We started walking at about 08H40 the Saturday morning. Half our group camped at Beaverlac, approximately 10 km down the road from the start. We thought that camping at Beaverlac was a much better option than camping at the start of the hike as the hike has no facilities what so ever (not even water!) and Beaverlac was cheaper.
It was a perfect, crispy winter’s morning and everything appeared beautifully clean and fresh after the good rains we had in the week.
We decided on doing the Perdevlei, via Groot Kliphuis route, on the jeep track, and Perdevlei via Klein Kliphuis River on the second day. This was actually our only option, as the rest of the wilderness area was still closed after the fire of three years ago. Although the area of The Hell (De Tronk) is the main attraction in most people eyes, we were still very keen on to walking in the Grootwinterhoek Wilderness Area again.
We crossed the the Groot Kliphuis river without too much problems, just one or two slips that could have turned out nasty, but thankfully did not.
Soon after this you get to see some of the first amazing rock formations. One can easily spend hours viewing these rocks from different angles. Using a bit of imagination, one can see almost anything including hands, dassies, elephants, monkey racing on a pig… If you have the time, veer off the path a bit and view the rocks from different angles, it is truly spectacular.
I cannot ever recall being in the Grootwinterhoek area without there being an abundance of icy, crystal clear water. The water is so clear, you even feel to “dirty” to swim in it. Most of the other hikes in the Western Cape have water tainted with plant tannins, giving it a brownish colour.
|Going up the only hill||Yes, the water is VERY cold||Grootwinetrhoek peak|
|photos by Paul|
Groot Kliphuis on the map looks like it could be “a place” (the name in Afrikaans means big stone house) it is actually nothing more than a few oak trees. I am sure if you go back in history there will be a very good explanation for these trees. This is also a good spot for lunch if you feel like veering off the path a little.
Don’t eat too much, because right after lunch there is a nasty “bump” that takes you right up to 4400FT above sea level, the highest point on this route. In summer I have heard more than one or two curse words, but on a cooler day this is a lot easier on the body. The end for the day is just on the other side down the mountain.
Perdevlei is an emergency shelter, as the brochure says. Don’t expect anything more. Some 4×4 club, (I forget their name) has their plague stuck on the wall of the shelter, claiming that they maintain the hut. Clearly, neither they, nor anyone else has been there for a long, long time. There was a thick layer of mouse droppings on the concrete floor in the one section. Thankfully there was a broom.
Never the less, we proceeded with our festivities, as we always do, and the last thing I did before I went to bed was to check the starlit sky. Everything looked great; there was hardly a cloud in sight. I knew that we would sleep well, not having to worry about crossing the (semi) notorious Groot Kliphuis River.
The next morning we awoke to a very unfamiliar sound, a soft drizzle on a tin roof without a ceiling. This we knew was not good, even though the weatherman only gave us a 20% chance of rain.
We set off on our intended route, Groot Kliphuis, via the Klein Kliphuis River, but after loosing the path a few times (the mist and drizzle was getting a bit heavier by now) we decided that it would be a lot safer option returning via the jeep track that we came in with.
As we summited the highest point, just above Perdevlei hut, the heavens started to unleash its rain in all fury. At times we could hardly see 10 m ahead of us, but fortunately this was not continuous. Every few minutes we would have some relief.
There was no more time for stopping; we were on mission to cross the Groot Kliphuis River before it got flooded. Every two or three years one reads about hikers getting stuck behind the river, sometimes for days on end. This was not our idea of fun. With a brisk pace we guessed we could reach the river in about three hours.
We trudged on, by now the most of us wet to the bone, my expensive Karrimor raincoat disappointing me badly. You can actually feel the cold slowly creeping in on you, no matter how fast you walk.
The landscape looked completely surreal. I thought that we were back in the times of Noah and the Ark, and the rain of 40 days and nights had just started.
I don’t know how the 4×4 guys are ever going to get back to the hut again, because one could actually see the 4×4 track being washed away by the heavy rains. I know this sounds a bit dramatic, but that is how much rain there was.
Our party got a bit “stretched out” (which is never good) and the waiting for our party to regroup made the cold really kick in. At times like this, one realizes how quickly things can go wrong, being in the wilderness, wet to the bone with an icy wind making matters even more challenging. With all these conditions at play it cannot take long for hypothermia to kick in.
We then decided to take the top route (see map) back to the vechiles, via the jeep track, and not the actual path as shown on the map across the river. We reasoned that the higher up to the source of the river we are, the less water we would have to cross. We were all glad to have made this decision. This route is quite a bit further but proved to be worth the safety risk.
Fortunately our party regrouped quickly, and we set of again. Not long after we got to the Groot Kliphuis River, by now a very fast flowing “stream.” It looked intimidating. Fortunately Paul, a very level headed guy took the initiative, braced himself against the torrent and made sure everyone crossed safely.
Now that we have finally crossed the river we are all chirpy, even though it is still raining, until we hear a familiar sound, the sound of a raging river. We cannot believe this; the map does not indicate two rivers. But never the less we have to cross this river as well, and this river is very intimidating. Somehow Paul again finds us a “safe” spot to cross (very barely). I think if we were a half hour later we would have had to sit it out.
The map supplied by Cape Nature is definitely not accurate (or up to date) but with some asking (the mist and rain made it impossible to see anything at a distance) we found our way back to our cars via the jeep track to the Dassklip Pass road. The distance we walked, according to Google Earth, including our detour of about 4 km was only 19.5 km, while the map supplied by Cape Nature shows the distance to be 23km.
Unfortunately none of us could get any photos or video, as everything just was to wet.
Will I do this again? Yes, certainly, but I must admit that I cannot wait for summer.
An insert… by Helga
When I saw my brother (a big guy) with his vacant stare I did not comprehend at the time what the cold was busy doing to him. We reached the group and started waiting for the last part of the group to arrive. After one minute I felt the incredible cold gripping each part of my body. I started this weird hard breathing in an attempt to become warmer. I could not imagine waiting for another 10 minutes. Then, my husband started incoherent mumbling – the onslaught of hyperthermia has begun! I snapped at him to get undressed – he could not move his hands or arms. The rain is still gushing down. I start undressing him and commanding him to calm down and not lose it. We find dry clothes and dress in all we have left in out rucksacks. Two of the biggest guys on the hike were taking the most stain out of all! The rest of the group arrives – praise God! Only walking can keep us from this monster called “really dying from the cold”.
We walk and we talk about how easy it was for us to judge the 3 hikers who died in the Swartberge two years ago. Unless you were there – you have no idea! One minute you feel okay – the next you might just not be able to care anymore. Fortunately for us, we make it. The idea of reaching that warm car drives us to the end point. Will I do it again – for sure – just not this winter!
Enjoy your hiking but remember to start warm when walking in winter rain. Stick together, eat chocolates and keep positive – you will make it!
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Click the icon to see the map that we walked. You must have GoogleEarth installed on you pc.
|Tel no||0861CAPENATURE(227 362 8873)or 021 659 3500||G.P.S.||–32.997542,19.059072|
|Nearest Town||Porterville||Max Persons||12|
|Distance from Town||32 km, 50 mins||Overnight Shelter||No official overnight shelter|
|Map to start of hike||View Map||Brochure||Click here|
|No of days||As many as you like||Trail Type||Circular|
|Tips and things to do|