The call of the wild

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A cocktail of hiking and nature unclogs the mind and allows us to focus on the bigger picture. And the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness is just what the doctor ordered.

Reap the benefits of what nature has to offer by packing your boots and heading for the Winterhoek Wilderness, 120 km north of Cape Town, near Porterville. The elements whip us into shape and we sweat out our frustrations. As our muscles scream for mercy and our toes rub in our boots, we find not only exhilaration, but peace. The rewards of trekking unknown paths are too many to mention. Suffice it to quote Albert Einstein, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

In this rugged, wild landscape, exceptional rock formations mesmerise. There also are ancient rock paintings by the San and Khoi people, crystal-clear mountain pools and mountain biking trails.

The endless variety of landscapes provide the backdrop for plenty of ‘ah’ moments, photo ops, and trails that stimulate and refresh. Hikers don’t have to stick to paths. Explore the area’s rock formations and overnight in the veld – or a cosy cave. Vehicles should be left at the office complex parking area.

Groot Winterhoek is divided into two user-zones: Kliphuis and Perdevlei in the east; and De Tronk and Die Hel in the south. Trails don’t have route markers, but small cairns show directions where the routes lead over plate rock. There’s a primitive shelter at Perdevlei that can’t be booked, but the De Tronk huts should be booked in advance.

The following nine hiking trails truly showcase this wilderness area’s boundless natural beauty.

ROUTES
Die Hel to De Hoek: distance 9.5 km, about 3 hours. This demanding kloofing route is for hardened adventurers. There’s no footpath and it involves a combination of hiking, leaping off cliffs into deep pools and swimming through mountain streams.

Parking area to De Tronk via jeep track: distance 14 km, about 3,5 hours. This is an easy route with beautiful vegetation along the way.

Parking area to De Tronk via river: distance 13 km, about 3 hours. Many swimming pools along the way, as well as patches of ericas.

Parking area to Protea Pool: distance 1.5 km, about 40 minutes. Easy-peasy flat trail with disas to ogle at and the refreshing Protea Pool.

Parking area to Groot Kliphuis via river: distance 16 km, about 4 hours. The trail winds through exceptional rock formations and passes a wonderful swimming pool as it enters the koppies.

De Tronk to Die Hel: distance 5 km, about 1.5 hours. Fairly easy until you reach the gorge. The descent to one of the largest pools in the Western Cape is very steep and difficult. Look out for the rock art on an overhang.

Groot Kliphuis to Perdevlei via jeep track: distance 7 km, about 2 hours. Quite demanding, but with magnificent views.

Groot Kliphuis to Perdevlei via river: distance 6 km, about 1.5 hours. Invigorating.

Perdevlei to De Tronk: distance 12 km, about 2.5 hours. A beautiful route with many swimming pools along the way.

Finally, this is a supremely atmospheric area. Stick to the rules and enjoy!

GPS: 33.073519 S 19.163143 E

Buy permits through CapeNature Central Reservations; ph 022 9312860; accommodation & permit bookings ph 087 0878250.