Boland Trail

Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve

20th - 22nd December 2011

- Day 2: Landdroskop to Boesmanskloof -


Leaving Shamrock Hut at the start of day 2.

It was a late start after a muesli breakfast and a cup of tea, before we set off around 08h00 on what was to prove the longest day of the trail at 16.1 km and the most exhausting one at that. Leaving Shamrock hut ahead of the group of 'piepiejollers' (too rude to translate) who, despite being our neighbours for the night, had been located out of sight at Landroskop Hut, less than 100 yards away. The path swept past their hut but then swung to the right, reaching a jeep track that meandered down the valley towards the gorge fed by Riviersonderend, literally 'river without end'. At was at this point that we passed fields of exquisite colour, coupled with the sweet smell that fynbos generates, a paradise on earth. Fires had occurred here in recent years and a distinction regarding the age of the vegetation could be made where fire breaks had been cut in the landscape.

The surface of Theewaterskloof dam shimmers, as we head down the jeep track at dawn from Shamrock Hut.




Fynbos in bloom.

Though best avoided, fires do serve a purpose in allowing 'old' fynbos to regenerate, as long as they do not occur too frequently. When they do, it is often as a result of the accidental or malicious, deliberate intervention by man, rather than resulting naturally. By the time a fynbos community has reached the age of 15 years since the last fire, it is ready to burn. All the species have flowered and set seed for several successive years by then. On average most fynbos plant communities burn every 12 to 15 years. This frequency is determined by the rate at which vegetation grows or the fuel load accumulated after the previous fire. The fuel load is the amount and arrangement of flammable vegetation. Slow decomposition results in enough fine dead material on the ground to carry a fire, thereby increasing the flammability of fynbos. In addition, some plants produce high levels of secondary compounds that make them more flammable.

The Protea, South Africa's national flower.

  Along the jeep track, a sign indicates the direction of Boesmanskloof, our destination for the day. Crossing Riviersonderend, we followed the path that led towards Boegekloof, where the remnants of a suspended wooden bridge is all that remains to allow one to cross the stream, other than having to step over rocks in the river itself. Unbelievably, we discovered an assortment of tools that had been left behind by construction workers who had failed to complete the work.

The group of young hikers had caught up with us at this point. They had left their packs behind, a sign that they were heading for suicide gorge for a spot of kloofing or canyoning (this video clip shows typically what it's all about). We were in no hurry ourselves, content to absorb the splendour of the region. the early morning cloud had burnt off and it was turning into a warm day, with signs that it was going to be really hot later.

The Riviersonderend Gorge is 24 km long, and Suicide Gorge is a 17 km circular haul. Some people do both gorges on the same day. It's not to be attempted by the faint-hearted. With jumps from 3 to 15 metres in height, the highest compulsory jump being approx. 15 metres, a lot of time is spent in the water as you follow its course through the gorge. The only way out is to continue down the river, thus a commitment to a day of kloofing is essential. the water, which assumes a tannin colour, is also extremely cold, even on a hot day.

The remarkable colours of Cape fynbos in evidence here.


Boegekloof from the path, as we head down to the wooden suspension bridge.


Cape fynbos


A group of 'kloofers' crossing Boegoekloof suspension bridge ahead of us. Unsuspended perhaps, reckons Ralph!


View up Boegoekloof Gorge towards Jonkershoek.


Above Boegekloof lies Dwarsberg at 1523 metres. Leaving the Boegekloof river gorge, a momentary glance back up the kloof in a north-westerly direction provides a splendid view of the route towards the ridge that ultimately leads down into Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, on the Stellenbosch side. We soon reached Suicide Gorge, down which the young hikers ahead of us had begun to make their way. Despite encountering pools where the desire to immerse ourselves in it's crystal-clear waters seemed a worthwhile option at this stage, we crossed the river just above where it drops sharply down into the gorge below. Following a path that virtually turned back on itself with the river now directly below us, we reached another stream within Noordekloof, where we stopped for lunch and a swim. Both these spots are also an excellent source of drinking water.



Approaching Suicide Gorge; 'Kloofers' head down the gorge.


Noordekloof - location of our lunch break.


An hour or so later, we pressed on as we headed up Noordekloof towards Pofaddernek, literally 'puff adder neck', a gradual yet steady climb. Despite the cloud mass building up to the west, a sure sign of the impending rain weather, the temperature was up. The front was only expected to hit the next day, so there was no immediate cause for concern. The weather in these parts being unpredictable however, the last thing you want is to be caught out in the thick of it.  Occasionally, the breeze brought some welcome relief however there were moments on the path where we found ourselves sheltered from it, the heat rising in waves off the ground. We knew there was still a long way to go after Pofaddernek, not least the long descent down Bobbejaankloof ('baboon gorge'), our hut at Boesmanskloof ('bushmen's gorge'), as well as Theewaterskloof Dam, still out of view at this point. The zig-zag path, not as well maintained, was fairly eroded in places, not least the short cuts that had been created between sections of the path.


View looking back towards as we head up Noordekloof. In the distance lies Shamrock Hut.


The long descent of Bobbejaankloof from Pofaddernek, to our resting place for day 2 - Boesmanskloof Hut.



The zigzag descent along the somewhat eroded path of Bobbejaankloof; Crossing the bridge at Boesmanskloof Hut at the end of day 2.


We reached Boesmanskloof hut late afternoon, still illuminated by the sun soon to slip behind the mountains at the end of another day. To the east, into which Riviersonderend flows before it meanders on before forming a tributary of the Breede River, we viewed Theewaterskloof Dam ('tea water's dam', possibly a reference to the tannin-coloured water from the mountains), which forms part of the Western Cape Water Supply System. It was strange being back here, in a way. Many years ago, during my days as an electrical engineering student, I had worked for a spell at the Department of Water Affairs and had paid a visit to carry out inspections and test the soil pH. This was no time for life's reminiscences. Our priority after a wash was to organise our dinner in the shelter of the outdoor kitchen before nightfall, as depicted by Ralph's photo below, a study of a pair of seasoned hikers, if ever there was one. For the record, note the bottle of condensed milk on the table, evidence of Ralph's raging sweet tooth I was referring to earlier. The wind blew a gale all night and the windows and doors rattled. I don't think my iPod had progressed beyond track one before I had lapsed into the state of reduced consciousness. I remember waking up in the middle of the night remembering that I had left damp hiking clothes and socks draped over a rock for them to dry, so I got up and ventured outdoors to recover them.


Ralph and I cooking dinner at Boesmanskloof Hut.


[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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