Hiking in the real Camdeboo mountains has been on my list for many years. It is one of those iconic areas of the Karoo, to the west of Graaff Reinet, that you often read about, see on maps and see the road signs when you drive past. But it is a hidden area and, like many of the Karoo areas, full of surprises.
Most of the farms (16 of them) in the Camdeboo area is part of the Camdeboo Conservancy, covering an area of more than 38 000 ha. Access to the area is controlled by an entrance gate, and there are only a few places offering accommodation. The farms in the conservancy are still very productive, with good diversification – from angora sheep, goats, cattle, cash crops and game. Some of the farms have been in the same family for more than 200 years. After investigating all the places of accommodation, I found one farm offering lodging for up to 12 people – Eenzaamheid Guest farm.
In the end we were 10 who attended the meet.
Photo left to right: Mimi and Ed Kay-Shuttleworth,
Mari Swart, Paul and Beth Edge (back), Samantha and Donovan Kotzé, Charles Smith, Dennis Lange, Derek Odendaal (leader).
The area received good rains during the past couple of months, so the veld was green and lush, even after the winter. We were also surprised how wooded the whole area is, and that many farmers had large centre pivot irrigation systems. Water is not scarce in the area!
The accommodation at Eenzaamheid was very comfortable and there is a large lapa for braai and making a campfire. We used it to the full, also the abundant supply of thorn tree firewood!
Our first day’s hike was from our accommodation up the wide valley towards The Tooth, the prominent rock tower that one can see from the main road between Aberdeen and Graaff Reinet. A farm track took us a few kilos up the valley, but then it became more wooded, rough and steep. We were amazed at the very large wild olive, karee trees and others growing along the banks of the stream. It was quite a rough climb to reach The Tooth. At last I could see exactly how high it is and what the rocks look like. The descent was obviously much easier, but it took some navigation to stay on the route we came up with! The afternoon was quite hot, but we had nice shade and other stuff to keep us cool at Eenzaamheid.
On the second day we drove a few kilos to the farm Vrede and did a walk all along Suurberg. There is a well-constructed farm road running up and around the mountain. The hike offered good views in all directions and an amazing variety of plant life – even good grazing grass for cattle on the high parts.
One of the farm dogs, called Jingles, decided to walk with us (yes, we all know this type of dog) and enjoyed the nice outing. In the end we hiked about 20 km and Jingles’s legs started to give in on the long downhill towards the end. We had a few dog Samaritans who helped to carry Jingles down the last few hundred metres….
Towards the end of this day, the leader experienced bad symptoms of an invasive flu. It was worse the next morning, and although he is very tough, he decided to stay put for the last two days. He was rather ill and very Eensaam….
The others went on a two-day overnight hike from Eenzaamheid in a western direction, sleeping over in a basic cottage in the mountains. It turned out to be a very nice hike with good scenery and variety. Even a big dam close to the cottage, and a challenging peak to climb. Although the leader is very disappointed that he could not do everything, it was still worthwhile to experience the Camdeboo area. There are some other parts to the north that also offer interesting hiking options…… Like Toorberg.
Meet Leader ~ Derek Odendaal