There were a couple of teenagers, but none of us were mutants, ninjas or turtles.
Yet, the set resembled scenes from that ageless classic animation. We really did feel like heroes in a half-shell (the hard hats we wore in the tunnels looked like shells, after all).
TygerBurger was invited to go on Matt Weisse’s underground tunnel tour on Heritage Day and enjoyed every moment of it. Note, the newspaper itself has no emotion, but the lucky journalist has.
The tour started at 14:00 when a group of 20 daredevils climbed down a manhole cover at the back of the Castle of Good Hope. For the next hour we found ourselves in ankle deep water underneath the city.
The rush of wading through the ancient tunnels was just as strong as the current trying to wash us out to the harbour. Spider webs and cockroaches added to the atmosphere and the echoes of exclamations kept us on our toes. We were told that smugglers might have used these “gragte” to transport valuables, but unfortunately not one of us found a gold coin (if one of the smugglers dropped a coin it would have washed out to sea in a matter of minutes).
Parts of the underground canals and rivers date back to 1652. They used to supply the passing ships with fresh water and later these rivers flowing through the city became pleasant walkways shaded by Oaks with bridges going over them. As the years passed and the city expanded they were eventually covered up and forgotten.
Props were not needed to make this a truly exciting experience, but there were props nonetheless. A light show, limbs of dummies and a treasure hunt assisted in setting free the imagination of those who needed more than just the realisation that we’re walking in tunnels under the city.
Matt’s been doing it since 2010 and says there are three routes varying in difficulty. We walked along the easiest because of a group of kids and journalists armed with cameras. In this same tunnel the TV-show Fear Factor dared the contestants to eat cockroaches. Thankfully, these were not on the menu on Heritage Day.
The toughest of the tours transpires under Long Street, so for the truly adventurous people out there, this would be highly recommended.
After heavy rains the tunnels (which are in some places big enough to drive a car in) will be raging with water that fell near Table Mountain. I admit there were moments when my imagination ran riot… What if suddenly a wall of onrushing water came from behind? My last moments on this Earth would consist of me trying to keep the work’s video camera from being damaged…
During this particular tour one is first taken through the Castle and given a bit of background on the Dutch. Then one climbs down a simple manhole that looks like Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole and then… Hold on! Do not step on one side of the tunnel! Balance on both sides! Be careful! The water comes down with a vicious speed, but no one loses their footing.
By the time we reunited with daylight, we were walking on icicles, but that didn’t matter. We didn’t let our cold feet stand in the way of braving this completely different and thoroughly entertaining adventure.
A tunnel tour with a qualified guide and a professional medic can last one to three hours.
For more information go to http://www.goodhopeadventures.com or contact Matt on 082 482 4006.