Tag Archives: Hiking

Cederberg Heritage Route — Day 2

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0052

This was reputed to be the longest and toughest days hiking of the trail and although it was not predicted to be the hottest day, the temperatures in the Cederberg can easily get in to the 30’s (°C) – +86 °F. At Riaan’s suggestion, we had breakfast at six and were on the trail by shortly after 6.30. The Mountains glowed a reddish brown colour as the sun reflected off them and we headed up the path to a rocky ridge on our way to Groot Krakadouw Peak, the goal for the day. Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0074The path was well defined and the walking fairly easy initially, with a few short climbs, sometimes sandy and sometimes rocky underfoot. We passed a variety of beautiful ericas, restios and proteas, defining the area as firmly fynbos. Riaan stopped from time to time as we passed a bank of Cedar trees, from which the area takes its name, to talk about a plant, tell a story or discuss some point of cultural interest and to give us a chance to take photographs and subtly take a rest. Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0064As we walked slowly higher the views over Heuningvlei valley became more magnificent and one could see how this flatish section of the valley, interspersed with rocky outcrops, attracted people to the area, in the early days the San people, probably at some stage the Khoi people and then later the European settlers.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0076

As the path began to climb steeply in to the gorge that leads to the Groot Krakadouw Peak, the temperature was rising at the same time. The walking was becoming more strenuous and the path less distinct. I was pleased that we had a guide with us who knew where he was going.

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0078

At the same time, our walking companions who had recently arrived in South Africa from Europe, were struggling to adapt to the heat. Rest stops became a bit longer and breath a bit shorter. Eventually it became apparent that a member of the party was not going get there. We were still approximately two hours from the summit when we decided to turn back. It was a good lesson in Mountain safety and the only practical optiCederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0094on at the time.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0053

We were back in Heuningvlei by lunch time, after a pleasant walk back. In the afternoon Riaan took us down to a magnificent swimming hole and waterfall twenty minutes walk away. The silver lining was that we would not have been able to do this, if we had made it to the peak.

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0112

Dinner with Izak that evening was beautifully tender lamb chops, served with sweet potatoes, sweet pumpkin and salads. Another excellent meal.

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0114

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Cederberg Heritage Route – first night

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0051

From the top of the last hill, Heuningvlei can be seen in the distance.  A small picturesque settlement of white, thatched houses in the valley. As we got closer the houses disappeared behind a rocky outcrop and we walked past plantations of buchu, vegetables patches and a few fruit trees before entering the residential area. We were greeted by the friendly wave and smiling face of Riaan, who would be our local hiking guide for the next few days. Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0055The village is a combination of beautifully renovated thatched houses and dilapidated white washed homes, patched up against the elements.  Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0047 (2)A typical country scene with dogs and chickens ran around everywhere and even a sheep with two lambs that could not have been an hour or two old. As we arrived at our accommodation we were greeted with a warm friendly smile by Maria (Nosie) at Nosie’s Place. Dusty boots were kicked off outside to prevent bringing in the dirt and he traditional pot of rooibos tea was soon presented with crispy homemade real ginger biscuits – memories of my grandmother and the well controlled biscuit tin.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0050

By the time we arrived it was already after 6 p.m., so with dinner at seven we did not have too much time to spruce up. The region had been experiencing some electricity outages, so there was some concern from our hosts about the meal not being warm enough. Dinner was in the home of Izak Koopman, retired Cape Nature ranger with many years experience of the area. Hungry after the days hike we tucked in to the simple but tasty meal of fried chicken, roast potatoes, a very tasty green bean and lamb combination with fresh vegetable and salad. To finish there was an old fashioned sago pudding. Replete, we headed back to Nossie’s Place, discussing the days walking as the light faded and stars started to appear. I regretted not organizing and up to date star chart to identify the some of the unknown heavenly bodies that appear in the clear skies of the Cederberg.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0048 (2)

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Cederberg Heritage Route – Day 1

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0009 (2)The gathering point for all of the Cederberg Heritage Route Trails is Clanwilliam, an easy three hour drive from Cape Town. Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0020 (2)

We gathere at the Yellow Aloe – a real oasis in what can be a very hot Clanwilliam – and were treated to an excellent light lunch. This was followed by a trail briefing by Cederberg Travel, the organisers and co-ordinators of the Cederberg Heritage Trails, before being piled in to the transport vehicle for transfer to the start on the Pakhuis Pass. There we met Gert our cart driver and the six donkeys, Trapnet, Satan, President, Tryna, Beaufort and Willem, plus Jonas, the ‘sparewheel’ and back up. They would be transferring our luggage to Heuningvlei, with option for hikers to ride on the cart or walk the trail.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0011 (2)

Having been sitting all the way from Cape Town, we all opted to start the trail on foot and the cart went ahead of us with the luggage.  This section of the trail follows an old jeep track that is no longer in regular use, but is suitable for the donkey cart to negotiate at a reasonable pace. Within a few hundred metres of the start of the trail it is easy to forget that there is a tar road in the near vicinity. The rocky outcrops, randomly balance boulders, sculptured shapes, deep valleys and high peaks absorb one quickly in to the wilderness environment. There is no formal hiking guide on this section, with Gert stopping his charges from time to time to allow walkers to catch up.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0030 (2)

I opted to experience to donkey cart ride on a section of the trail to rest my legs and to enjoy Gert’s dry humour and his interaction with the animals. On a rocky road, a donkey cart is a bumpy, bone jarring experience and not the most comfortable form of transport. Most reasonably fit hikers will probably opt to walk most of the route. It is a bit of fun however and amazing to see how these hardy animals keep their footing, negotiating the rough terrain with some steep slopes, particularly on the downhill sections. The Afrikaans term ‘stadig oor die klippe’ (slowly over the stones) comes to mind. Being a jeep track the walking is reasonably easy and it takes about three hours to cover the 12km distance.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0042

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Cederberg Heritage Route Trail

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0008 (2)

Cederberg Heritage Trail

The Cederberg Mountains start about 200 km from Cape Town, are approximately 100km from one end to the other. The Cederberg Wilderness covers an area of 710 km 2 (275 miles 2) a region known for its unusual rock formations, spectacular views, fynbos, rooibos tea and an isolation that is good for the soul. It is a hiker’s paradise, with trails covering all grades of hiking from short easy walks to strenuous overnight trail.

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0036 (2)
The Cederberg Heritage Route Trails are a group of six trails that can be walked in true Slackpacker style: your luggage is transported and meals provided – you need only carry your day pack and a guide shows you the way. This does not mean that the hiking is not challenging, but the options mean that you can choose the level that suites you. Centred in Clanwilliam, it is a community based initiative where you are guided by a local guide, with hospitality and logistical support provided by members of the local community.Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0014 (2)
The Wupperthal Trail (one of the six), was long on my ‘Bucket List’ of trails and in December 2014 I had an opportunity to join a group on this route. This particular section is known for the use of donkey carts as a means of transporting luggage and hikers if they so wish.

Cederberg Heritage Route - Dec 2014_0040
The start and Day 1 to follow …………………

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Klapmutskop Hiking Trail – Klapmutskop

Klamutskop - Delvera June 2014_0002

This is a wonderful trail for a short outing in to the Cape Wine Region of Stellenbosch, for those who want a bit of outdoor activity to wet the appetite for wine tasting or other activities in the area. The hill leading up to the ‘kop’ (peak or head) is also extremely interesting from a botanical point of view, encompassing the three biomes of the region – renosterveld, fynbos and afro-mountain forest – all in a very small area. It forms an important part of the Greater Simonsberg Conservancy area.

Beautiful winters day

Looking back on the Simonsberg Mountains towards Stellenbosch – beautiful winters day

The walk starts at the Delvera Wine Estate, where you will need to purchase a walking permit (R30 as at June 2014) from the reception area. The first part of the hike meanders through the vineyards, marked with the various cultivars that you are passing by.  It is interesting to see the differences between the various vine varieties and how they are trellised and pruned or maintained as bush vines. The path is well marked, taking hikers over wide farm tracks with clay underfoot conditions.

As the path approaches the hill it enters the renosterveldt band the circles the ‘koppie’, zig-zaging gently up the slope. It is an excellent example of this severely threatened biome, with only 6% of the original area still regarded as sustainable. About half way up the hill the path skirts vineyards again, where the Greater Simonsberg Conservancy information board explains the importance of the area.Klamutskop - Delvera June 2014_0008

Klamutskop - Delvera June 2014_0015

View from the renosterveldt band. Cool overcast, slightly misty conditions on the day

Klamutskop - Delvera June 2014_0009

Transition from renosterveldt to fynbos

The path then climbs slightly more quickly through the renosterveldt band up to the fynbos band above. The transition between the two is quick and quite dramatic, suddenly hikers are in amongst proteas, restios and ericas, among others, putting the route firmly in the Cape Floral Kingdom. The fynbos band is quite short, before suddenly the forest at the top appears. Even when you know it is there it is a surprise – beautiful Breede River yellowwoods perched on top of this unlikely hilltop.

Klamutskop - Delvera June 2014_0016

The path tunnels in amongst the yellowwoods

 From the top, the 360 degree views of the Stellenbosch Mountains, Simonsberg, DuToitskloof and the Paarl Mountains are unmatched. On a fine day Table Mountain is also clear in the distance.

 

Klamutskop - Delvera June 2014_0032

View from the top

 The path back circle the hill on the other side, before joining the vineyard tracks once more and zig-zagging back to the farm. The hike is about 3 to 31/2 hours, allowing for photography and tea breaks.

 

 

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Devon Valley – Vineyard Trail

Devon Valley – Vineyard Trail description

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0018

The Vineyard Trail is a circular route of approximately 11km. It starts and finishes at the Devon Valley Hotel and meanders through vineyards and the wine farm of the area. Although the paths are clear, the signposting is Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0002confusing in places and a wrong turn or missed marker can take hikers off on the wrong route. A map is provided at the hotel, although it is important to make sure you are given the correct one, as one of the alternative trails (green route on the map) is closed. Not all the hotel staff are properly briefed on the alternatives.

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0082The trail starts from the parking area behind the hotel, follow the tarred exit road to the gate and turn left up the hill. Head up the tar road, to where it becomes a dirt track, passing buildings on your right, to a line of pine trees. At the pine trees there is a trail marker, turn right down the hill, keeping the vineyards on your right. At the bottom of the hill the path does a right turn before you pass between two posts on your left and on to a short tar road opposite the Protea Heights flower farm.Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0005

Note: At this stage the trail used to go up to the left. With the Protea Heights farm being fenced in, it now goes to the right. It can be confusing, as the old direction marker has not been removed and the new one is easy to miss.

Turn right down the tar road for a few metres, before following the sign at a left turn in to the vineyards, following a clear track. At the end of the track there is a sign pointing out a path between the rows of vines. Here there are two options:Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0010

  1. Either follow this path until it comes out on a T-junction with a farm track – there is no sign here – turn left up the hill until you come to the electric fence border of Protea Heights. Here you will see a very confusing sign with arrows pointing in different directions.
  2. Turn left and follow the farm track until you come to the electric fence border of Protea Heights and turn right, following the track along the fence until you come to the confusing sign pointing in both directions.

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0076Follow the track along the electric fence until there is a fork. Follow the sign along the left hand fork. From here on most of the signage is fairly clear, although it is easy to miss a direction marker.

Shortly after this the track descends gently, with views of the outskirts of Stellenbosch and Simonsberg Mountain. Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0019As the track descends, there is radio mast is on the right at the highest point on the trail. Half way down the valley there is a marker showing the track that turns right up towards the FM radio mast at the highest point.

After passing the mast the track descends once more with a small farm dam in the valley on the right. Before a row of pine trees follow the marker to the left and then right to where there is a marker on one of the trees. Follow this row of trees to the left along the track until there is gap in a group of low trees.Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0032

There are wine cellars down in the valley to the right and the trail is well marked here with the track twisting through the vineyards, before coming to an old concrete water tank structure and a large stone pine, where the path turns right and then left passed the farm labourers cottages. Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0043This track comes out at Middlevlei Wine Estate, which is a good place to stop for a rest, wine tasting and their regular ‘Boere Braai’ lunch (this should be booked before departure to avoid disappointment).

After leaving the farm along the paved exit road, past the large farm dam, the track leads past a small cottage and towards a smaller dam. This is a good place for a picnic lunch if hikers do not want to take advantage of the Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0046Middlevlei offerings.

The path continues between the small and large dam, just below the main farm homestead. This is not clearly marked but it is easy to pick up the track through the vineyards on the opposite side by following the track close to the dam. The track through the vineyards is clearly marked after this.

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0052Follow the track to a fenced off area surrounded by security wire, before turning right down the hill. This track is very clear and eventually comes out at the Aaldering Estate. If you are interested in wine tasting this is also a great stop, with an interesting Pinotage Blanc that is really worth tasting, among others.

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0061 After leaving the estate via the main entrance, the road passes a small dam with the path turning off over the dam wall towards some cottages. The sign showing the way is in place, but easy to miss if you are distracted. After the passing the cottages head down a paved track between a row of olive trees and the vineyards. Half way down this path is a turn off on to a track between the vineyards. There are various twist and turns but the signage is all in place and the path clear up to the end of the farm track where it leaves the vineyards.Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0064

Follow the sign to the left before passing a group of cottages, where you are likely to be greeted by friendly wave and greeting by the inhabitants and excited children. Pass by two large green water tanks and then left again on to a farm track leading behind the cottages and the farmVineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0066 buildings. Now you should be able to see the track that leads up to the fenced Protea Heights property. Shortly after this it is a back on familiar territory and you cross the vineyards back to the confusing ‘backwards / forwards’ sign and then follow the farm track to tar road and that passes the Protea Heights entrance. Pass through the two posts Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0058 the left and the return route back to the hotel follows the same track as the as the start.

Vineyard Trail - Devon Valley - June 2014_0070

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Dolphin Trail – Day 3

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0128

Day 3

 The day dawned almost cloudless and any threat of rain carried over from the previous day disappeared. Marius appeared immediately we had finished our breakfast and we plunged immediately into the forest through a gate on the edge of the expanse of lawn.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0097

It did not take long to get down to sea level and the rocks below. Much of this day is spent close to the rocky shoreline with the walking varying from mostly rock hopping to sandy paths slightly higher up above the rock band. The rock formations are quite spectacular and the waves feel as if they are going to crash in to you at any moment as their energy is dissipated into the rock layers and pools behind. The blue of the sea Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0102contrasts dramatically with the green forest verge, which is only prevented from touching the waves in places, by grey-brown rock band. The layers of rocks are tilted and bent, hollowed out and shaped into wonderful formations, bearing testament to the power of the earth and sea over the millions of years.

We spotted many gulls, white breasted cormorant and black oystercatchers, out to sea however, the dolphins remained elusive. We stopped for a tea break on a flat expanse of rock, catch site of a pod passing by. We had to be satisfied with enjoying the bird life and the movement of the sea.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0155

As lunch time approached we climbed up away from the shoreline on a steep zig-zag path that took us through a sparse forest and bushy landscape up in to the bigger trees at the top. The hunger pangs from the mornings exertion were starting to gnaw, when a table appeared, set among the trees and groaning with a variety of breads, pates, cold meats, salads, fruit, juice and coffee. It did not take much invitation to tuck in.

Black oystercatchersAfter lunch the path meanders through the thick coastal forest and one realizes that without a guide and a clear path, that is would be very easy to get lost in this ‘jungle’ of trees. Eventually we emerged in to the pine plantation surrounding the Fernery. The name is derived from the main industry of growing and harvesting ferns from the surrounding forest and the more exotic varieties grown in the green house. These are destined for the cut flower markets around the world. There we were greeted by the Dolphin Trail team and after admiring the bright red flowers of the coral trees, teeming with double collared sunbirds feasting on the nectar, we were shown to our rooms.Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0183 a

Set a little bit away from the plantation, the log cabins overlook a deep gorge that runs in to the sea close by. A stunning setting and a place where one could quite comfortably relax and spend a few days just enjoying the environment. There are a few short hiking paths and cycle routes around the Fernery, but we were all quite happy to settle for a cold beer and a hot shower and to relax until dinner time.

Ana & Karen Dolphin Trail Aug 2013_0131The dinner that evening was nothing short of excellent. A choice of succulent fillet steak or stuffed chicken breast, preceded by starters and followed by dessert, all beautifully presented and served by cheerful attentive staff. The wine list is extensive and not overpriced. A fitting end to a wonderful walk.

The next morning we had to leave early to catch a flight from George airport, having originally dropped out vehicle at the venue and taken hotel transport to the start. The usual package allows you to leave a Bruce Bryant - WT Oct 2013_0111vehicle at Storms River and be transported back to the start on a morning drive in a 4×4 vehicle, using the old Storms River Pass road, that preceded the building of the spectacular Storms Rive Bridge. These days this road can only be driven in a 4×4 vehicle – a treat for next time.

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