Boland Trail

Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve

20th - 22nd December 2011

- Day 1: Nuweberg to Landdroskop -


Ralph at Landroskop Hut, at the end of the first day.

View of Cape Nature's Nuweberg office from the service road.


It had been four long years since the last visit to my beloved homeland and country of my birth, South Africa. Apart from the fact that I had not seen my family (excepting for on of my brothers) during this period, I missed the multitude of hiking options available in this vast and beautiful country. So I could not possibly contemplate a return visit without taking in at least one major hike of at least three days. As a result of some prior discussion and planning with a former schoolmate, friend and hiking buddy, Ralph, whom I had last met in Patagonia two years ago, the choice narrowed down to either the Cedarberg or Boland Trail, the latter involving less than an hour of travel time. The GPS track mapping the entire route is shown here, courtesy of Ralph Pina.


View towards Grabouw & Elgin from the service road in Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve.


It was with some initial disappointment that we realised, according to the website of Cape Nature website, that Landroskop and Shamrock huts in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve had been closed due to a severe case of vandalism. Further enquiries by Ralph revealed that the huts were now open and bookings were secured as a result, however we would discover on the day that we weren't 'out of the woods' yet, so to speak. Only experienced hikers, well-equipped for extreme weather, should consider this route, is the advice. Trail distances on the Nuweberg Route are as follows:
Day 1: Nuweberg to Landdroskop - 12km
Day 2: Landdroskop to Boesmanskloof - 17,6km
Day 3: Boesmanskloof to Nuweberg - 14km
Hut: Two huts and one hut are found at the overnight stops, each sleeping 30 people. Huts are equipped with bunk beds, mattresses and water.



We packed and set off from Stellenbosch for the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve around 08h00 Tuesday morning, via Theewaterskloof. The Cape Nature official at the gate had other ideas as to whether Shamrock hut was indeed available for us to stay over in. As far as she was concerned, her instructions were not to give anyone the keys, bookings notwithstanding. Confusion reigned for another hour until it was finally sorted out, having also agreed not to lodge a complaint regarding the state of the toilets, which were in the process of being upgraded.  Our prior hiking experience with regard to the call of nature and Ralph's small hand shovel meant that we were sufficiently well equipped, with an added ability to improvise.

The path took us past the reserve's main office building along a service road that rose steadily, with Nuweberg Dam to our left. This service road doubles back to the right before before continuing the steady climb once again. We reached the point where the  service road drops down towards Eikenhof Dam, with views towards Grabouw and the dominant section of the Hottentots Holland mountain range to the west that forms the barrier between the Cape Town metropolitan area and the southern Overberg coast which may only be crossed by Sir Lowry's Pass. At the start of the Great Trek in 1835 when migrants decided to leave the Cape Town area, or Cape Colony as it was then known, the first mountain range they crossed was this range. Cuts and wheel markings from their ox wagons can still be seen in rock formations in the vicinity of Sir Lowry's Pass on this mountain range. Much of how the Overberg was first discovered and explored by early settlers is described in magnificent detail in two books by Edmund Burrows, Overberg Outspan and Overberg Odyssey. This route still serves as the primary route out of the Cape Town area for travellers heading up the east coast of South Africa.


Eikenhof Dam, bordering Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve; In search of the elusive Sphynx.


Leaving the service road, the path follows a distinctive hiking trail upwards towards Nuweberg, to our left, at 1280 metres. The indication on the map of an outcrop of rock referred to as The Sphinx brought constant amusement for the rest of the day, as we set out to identify it. The possibilities mounted as no fewer than three emerged as possible candidates such that, today, we are still none the wiser and the debate rages on. We stopped for lunch as we reached the head of a valley with what looked like Shamrock hut in the distance behind a hill and the final traverse towards it. This required us to first cross a stream (possibly part of the Palmiet River), which preceded a wide loop in order to reach the hut. The Palmiet River rises in the Hottentots Holland Mountains. The river is about 70km long and fed by 11 perennial tributaries and numerous seasonal streams. The river meanders south from Nuweberg, through the Elgin Basin before it enters the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. Relaxing in the sunshine just off the path, a group of young hikers passed us, oblivious as to our presence, heading for the hut adjacent to Shamrock. Surely, as ageing, seasoned hikers, we weren't that well camouflaged! It was an interesting valley, surrounded on all sides by peaks, the landscape scattered with rock shapes of all descriptions that, with some imagination, allowed one to conjure up resemblances to man and beast alike. The real treat was the abundance of Cape fynbos and the multitude of colours.




The rugged landscape of Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve.


Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve fynbos.





Mesmerising geology of Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve.


Blou Koggelmander


The approach to the huts at the end of the first day.


Upon reaching Shamrock Hut via a wooden walkway designed to protect the marshland beneath it, we executed an improvised wash al fresco before settling down to a cup of tea whilst sunning ourselves on the open deck in front of the hut. Having maintained a sweet tooth over the years, Ralph's is usually laced with condensed milk, one of his simple hiking pleasures for which I have got to know about him. Whilst we were more than satisfied with the accommodation, it was a real shame to discover that construction workers who had been there before had left area around the hut in a bit of a mess, plastic and paper strewn on the ground an indication of their disregard for the environment. With the aid of Ralph's gas burner, we soon rustled up a pasta dinner in the hut itself before it got dark and the cloud began to roll in, transforming the landscape entirely. Rain had been forecast on the third day.



View from Shamrock hut as clouds roll in.


[Home Page]

Boland Trail [1] [2] [3]

[South African adventures]

Cape Nature website -  plus, download a brochure & map of the area.

Environmental report on Cape River Systems - pdf document.

Suicide Gorge kloofing video clip.

Suicide Gorge Kloofing - an adventure website

Paddling Suicide Gorge - an adventure website

The walk - Ralph's perspective

Ralph's Boland Trail video clip


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