Ready, steady, let’s traverse the trails at twilight
Hiking to the grave of Just Nuisance
Simon’s Town and Red Hill: the perfect area to explore with Hi-Tec
It’s the year 1939, and the Royal Navy in Simon’s Town is enlisting their new recruits. One of these new sailors still hasn’t found their sea legs (and never will) but is given the name ’Just’. His occupation is put down as ‘Bone Crusher’ and his religious denomination as ‘Scrounger’.
This strange new member is Just Nuisance, the first and only dog to be enlisted by the Royal Navy. This Great Dane loved the sailors whom he recognised easily from their distinctive uniforms. He was often caught travelling by train without a ticket, and he would join the navy men on their trips into Cape Town. The irate conductors would escort him off at the next station. Joining the navy ensured Just Nuisance received all the standard benefits – one of which was a free train pass.
Just Nuisance became a local legend and when he was put to rest it was with full military honours at Klaver Camp on top of Red Hill in a solemn ceremony that included a firing party of Royal Marines.
Visiting Just Nuisance
After a quick visit to see the statue of Just Nuisance looking noble in Jubilee Square in Simon’s Town, we drive to the bottom of Red Hill and start the climb up the stairs. It’s a sunny day so we’ve come smothered in sunblock. I’m wearing my Hi-Tecs: V-lite Total Terrain Lace, which support me and keep me stable on the walk.
What to bring
- Hat and sunblock. Even if it’s overcast it’s a good idea to keep your skin protected.
- Hiking shoes. To give you support and traction on the paths and rocks.
- Water. Make sure you bring enough to keep you hydrated.
- Camera. The hills and mountains behind Simon’s Town offer spectacular coastal views.
- Children from age 10 and up.
- Warm top. The wind can pick up quickly so make sure you’re prepared.
- Snacks or lunch. Just make sure you keep it packed away in sealed containers; as there are baboons in the area who would love to eat it.
It’s a short walk up to Just Nuisance’s grave or you can park near it and hike on to the Kleinplaas Dam. If you’re looking for a much longer hike then make the trek to Smitswinkel near Cape Point from Swartkop in Simon’s Town.
Just Nuisance’s Grave
Make a day of it: catch the train to Simon’s Town and visit the statue of Just Nuisance in Jubilee Square. Then walk up to Barnard Street, which ends at the bottom of Red Hill where you will see a sign for the Signal School Steps. Here a flight of steep steps and path will lead you to the grave.
Duration: This walk will take you an easy hour with a quick break at the top.
Take the Red Hill road onto the area above Simon’s Town where you will see a sign to Just Nuisance’s grave. You can park here and pay him a quick visit before setting out for the dam. About 100 metres along the road is the start of the trail. Once you’ve been on the jeep track for about five minutes there’s a fork in the road – turn right and keep going until you reach the dam wall, then take the left turn. Here you can take a break, and enjoy the view.
Duration: The walk there and back will take about two hours.
Swartskop to Smitswinkel
This hike takes you up Swartskop and over to Smitswinkel in Cape Point. The walk is a section of the SANParks Hoerikwaggo trail route and ends at their tented camp (where you can spend the night).
You will need someone to drop you off and pick you up on the other side, or go in two cars and drop one off in Cape Point before going to Simon’s Town. The hike starts at the end of the dirt road off of Jan Smuts Road, you will go up Old Mule Trail and up to the Blockhouse Gap. The path will go along the Swartkop Ridges, up to the peak and then down to Smitswinkel. There is a bit of scrambling and exposure to heights on this route.
Duration: This is a long one; it’ll take about six hours to reach Cape Point.
What to look out for
Flora: There’s an abundance of fynbos and the pincushions were in their full glory when we were there. Keep an eye out for the Swartkop spiderhead – a rare plant that flowers from July to October. You will also find the fiery red Ericas and the pretty rooikappis. There are also amazing sandstone formations, which have all sorts of lichens growing on them.
Fauna: I spotted quite a few black girdled lizards sunning themselves on the rocks; these spiny, black reptiles are solitary creatures which usually sit still enough for you to have a good look at them before they slip away. We also encountered a large troop of chacma baboons complete with cheeky little ones sneaking off to eat where the large males couldn’t see them to steal their food.
By Lindsay Callaghan
Tip: Visit the Simon’s Town Museum to find out more about Just Nuisance and his time in the Royal Navy.
Opening times: Monday – Friday: 10am – 4pm, Saturdays: 10am – 1pm, closed on Sundays and public holidays.