Done and Dusted! AWOL Tours guides and colleagues completed the gruelling 70km challenge  from Cape Point to Cape Town over Table Mountain yesterday, raising much needed funds the SPCA who have lost all event funding due to Covid19 and increase in abandoned pets. Watch the Video 

When Binny from Ridgway Ramblers approached AWOL Tours to partner and offer support to this epic #trails4tails fundraising event for the SPCA we committed to the challenge. As Covid19 pandemic has effectively wiped out our entire tourism industry and as a result our team has been left without any real purpose to fulfill our passion.  So with this challenge in mind, a group of committed trail guides including Binny Ridgway, Sally Petersen, Sue Parker-Smith, Amanda Twyman , Jeremy Schreiner, Bevan-Hope Baillie and Darsha Pershina  got together for regular training hikes with a renewed purpose whilst using our free time to raise R50,000 (and counting) for a worthwhile cause.  Read more  about the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.Mountain Guides are a very special group of people, who mostly dedicate there careers to following a passion of being outdoors and in nature. We also all tend to be super organised,  service orientated and highly sociable beings having normally to cater for guests touring requirements. So, after a year of being deprived of our livelihoods, it was really awesome to have a purpose and opportunity to cater for our own expedition.Everything worked like clockwork, with all of us easily falling into our roles – whether it was logistics, route planning, bicycle preparation and vehicle support or meal planning. As we planned to be out for a full 15 hours we needed to arrange for breakfast, lunch and dinner (including healthy snacks and liquids) to keep us energized along the way.So yesterday a group of eight of us headed out pre-dawn to enter into Cape Point at the opening hour to depart on the first leg of our 70km expedition,  cycling 35km to Kalk Bay. It was absolutely blissful cycling through the reserve at sunrise devoid of any traffic towards Kalk Bay, only seeing groups of other cyclists participating on the virtual 109km Cape Town cycle tour challenge heading in the opposite direction.We met our support vehicle driver, Debbie Bacher (from Artists and legends who’s film business has also been impacted by the pandemic) at 8.20am, changed into our hiking gear and after a delicious breakfast at Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay we headed up the old mule path past Weary Willy’s and Nellies Pool (my regular stomping ground) to cross over Ou Kaapse Weg into Silvermine Nature Reserve for the second leg. This was relatively easy walking with many engaging conversations to keep the energy levels high.

At Silvermine Gate we met Mike Quillinan (who had completed the cycling leg) who had taken over as support vehicle driver for a water refill and quick refuel before starting the third  Debbie Bacher then had the opportunity to hike 20km on the third leg.We continued along level 5 in Tokai forest to head down through Vlakkenberg to Constantia Nek. The downhill started taking its toll on the feet and sadly, Dasha Pershina had to pull out at the 50km mark with a swollen toe as her boots wouldnt go back on. Whist eating lunch, it started to drizzle which made our hearts sag of the thought of what was to come. We reluctantly put on our rain jackets, repacked our bags with head torches for the final ascent as we wouldn’t be seeing the support vehicle until the end.Our team of seven continued on with the most gruelling stage of our expedition so far. The uphill steps onto the back of Table Mountain, past De Villiers dam and  Woodhead reservoir, through echo valley and finally  summiting at the top of Platteklip Gorge just before sunset.What had started off as perfect expedition weather conditions in Kalk Bay soon changed to dark forlorn looking clouds covering Table Mountain which made our hearts sink realizing that we were heading straight into stormy weather. As experienced mountain guides we had to consider various alternative options as we all know full well the dangers of hiking in bad weather on the mountain.  The thick mist made it difficult to see, but the comforting sound of our companions constant chatter as we made our way up and down along the trails made it much easier as we got soaked in the heavy mist.

The final most daunting stage down the Platteklip Gorge in the dark was hard work on the ankles and knees. The moisture made the rocks fairly slippery so extreme caution was needed as we tackled the long, steep down. There were a few slips resulting in bruised butts but nothing to worry about! We made good time on the downhill finishing the #trails4tails challenge in 12.5 hours  with our head torches guiding the way for the last half hour.  We had completed in a much quicker than the expected 15 hours. The AWOL supporters Debbie and Mike met us on Tafelberg road with celebratory beers and pizza so we were able to celebrate in exhausted style before heading home to soak in a hot bath and bed.

Too date we have raised  R50,000 and hopefully still counting in. Last chances to date are until the 25th March 2021  for supporters of the campaign to contribute directly to the SPCA fundraiser through Given Gain  ( Or perhaps you tempted to join us on the next #trails4tails challenge or maybe you have your own fundraising ideas and need our support.

Written by Sally Petersen, Director of AWOL Tours