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Epic Mountain Experience

This nature reserve is located along the slopes of the Langeberg mountain range near the town of Heidelberg in the Western Cape, South Africa. See CapeNature for more info. See coordinates.

After a full year of medical school, a friend and I decided it was about time for an epic adventure! This was our December summer holiday of 2018.

Booking was necessary and hassle-free. The price for the basic shelters at Helderfontein was R60 per person with and additional R40 conservation fee per person per day.

Day one was started with great enthusiasm despite knowing that we were going to face some rainy weather. The trail led us through patches of burnt fynbos creating an unique contrast between the charred earth and the green sprouts of grass, ferns and restios arising from the ashes.

The unique Fire Lilies stood out scarlet red from the black earth – what a sight they were! These are lilies known to only bloom about two weeks after a summer wildfire. 

Other fynbos plants we could recognize among the vast diversity were the King Protea and Pink Disa. 

The higher we climbed, the worse the weather got in terms of wind and rain but not of enjoyment! Because we couldn’t see the surrounding landscape, we it was hard to guess our location on the map accurately – we just kept following the trail into the never-ending white abyss. With great relief and 16km later, we saw the two shelters revealing themselves through the white.

The huts, called Helderstroom Huts, were basic (as we were informed) but all we needed – four walls, a roof and a dry floor. We picked the one with the least amount of animal nests and odor. We prepared ham and mushroom pasta on our stove with coffee. While enjoying our food, a mouse revealed itself  from the floorboards – causing a brief surge on unnecessary adrenaline! Except for a bat making a brief visit to our shelter, the long, cold night on the hard floor went by uneventful.

The next day welcomed us with a soft drizzle of rain and a chilly breeze entering through the open door and window. We forced our stiff muscles and aching joints into motion so we could pack up and set out. The hardest thing to do was to put our warm, dry feet into the cold, wet boots!

We decided to return via the same 16km on which we came as the Duiwenhoks River on day 2’s trail is liable to flooding and hikers are advised to avoid the crossing during rainy weather. So with aching bodies, saturated boots and a long road ahead, we set out in a comfortable silence.

The road back, being familiar trail and downhill but not shorter or less rainy, passed by  quicker that we thought. Before we knew we were among the patches of burnt fynbos with the Fire Lilies again.

The Boosmansbos Wilderness 2 Day Trail was an epic experience of nature’s extreme conditions and pristine beauty! A trail well worth hiking, whatever the weather. 

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Eventful Bike Ride

Racing on a single track bike trail with wind streaming through your hair and shrubs blurring past. This is freedom.

SUDDENLY a bright pink mouth with fangs deadly strikes from underneath causing a surge of adrenaline. The dreaded, yet intricately beautiful puff adder.

^Check out our morning ride on the 2 min video.^

In the video you’ll notice many shrubs, succulents and thorn trees. The floral region is known as the Robertson Karoo.

The climate is semi-arid due to the region lying in the rainshadow of large mountain ranges. Summers are dry with temperatures reaching maximum of 40 ‘C ( 104 F) while winters are cool and moist with minimum of  -1’C (30 F). It has a average monthly precipitation of 7,7 mm in winter months (Apr – Oct).

Consequently the biome is a succulent shrubland. The plants are adapted to prevent water loss in the dry season.

Small-leaved Guarri
Small-leaved guarri with wrinkled leaves so that the leaves are rarely fully exposed to sunlight.
Aloe microstigma
Aloe microstigma has thick and fleshy leaves, which are enlarged to accommodate aqueous tissue inside. The leaves are also covered by a thin wax layer preventing water loss.
DCIM100GOPRO
The juvenile puff adder that crossed our path.

Interesting fact about puff adders:Puff adders hunt by ambushing their prey, and can lie motionless for weeks at a single location waiting for prey to pass. This behavior makes them vulnerable to predation.

A recent study at University of Witwatersrand found that (except for its visual camouflage) it has a chemical camouflage. They observed that dogs and the tame mongooses used in the study walked directly over motionless puff adders with both predators appearing to be completely unaware of the motionless snakes.

One can experience this amazing landscape at the Vroljikheid Nature Reserve near Robertson or at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden near Worcester.