Don’t spread this information, but quite a number of the toughest hikers in the South Cape section did a slackpacking trail. Initially, I was brave enough to book the trail for a full backpack hike, but some of the interested members pointed out that it was a very rough hike and convinced me to take the slackpack option. We also cut out one day of this 5-day trail to fit it into 4 days.
The group consisted of (in the group photo from left to right): Donovan Kotze, Ed Kay-Shuttleworth, Samantha Kotze, Werner Frei, Dennis Lange, Christoffel Smalberger, Elna van der Walt, Cheryl and Greg Devine, Derek Odendaal (leader), Sanet van Meersbergen, Clive and Sandy Louw, Charles Smith.
Besides the slackpacking way (where our cold stuff was even put into the next hut’s fridge or freezer), the overnight facilities are particularly good and comfortable. These overnight cottages are also rented out to hunters in season, as well as other visitors.
The trail is situated between Beaufort West and Fraserburg in the Nuweveld Mountains. We gathered at Boplaas, the start and end of the trail, where an old farmhouse was converted into hikers’ accommodation. The next day we started out into this remote and typically Karoo landscape, with its endless vistas and fascinating rock formations. The area is very dry after years of drought, and all the fountains have dried up. A large part of the area is fenced in for game. We all wondered how the game still survives, but they are obviously well adjusted to the conditions. We saw steenbok, klipspringers, red rhebok, kudus and gemsbok. And a few of the cute and swift-footed red rock rabbits.
After quite a hot day, we arrived at Bloubos hut and enjoyed the good facilities. On the second day, we arranged to lengthen the normal route, by hiking 17 km. We ended up at Grootdroom, a lovely chalet that was specially built for the enjoyment of hikers and hunters. It was a rather windy day, but we really enjoyed the scenic higher part of the route. We also appreciated the large indoor braai, dodging the nasty wind outside. Grootdroom was also our home for the next night. We pre-arranged to be picked up near the next overnight hut and transported back to Grootdroom.
The third day produced a cold wind, but the scenery was amazing. We followed a high dolerite cliff area for a long way. These cliffs (locally known as The Crown) is an almost endless collection of stacked pillars and columns. Seeing all these remarkable formations from just below them, was surely the highlight of the trail, and worth every stone we had to step on.
On the fourth day, we walked back east towards Boplaas, along fascinating rocky ravines and gullies. Most of us also went to the top of Tafelkop, a very prominent feature in the area. This mountain is somehow not so high when you go up, but very high when going down. And stony. But it was worth the effort.
In the end, I was glad we took the slackpacking option. The terrain is extremely stony and carrying a full pack along the entire route, is for people who want to prove something. And then there are the luxuries of fresh meat, cold beer or Coke, enough wine…….
If you love the Karoo landscape, open spaces and silence, this trail will appeal to you. If you don’t like walking over stony terrain – stay away. On the first day I wondered which were more: stones in the Karoo, or stars in the universe. By the 3rd day I knew: stones in the Karoo.
Derek Odendaal – meet leader