10.7km (6.6 miles) – According to brochure
8.5km (5.2 miles) – Our distance
- Estimated time to complete according to brochure: 5 – 7 hours
- Our time: 4 hours
Hmm, do you wonder why ‘our’ distance is shorter than the brochure’s distance?
I can give you one word …
When Berto read the brochure last night, he smiled slightly and said: “Guess what? There is another chimney on tomorrow’s stage”.
According to the brochure: “The trail seemingly comes to a dead at a sheer cliff. However, careful inspection reveals a chimney with a ladder to your right. The section that follows is quite taxing – you have to make your way slowly over, around, underneath and past a jumble of enormous boulders”.
My short answer: “No ways!”
Fortunately, Berto found an alternative way 😄. The Day 5 route and the One Day circular route follow the same path from our hut. Before turning off to the dreaded chimney, the trail splits … we will then follow the One Day Trail (thus missing the chimney… thank you for small miracles)!
Yesterday, somewhere on top of the plateau, I got a signal on my cellphone. We quickly checked the weather and realised that today will be a hot-hot day – temperatures will rise to 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit).
Although we will have a much shorter distance to complete today, we left the hut at around 6:45 to avoid walking in the heat.
For days we read that there would be some rock paintings on the trail … but we missed it every time. Not far from our hut this morning we saw another sign for rock paintings and followed the path to a large rock. We could vaguely see some figures (probably of animals) on the rock.
If I had any illusion that today would be easy(ier), that thought disappeared quickly! We had a hill to climb to get back on top of the plateau – of course!
We reached a forested gorge and after ascending steadily for about 20 minutes, we left the shady forest behind.
For the next 45 minutes it was a scramble again. By using ladders and chains to lift ourselves up and over large rocks… I’m really tired after 5 days of climbing rocks!
For the past 4 days, Berto has had the habit of ‘announcing’ when there is a ladder ahead of us. The same happened today just after we reached the plateau … where I usually took a deep breath before climbing the ladders, I had a good laugh this time!
From here, it was a short walk of about 500m to the viewpoint of the ‘Knersvlakte’ (the same panoramic we saw on yesterday’s route).
But as soon as we reached the open plateau, a very strong wind greeted us … we knew we did not dare to go too close to the edge, because the wind comes from the east and we can easily just blow over the cliff! That was quite scary!
The wind was so strong, that Berto got hold of my hand … it almost felt as if the wind was lifting me off my feet (while carrying a heavy backpack)! I was glad when the path veered slightly away from the edge of the plateau!
We were still treated with some pretty flowers on our last day! This was always a highlight for me … to see how these flowers grow so spontaneously almost out of the rocks!
For the last time, the path turned again close to the edge of the plateau. Here a beacon was packed and we quickly took pictures before we finally moved back inland.
As we moved away from the edge of the plateau, the wind stopped blowing completely – it was almost surreal – but now it was getting very hot! Fortunately for us, we reached a few rock pools and splashed the cool mountain water over our faces.
We could hear the bark of baboons for a while now and it was getting louder and louder. Near our path was a big flat rock … and this is where a whole bunch of baboons sat. It was clear that we were moving towards their territory and they only got quiet when the path moved away from them.
For the last time we walked on a sandy path with trees on both sides … and we were surprised to find small red berries on the trees. It looked like a pine tree, but learned afterwards that it’s actually a Yew tree (an evergreen tree).
It was now becoming REALLY hot! We drank almost all our water and knew we still had to go down into the valley and climb another hill before we would reach ‘Groot Tuin’ (our destination). We could hear the sound of water as we came around a bend and to our delight, saw a stream of mountain water flowing over a flat rock bed! While Berto was filling our water bottles, I sat next to the stream and drank the cold sweet mountain water – lovely!!
As mentioned on the brochure, the path now veered down into the valley … through dense trees and over a couple of rocks.
The route follows the riverbed until we had to ascend to the top of the plateau (one final time). We rested for a while in the shade of a stone cave (all that climbing on a hot day was brutal)! And then … at last, we reached the junction that returns to ‘Groot Tuin’!
And then it happened … with our eyes now on the huge trees in front of us (where our car was parked), we had to climb one last set of rocks … and this is where Berto twisted and injured his ankle!
With only 1km to go, we were relieved that this happened so close to the end! At least he was still able to walk – although now much slower.
After a grueling 5 days on a hiking trail that made me cry and almost quitting – it literally had me on my knees and bum – I was so excited to reach the end!
A huge shiny medal to Berto! Under his watchful eyes and encouragement, I started and finished each day. I know I tested his patience quite a bit and the fact that we are still married after this hike, speaks volumes! 😄
Uncle Tony’s Cabin:
We only had to drive 15km to get to our overnight accommodation – Uncle Tony’s Cabin … with real beds and oh how wonderful – a BATH with RUNNING WATER!
And by now, our regular readers will know what we did next … we had a wonderful ‘braai’!
Time for a compliment:
Before we started our hiking trip, we bought meat in Nieuwoudtville. The question was how we would be able to keep this refrigerated until we finished the hike. Oorlogskloof Hiking office in Nieuwoudtville then arranged that they will keep our meat refrigerated with them (as well as the wood we bought) and then deliver it to Uncle Tony’s Cabin before we arrive there. That was really nice of them and we were happy to sit down on Sunday and enjoy one of the best braai’s ever!
When we arrived in Nieuwoudtville at the beginning of our hiking trip, we came across an old friend. We bought a bottle of red wine from Anton at his store and now was a great time to open that bottle and enjoy the last sunrays of the day!
- Will we do this hike again … NEVER!
- Are we glad we’ve done it … Absolutely!