17km (10.5 miles)
- Estimated time to complete according to brochure: 6 – 8 hours
- Our time: 8.5 hours
Quite surprisingly, it was not so difficult this morning to get up. Could it be that our bodies are now starting to get use to move over all these big rocks? Well, it is day 4 after all …
We did not really talk about the ‘escape route’ last night … but when we left our hut at around 6:45, we crossed the bridge and then Berto came to a halt at the sign post indicating the escape route. He looked at me and lifted his eyebrows … I smiled and started to walk in the opposite direction 😊. We only have 2 more days on this trail … we can just as well finish it!
The first few kilometers were easy walking (that’s more how I would like to start a morning) and we enjoyed the early morning in nature.
When we looked ahead, we realised that we had to climb a small(ish) mountain to get back on to the plateau, but first we walked past beautiful Cape willow trees and lovely smelling fynbos bushes.
As we got closer to the mountain we had to climb, we started to see more and more amazing rock formation.
And then the scrambling started … up and up and up the mountain. Once again over big rocks and sometimes using the (by now) well-known ladders.
It took as more than an hour to get back to the plateau! Out of breath and with tired arms and legs, we sat down to rest for a while. We have now walked 23km (according to the kilometer marker), but by now, you know what I’m going to say … yes, we actually walked 27km (still adding that 4km of day 1)!
In the brochure we read that we will pass through ten rock arches today. It was not long after the 23km marker that we saw the first of these arches.
Although the brochure mentioned that the “trail will level out and meanders along the edge of the plateau”, in reality we actually spent most of our time climbing over rocks and going through narrow spaces.
After climbing rocks for almost an hour, I said to Berto we need to rest for a while. It’s amazing how you know you need to lift your legs to get onto a rock, but your body just refuse to work together with your mind! Berto recognised that I was in serious need of some energy … and he pulled out the best medicine ever out of his backpack … jelly sweets!!
With renewed energy, we got back on the trail. And still nature surprised us with her beautiful flowers. We saw so many proteas on this hiking trail … and I never get tired of seeing them!
I’m not sure how often the trail are checked by the staff of Oorlogskloof Hiking Trail (it is after all not that easy to quickly take a vehicle and do a circular route). Some of the huts’ windows were broken and the ladders, ropes and chains looked quite old.
Sometimes, when I had to pull myself up a rock with either a rope of chain, the thought did cross my mind if it will hold me … remember yesterday’s chimney? On today’s stage, we got to a ladder where we had to climb down a rock – with one broken step. It looks like a ‘fresh’ break and I hope the staff are checking the trail for maintenance.
We were still walking/climbing on the edge of the plateau where we saw some really amazing rock formations.
In the brochure, we were warned about crawling through some narrow tunnels on today’s stage (at least I’m not claustrophobic 😉).
Close to the 29km marker, we came to a really narrow tunnel! It was about 20m long … not that long, but when you have to move on your butt and pull your backpack with you (while you must be careful not to bump your head on the rock above), it can be a very long tunnel!
Just after the 29km marker, there is a detour of 2.6km to ‘Arrie se Punt’ (a viewpoint with a magnificent panorama of the Knersvlakte). The name ‘Knersvlakte’ (literally translated it would mean ‘gnashing plain’) is thought to be derived from the crunching of wagonwheels as they moved over the hard quartz stones.
We decided not to take the detour – had enough of rock climbing for the day – but we were still rewarded with amazing views a bit further on the trail as it skirts the edge of the escarpment.
And guess what? It was still not the end of rock climbing … at times it was quite high and Berto had to use a rope to pull my backpack up while I had to drag my body up!
For about 1km we had some easy walking on a path dotted with more proteas and other pretty flowers.
After the sandy path, we descended into ‘Kouekloof’, crossing a seasonal stream (where we filled our water bottles again) and then returned to the edge of the plateau again. Up and down, up and down … this is how this day turned out!
Near 35km we had to go through 2 caves. One was relatively easy, but the other one was pretty high and by this time I was close to giving up … it was a LONG day!
The last ‘surprise’ waiting for me before the end of the day’s trail was a VERY STEEP descend around ‘Pramkoppie’ (named after its resemblance to a breast) … seriously, one can take only SO much on one day! Berto took my hand and literally lead me down the mountain!
All I needed after this day, was a shower and a bed! And then, to my dismay, there was no shower at the hut! Well, there was a shower, but no water came from the taps.
Berto noticed a water tank about 100m from the hut and took a bucket from the hut … and hallelujah, we found water!! So, there we were – naked in front of the hut, throwing water from the bucket onto each other! Fortunately, there were no other people – but the baboons were laughing from the mountain tops! 😅
And then … the BEST memory for me of this hiking trip … we sat on the porch – NAKED – with a glass of red wine and watched the sun go down!
Our hut also had no electricity (although there were solar panels), but fortunately we had our headlamps… if we were not so tired, it could have been very romantic! All that had to be done before we could fall into our beds was to make dinner!
Here are the maps of the day:
Another tiring day … maybe we should have taken that ‘escape route’ this morning … but then, we had some stunning views today!
Tomorrow … our last day …