We’ve done a couple of long-distance hikes (like the Camino’s in Spain and Portugal) and one/two-day hiking trails locally … but we wondered: What about a 5-day hiking trail “somewhere in the mountains” not too far from our house …
… And that’s how we got to the Oorlogskloof Hiking Trail (loosely translated, Oorlogskloof would mean “Gorge of War”) … maybe that name should have been an early indication of what was laying ahead of us 😬.
Where is Oorlogskloof?
This Nature Reserve is about 350km from Cape Town with the closest town being Nieuwoudtville. This area is a flower paradise during spring, but also a place that can get exceptionally hot during summer.
History on Oorlogskloof?
This area was the first region in South Africa to be colonised by the whites (1644). The San-bushmen lived in the area until just prior to 1740. At the same time, the Khoi-hottentots also inhabited the area. With so many different cultures living in such close proximity, it was unavoidable that theft of each others’ stock would soon be at the order of the day.
During 1739 the theft of stock by the colonists and the Khoi reached a climax and a trek-farmer commando attacked Khoisan-kraals near the current reserve.
It was described as follows: “This time 13 Khoi-San were killed, a number wounded and the rest surrendered. About 162 cattle, 209 sheep, 3 iron pots, a copper kettle, 3 horses and a saddle were captured. Before leaving the kraal, the commando returned 48 cattle and 40 sheep to the survivors and ‘made peace’ with them. The place was named Oorlogskoof”.
Before we get to the actual hike, here’s more information on the Oorlogskloof Hiking Trail(s).
Information on the trail:
- One Day Circular Route: Leopard Trap Day Hike – 15.5km (9.6 miles).
- One Day Circular Route: Rietvlei Day Hike – 17.9km (11 miles).
- Rock Pigeon Route (4-5 Days) – 52.2km (32.4 miles) … we’ve done this trail.
- Rameron Pigeon Route (4-7 Days) – 52.4km (32.5 miles).
- You need to obtain a permit from the Oorlogskloof Office in Nieuwoudtville.
- Huts are available to overnight. Only mattresses are supplied, you must carry all your other equipment (sleeping bags, cloths, food, etc.) with you in your backpack.
- Water are available at some huts, otherwise if not, you need to get water from close-by fountains or rivers. Although the brochure indicates that water is safe to drink, we would recommend that you bring your own water filtering system/water purifying tablets.
- Carry at least 2 liters water per person per day in summer (or even more by filling up at rock pools/rivers/fountains).
- Everything you carry in, must be carry out (don’t leave your garbage at huts).
- The terrain is extremely rugged and inhospitable – hikers must be very experienced and fit (and not walking fit, but rock climbing fit … something we’ve realised already on the 1st day)! This trail is not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced.
Now, what to pack?
Since we would be walking (no, climbing rocks) in a rugged area, our backpacks could not be too heavy. We had to carry 5 days’ food … and our mission was that it should be as light as possible. Berto sourced a South African company (Forever Fresh) that produce world-class freeze-dried food. We’ve ordered a variety of dishes (even couscous and basmati rice) … and I’m telling you, it tasted like a freshly cooked meal every evening after a long and strenuous day on the trail!
We shared the food between our two backpacks, which included Oats/Nuts/Pronutro for breakfast, tuna packs & biscuits for lunch and Forever Fresh’s meals for dinner. We also had some Yum-Yum peanut butter sticks and jelly sweets for energy during the day. For drinks, we took packets of Game to mix with water to give us that extra kick.
Of course, we needed some hot drinks as well for early mornings and somewhere on the trail during the day. Berto loves coffee and I’m fond of tea (and the luxury of a cup of cappuccino at least once a day)! There were other drinks as well for the evening … we’ll get to that later …
To keep our packs as light as possible, we invested in collapsible cups and bowls … but also silicone glasses (wine just taste better in these 😉).
Once again, we took our light weight sleeping bags (470g), sleeping bag liners and our small hiking pillows. We’ve used these so many times before and although it was not cheap, it certainly is worth the money!
Toiletry bags are always a big discussion point (especially between women … you know, a bit of this and a bit of that and suddenly your toiletry bag is bigger than your backpack 😁). But I’ve learned over time, the bare minimum is good enough on a hiking trip – especially when you need to carry all of these yourself … over boulders and through deep gorges!
The one department where we don’t neglect, is with our medicine bag. Since we’re going into an area where you will barely see other people (and where it will probably take 2 days for someone to reach you in case of an emergency), you need to come prepared with your emergency kit!
We did add a few odds and ends (that’s normally where the problem comes – extra weight). After putting everything in our backpacks, it was a shock to see my backpack’s weight was 13kg and Berto’s one was 15kg … and we still had to add 2 liters of water … that’s heavy for the terrain we will have to cover for 5 days!
Here we go:
With our backpacks packed and a last good shower, we left our house on a lovely spring morning to drive 3 hours to our destination where we’ll sleep the first evening at the starting point of the Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve.
Groot Tuin (loosely translated, it would mean “Big Garden”) was the starting point and where we found our first accommodation. There is one big house with 3 compartments filled with beds and then two smaller ones for hikers to overnight. We had the smaller house, stacked with 6 beds and only mattresses are provided … yes, it’s very basic … but at least we’re not sleeping on the ground and we’ve got a roof over our heads …
We were the only hikers at Groot Tuin. We did see a couple of cars parked under the pine trees where the trail starts, but we knew those hikers were already on the different trails and that we would probably not see any of them on our 5-day hike.
Can you guess what the next thing was we’ve done before going to bed … of course, we made a big fire to have a ‘braai’ (barbeque)!
We sat next to the fire until late and discussed what lay ahead of us … in hindsight, if we only knew, we would probably got in the car and drove back home 😬.
Tomorrow, our first day on the trail, we will only have to cover 4km (2.4 miles) … how hard can it be …