4km (2.4 miles)
- Estimated time to complete according to brochure: 2-3 hours
- Our time: 4.5 hours
If a hike is only 4 km, we thought there were no hurry in starting early. We therefore took our time and enjoyed a warm breakfast of Pronutro and a few cups of coffee and tea. After re-packing our bags and filling our water bottles, we walked over to the start of the trail at around 10:00.
At first, the trail takes you through the poplar plantation until you reach some ruins from earlier days. The whole route is marked with stones stacked on top of each other or just laid down in a line to indicate where you should walk.
Although this area is well-known for their beautiful spring flowers, we knew that most of these flowers would have been gone by now since we’re already in October. We were however still surprised to see some pretty little flowers during the next five days on our route.
And just when we were completely relaxed, we reached the first of many ladders that would have to help us climb down (and up) several large rocks. For Berto this was not much of a problem, but for me (with my shorter legs and heavy backpack) it was quite a challenge. Sometimes I had to took my backpack off and handed it over to Berto in order for me to negotiate the ladders.
We then reached a turnoff where hikers on the multi-day hikes needed to go left.
Once we took the turnoff, the trail heads over to the edge of the Saaikloof – seeing some interesting cracks and cliffs in the kloof (gorge).
Now, it’s here where our brochure just mentioned that you have to carry on for 3.6km until you reach your overnight camp … nothing about more rock climbing or ladders …
And that’s when our beautiful pathway disappeared and we came face to face with some rock climbing. Every now and then a path would appear, just for us to see some big rocks around the next corner we need to get ourselves over.
At some point, we got to a huge overhanging rock that gave wonderful shade. We took off our backpacks and rest here for a while.
And then it was back to climbing more rocks …
Finally, we got to the top of the mountain from where we could spot our overnight camp, Brakwater.
But of course, we still had to walk down that mountain with a steep slope to get to our hut … not so easy with my legs now feeling like jelly after climbing all of those rocks!
Honestly, I was delighted to get to our overnight hut! I looked at Berto and said:
“So, when they say the first 4km is just a walk in the park … what do you think lies ahead of us?”
All the huts are pretty much the same. There are 15 beds (bunk beds), a table and two long benches … and (maybe) a basin and shower. The shower only functioned in our first hut … we will tell you more about our showers in the next posts … 😉. There is also a compost toilet situated a 100m or so from the hut.
What about water?
Sometimes there would be containers filled with water in the huts, but other times, we had to collect water from nearby fountains or the river. Since we had water available at this hut, we decided to wash our clothes … we only have two sets of hiking clothes and we are not sure when the opportunity will come again to do our washing.
This was quite a day! In hindsight, it was probably not that strenuous (Berto will tell you – I tend to disagree), but we did not expect the terrain to be that rugged right at the beginning … especially since the brochure will inform you that they are not counting the first 4km as part of the trail – the trail actually only starts tomorrow 😳.
It was only the two of us in the hut (as was the case with each of the following days). So, after we’ve enjoyed a shower, done the washing, making our beds and packing out some stuff on the table … there was only one thing left to do …
We brought some luxury with us … we thought a drink in the afternoon after a day out in nature, would be the perfect way of ending each day. Berto had the clever idea of filling a water bladder with red wine (we carry our water in two 1l bottles each). And I had a small 1l box of red wine in my backpack … I will tell you more about this in the next post … 👀👀.
Oh, and let’s not forget about our freeze-dried food! We have never tasted these before our trip – so, it was probably a bit of a risk to rely only on this for dinner on our hike. But oh boy, it was GREAT! Once we’ve added the hot water to the contents and let it stand for a couple of minutes, it tasted like a home cooked meal!
We will conclude each day with a map of our route, as well as an elevation map. It’s difficult to explain to you about how steep an uphill is (or downhill) and there’s no indication of how many rocks or ladders we’ve climbed … but I’m sure you’ll get some idea.
So, what will tomorrow bring?
You will have to wait for the next post … but first we had a rough night … and we will also tell you about that in our next post. See you then!