October 2021

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 home … 

… 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”.

A map of our route (Rock Pigeon Route) at Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve

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.
Here you need to turn off and follow the 10km gravel road to the reserve

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!

One packet per person per night … and what a variety!

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.

Our food for the next 5 days on the Rock Pigeon Route

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 …

Hot drinks for those cold mornings

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 😉).

Our collapsible bowls and cups, as well as silicone (wine) glasses

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!

Sleeping gear

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!

Berto’s bag on the left and mine on the right … and that’s it!

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!

Our emergency contents
My trusty knee- and ankle guard, pain relief patches and gel shoe inserts

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!

The contents of my backpack

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 …

The entrance into Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve
The inside of the bigger house – those cement blocks are the beds (just grab a mattress)

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)!

A fire to prepare dinner
We had a few drinks (these will have to stay in the car until we’re back from our hiking trip) … we have “alternative” supplies for the trail 😉

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 😬.

Final light of our fire

Tomorrow, our first day on the trail, we will only have to cover 4km (2.4 miles) … how hard can it be …


    • You’re absolutely right John … sometimes you don’t need more than just a mattress and a roof over your head! And when you’re tired after a long and strenuous day, you actually don’t care for anything more 😉. Thanks for popping in – we’ll see you again somewhere on the trail in the coming days!


  1. Sommer net met die lees hiervan is my maag reeds op ‘n knop en ek dog ek is ‘n stapper! Ek kyk met afwagting uit na die res van julle stap. Dink dis ‘n bietjie bo my vuurmaakplek. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, you’re funny Diane 😅. I must admit, it was extremely difficult with the heavy backpacks to get myself over those big boulders … but that’s why you should have your husband with you 😉 (to help carry your backpack and giving a helping hand to you)!


  2. Oh my goodness, I love the way you packed and shared it with us in detail. I will use it as a reference if we ever go on a walking trip but your comment to Mel gives me hint that I don’t think I would try this walk. I am looking forward to reading about your adventure though. 💖🌺🙋‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, this was certainly an adventure (maybe it could also be called an endurance trail 😉). Thank you for the compliment on our packing … we have packed so many backpacks in our life and every time it seems we’re finding new (smaller & lighter) stuff to pack! Thinking back now, I would ditch half of the stuff just to get a much lighter backpack for this trip!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are both so intrepid, good for you! I can’t imagine what it would be like to be carrying backpacks weighing so much, I think I would have turned back or burst into tears at the first steep section despite being reasonably fit! You have both got the packing down to a fine art too with everything carefully thought through covering every eventuality. I’m so captivated with your trip that I can hardly wait to read the next instalment. What a great post, take care. Marion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, thanks for your kind comments Marion! I must admit, my backpack was definitely way too heavy for this terrain – there were many times that I took it off and Berto had to carry it to higher grounds (rocks). And make no mistake, there were some crying involved in this trail … but yet, here I am a couple of days later and though my body is still aching, I feel quite satisfied that we’ve conquered this trail!
      See you again on the next stage. Have a great week further. Corna

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This isn’t something I could ever consider taking on, so I’m looking forward to following your adventures all the more! I’m so impressed at how lightly you can pack, but at the same time that backpack sounds very heavy to have to carry over difficult terrain 😲

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My goodness, you have a lot of stamina! Even at my fittest I could not have done what you describe. Camping and “basics, no problem…I did that in Sudan for 3 weeks, but the land was flat and we had a Bedford truck! BIG difference. Can’t wait for the rest…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments Christie. With a hike out in the Wilderness, I suppose you need to be selective of what you pack in your backpack … it was really difficult to decide what to take and what to leave behind. You will be surprised to hear what happend on the first evening (and made my backpack lighter) 😉 …

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah fantastic, the amazing sense of freedom you must have when you set off on a five day hikev.Especially when it becomes clear that you’ll have Groot Tuin all to yourselves. I love the sound and indeed the look of those freeze-dried meals. And what about that cliffhanger? You have definitely piqued my curiosity about what problems lie ahead…

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was quite THE adventure Hannah 😬 … I was tested on so many levels (and I’m still recovering)! I was so impressed with the freeze-dried food – just what we needed after each LONG day on the trail! See you again somewhere on the Oorlogskloof trail … and thanks for popping in!


  7. Wow, what an amazing adventure! There’s nothing quite like a long stroll to put things into perspective. I am a keen hiker but haven’t been on a multi-day hike yet despite having many incredible long-distnace walking trails right here in Ireland. Maybe one day 🙂 Thanks for sharing and inspiring 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Aiva 😊. Yes, that’s so true – to be out in nature is earth’s medicine to our bodies and minds … though, I must say, after we’ve done this hiking trail, I need some serious rest! It’s now a couple of days after we’ve finished the hike and my body is still aching 😉 … but it was still great to spent time in nature! I really hope you get the opportunity one day to do some of those beautiful long-distance trails! Enjoy your weekend. Corna

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Wow, you guys are so organised! Looks like a fabulous hike, I never made it to Oorlogskloof.
    It’s always important not to overload your packs. I always have a tendency to bring too much and end up with 30kgs spread between my day pack and backpack.
    Thanks for the great share and photos!

    Liked by 1 person

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