When I first moved to Cape Town in 2010, the Cecilia Forest became my place of sanctuary where I’d escape to after a busy week of work to regain a sense of well-being amongst the trees. As a single parent walking alone, I didn’t veer off the main roads, always sure of a passing walker every few minutes or so. When I spotted the invitation to join the Travel Massive and VoiceMap experience of the Elfin Trail, there was no question that I would attend.
On a gorgeous winter’s day, with my son perched on my back and my fiancé alongside me, we set off after the rest of the group who had joined. Starting at the Wooden hut we veered off to the left onto a path I had never walked before with the soft, soothing voice guiding us on a whimsical journey through the forest. The first bit of fantasy lore we were enticed into the depths of the forest with was the tale of the Dragon of Kinabalu. As legend goes, the deep forest housed a dragon hiding a precious ruby. A king sent his three son’s on a quest to retrieve this ruby with the dragon sending them retreating from its billowing flames. Some say that the large open area where only small shrubs grow low on the ground is a reminder of the earth scorched by the dragon’s fire. In the end, the youngest son was able to claim the ruby, and the king handed him the crown to take the throne as ruler of the land.
Continuing along the “noisy road with its steel chariots” and passing the outskirts of the bluegum forest we hear about the poor huntsman who lived in the forest with his wife, and who was enticed by an enchanting fairy to dance to his death. Over bridges, crossing roads, through the trees and under branches we meandered as we were regaled with stories of greedy goblins, mischievious elves and tempting fairies. Most of the mythical fae were regarded as harmless though bearing the blame for leading travellers astray or playing pranks on unsuspecting wanderers.
This walk passes through the beautiful Constantia green belt, crosses 9 bridges and features some of the most beautiful scenery and walkways I have encountered. We paused for a rest beside a weeping willow, and were given a story about the treehouse we passed en route. We met some equestrians out for a ride on their majestic horses and other people walking their dogs. The Elfin Trail is a must for those wanting something a little different from the typical guided tour commentary and a delightful escape from the seriousness of daily life and concerns.
Information on the Elfin Trail:
The Elfin Trail is an immersive, high fantasy-themed audio walking experience through the most beautiful and least-known forests and glades in Cape Town. Using smartphone GPS to trigger downloaded audio automatically, the listener is guided along a shady two-hour stroll through the greenbelts of Constantia, along the way hearing timeless stories, original music and natural sound effects. Sample this new outdoor storytelling experience, and rediscover the magic of lost childhood fairytales while meeting elves, dragons, goblins, gnomes, fairies, centaurs, dryads and more along the way.
VoiceMap is an audio tour app that plays stories about your surroundings while you walk. The iOS and Android apps use your smartphone’s GPS device to pinpoint your exact location, and play audio automatically. Download the tour over WiFi before you leave home, then just put on your headphones and start exploring a neighbourhood through someone else’s eyes.
How VoiceMap works
1) Install VoiceMap for iPhone or Android
2) Sign up with email or Facebook, then look for “The Elfin Trail” in the Cape Town menu
3) Tap on the red download button. The audio walk costs R37.99. You can pay using your iTunes and Google Wallet accounts. Allow ALL the files to finish downloading before you close the app.
4) When the download is finished, the download button will change from red to green, and instead of seeing the price, you’ll see the word “Start”. You’re ready to go!
5) VoiceMap works offline and doesn’t require any mobile data
The voice-guided walk starts at the parking lot at the entrance to the Cecelia Forest, at the intersection of Rhodes Drive and Hohenort Avenue in Constantia.
This 5km trail is child-friendly and there is nothing to worry about when doing it in a small group. Be careful when crossing the two well-announced major roads en route, wear a good pair of shoes and bring 500ml of water at least. The route is about 60% shaded.