

But thanks to the community effort of the local residents, we’re out and on our way on the first leg of our journey south. It’s been an amazing break and it’s horrible to leave friends and family behind, but there’s sunshine and a beagle to look forward to, or so I’m told.
Ahead of that, several (or more) hours of travel including three continents and at least two big aeroplanes.

Fair Play: Afrihost sorted my internet problem

You may have read that I had issues connecting to my blog from home and from the lab yesterday. There was plenty of to’ing and fro’ing with Afrihost (who are both my ISP and hosting provider) on email and twitter, but nothing got sorted.
Many kind people made suggestions here and on twitter, but I had floppy beagle issues last night (Colin got snipped and chipped), so I didn’t get chance to do a lot of exploration.

Then, this morning, incoming email from ‘Critical Care’ at Afrihost. I had no idea I was in such a perilous state. And here’s what they had discovered:

As suspected from my side, the Netstat rules for your IPs on your public connection were on the temporary prohibit list which I have now removed and you will be able access the website from all devices from your home network.
I have investigated the reasoning behind the listing and the reason seems to be that the website was attempting to be accessed from these IPs during an update – when security becomes most strict – and rather to be safe than sorry they were listed.
These updates only happen once a year so the likely hood of this happening again is extremely minimal 🙂

Thanks, Michael.

I don’t really understand what went wrong, but to find some sort of analogy, it seems that my home and work network were being tjatjarag and the website felt threatened, probably remarked something along the lines of “So you think you are a king?”, pushed them to the floor and barred them from entering the metaphorical building.

All is sorted now.

Oh, and Colin is much recovered this morning too. Thanks for your concern.

Noble looking beagle quota photo

Does exactly what it says on the tin.

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Say what you like about beagles; they are very good at eating everything you own looking noble in photographs.
And that’s perfect when you’re running a bit short of time and there’s Champignons League footy on.

How to climb to Elephant’s Eye from Silvermine

Subtitle: with two kids and a beagle puppy.

The Elephant’s Eye cave is situated high up on the Constantiaberg mountain, and has wonderful views over the Constantia Valley and Cape Flats.

It can be done, and it’s worth doing. You’ll need to do a little prep though.

For the kids:
Ours are 6 and 8. It’s quite a hike, so make it exciting: let them know that you’re going to go and see this amazing cave on the mountain. Tell them that it will be an adventure and that they need to be ready for a big expedition. Mention that there will be lollipops and a picnic in the cave.
For the beagle puppy:
You’ll need a dog walking permit. You could look at TMNP’s “Walking With Dogs” pamphlet, but only if you have a PhD in cartography and a deep telepathic understanding of how their dog policies work. Good luck with that.
The simple answer is that you need a Level 1 My Activity Permit. It’s R210 for first user, and you can sign up a second user for R75 at the same time. This allows you to walk two (2) dogs per permit holder within the TMNP for one year. To find where you can and can’t walk your dog, you’ll need to consult the pamphlet above, but suffice to say that the walk to Elephant’s Eye from Silvermine is one of those places that you can.
For you:
Check the weather forecast. There’s little point in heading up there on a miserable day. Equally, a scorching hot hike will be of limited fun as well. Also, you’ll need “a morning” for this (we used 4½ hours, all in).

What to take:

  • Sturdy trail walking shoes or boots. Flops won’t cut it here.
  • Dog leash. Legally, you have to have one with you. Your dog doesn’t actually have to be using it, but your beagle puppy may run off if it’s not securely attached.
  • Water. Loads and loads and loads of water. And a bowl for your beagle puppy’s water.
  • Picnic. Stuff to eat. It’s not hard. Don’t forget lollipops and dog treats.
  • Sensible clothing. Protection from the elements, whatever they might be on the day you choose.
  • Sunblock/Sunhat etc. Yep. I know. Still needs to be said.
  • Swimming stuff and towel. You’ll want a dip in the reservoir at the end (leave these in your car for hike).
  • Camera. Because views.
  • Aforementioned Level 1 Activity Card. If you have a beagle puppy.

Park up at Silvermine, via Gate 1, just off Ou Kaapse Weg. It (Gate 1) opens at 7am in summer and this is a walk best started early. It’ll cost you R40 per adult and R20 per child. Your beagle puppy will be allowed in free of charge. Irritatingly, no-one will ask to see your hugely expensive dog walking permit at any point during the hike [personal experience]. *also, see Rich’s comment below

The walk:
If you’ve climbed Lion’s Head, then you’ll recognise the terrain on this one. Some clear track, some rocky scrambles, some big steps, some big drops. Take care out there.
When you get the car park, you will see three well signposted paths. The one on the right is the one you want:

The middle path is the boardwalk to the dam (but no dogs are allowed up here) and on the right, behind the metal barrier, is the dog-friendly track up to the dog-friendly part of the dam. You’ll need this later.

The first part of the walk is through a narrow, shady, tree-lined path. It’s easy going. About 300m in, there are some loos and the path then opens out into a wide track, surrounded by fynbos like Mountain Dahlias. Watch your feet too: we saw dung beetles doing their thing here.
The track bends up to the right and comes to a t-junction, where you should turn left. This is just about the only bit of the walk where you share the path with mountain bikers, so watch out for mountain bikers.
The first proper climb begins at the 1km mark with the sign Shortcut to Elephant’s Eye. It’s short and steep, but once you’re up to the top, you bear right over the hill and are rewarded with the first of the truly astounding views.

The path runs along the back of the trees (enjoy the shade) and then crosses a small mountain stream where there are tadpoles to be caught. From there, the second big climb starts – gently at first towards the fire lookout – the views from which are well worth the steep but short diversion – and then zigzagging up the elephant’s trunk towards the cave. You’ll probably want to keep your beagle puppy (and your kids) on a short leash for the last 100 metres or so, as the drop on the right is “significant”. But then, suddenly, you’re at the HUGE cave, with its fern-lined ceiling and breathtaking views out across towards the Helderberg.

We saw the cave at its best and its worst – we had the privilege of  having the whole thing to ourselves for 5 minutes and not 10 minutes later, there were fifty people in there and it was chaotic. I liked it better when it was just us.

Going back down is, unsurprisingly, pretty much the upward journey in reverse. Just take care not to turn right down the hill too early as you approach the fire lookout – that’s the “alternative route” back – it’s longer and with fewer views. It is signposted as such, but it’s not necessarily clear as you approach from above.

Enjoy the sight of the reservoir as you head back over into the Silvermine Valley. And take care of your tired children and tireder beagle puppy down the large steps on the way down.

Once you’re back at the car park, pick up your swimmies and your towel and head up that left-hand track to the “far side” of the reservoir. Dogs are only allowed in the corner next to the dam wall, but that’s fine – all you want is some cool water and a nice relaxing swim. The water is exceedingly clean and exceedingly red/brown as well – it’s like swimming in (cold) rooibos.

Then, take your newly-refreshed kids back home. You’ll probably need to carry your beagle puppy back to the car because it will either be asleep or want to be asleep. This behaviour will continue all afternoon.

The stats:
Total distance: 7.33km
Time up: About 2 hours, (leisurely pace with plenty of water breaks and photo-ops).
Time down: About 1 hour 15 minutes, including tadpole hunting.
Total ascent: 380m
Max altitude: 674m
Photo album link

Hiking guides on 6000 miles…Alfred Wainwright eat your heart out.

Elephant’s Eye

A quick family hike up from Silvermine to the Elephant’s Eye cave overlooking the Constantia valley and Cape Flats this morning. It was 7.5km of rocky paths and scrambles, together with almost 400m in ascent: hard work, but we enjoyed ourselves and the views were superb.

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Sadly, we appear to have broken Colin, who needed to be carried the last few hundred metres, having lain down and refused to get back up again. Or was unable to. Whichever.
Colin is still asleep, three hours after we got back.

I’ll try and do a longer post on this sometime this week. Photos here.