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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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Towards an Italian Cross in South Africa!

Weekends when I drive home, I have to cross the mountains via the Du Toitskloof Pass. I  notice this trail’s starting point every time I drive past. Eventually an opportunity came and a friend and I made good use of it!

Some interesting history: The pass is named after Francois Du Toit who with the Huguenots (an ethnoreligious group of French Protestants ) arrived as refugees in the Cape colony, fleeing religious persecution in their own country. He and his family were the first people to farm on the mountain slopes nearest to the where the pass is today. The mountain pass was built in World War II by Italian prisoners-of-war for whom the cross was erected on Huguenot Peak. (Read more about its long and interesting history)

Setting out early isn’t always as easy in summer time. It was a struggle to get out of bed and prepare for the hike. Eventually we reached the start at 10 am, the day was already getting warm and everything nearly basked in the sun.

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The trail led us up the Miaspoort ravine where we scrambled over a rock slide and between some shrubs before we started to climb the Small Drakenstein mountains. The climb was slow and steady, taking breaks often to look back at the Cape Winelands which was quickly getting smaller and smaller.

On top of the mountains, the trail took us on a plateau where we had breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

On top of Huguenot Peak, it was already noon and the sun was beating down on us. We sat in the shade of a large boulder, absorbing the silence and vastness around us. The cross was erected in memory of the Italian prisoners-of-war who build the Du Toitskloof Pass in World War II.

While we sat there two falcons were circling us. How free they must be, we wondered, only concerned with the tasks of basic survival. Well rested, re-hydrated and re-lathered with sunscreen, we headed back.

Walking down the mountain, we took in the last bits of scenery and freedom before returning to our student existence on Monday.

A hike in the arid Robertson Karoo

Beyond the Boland and Riviersonderend mountains of the Cape, the rainfall becomes much less which results in the dominance of more hardened, water conservative ecosystems. Many species of succulents  together with numerous dwarf trees and shrubs make this region their home. On higher slopes and ridges one can find patches of renosterveld and along the (mostly seasonal) riverbanks, groves of sweet thorn trees grow.

The succulent karoo is a spectacular ecosystem because it gives one an appreciation of nature’s ability to adapt to harsh climates and still flourish.  The land here is home to various elusive creatures who mainly come out between dusk and dawn like the duiker, cape mountain leopard, porcupine, pangolin and grey rhebok. I’ve heard a interesting theory from a farmer once – he said the reason why mammals like the rhebok, duiker and leopard weren’t hunted to extinction when the Europeans came was because they are elusive and nocturnal animals. This is probable because one never sees any signs of life during the daytime unless you stumble upon a duiker resting in the shade or such.

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve is situated between the towns of Robertson and McGregor in the Breede River Valley. It hosts various facilities and trails – worth the visit! The Rooikat Trail is a 19km route taking you up the Elandsberg mountains offering spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. There’s no water along the way, the route is strenuous, takes about 8 hours to complete and you’re in the sun the entire time = come early and prepared!

What makes this trail unique is its remoteness and length. Nowhere in the popular routes will you have the privilege to spend a day out on the trail by yourself (plus your companions) in the company of only the stillness of the views and the beauty of mother nature. At the end of the day everyone’s feet are aching and tired but there is a mutual feeling of gratitude to be able to live on and experience such a wonderful Earth.

Up Arangiekop again!

With my first year of university behind me, it’s time to return to Arangieskop. What a spectacular hike it was!  

Arangieskop is a peak of the Langeberg mountain range (literally meaning long mountains) near the town of Robertson, Western Cape. The ascent is steep but takes you through pristine mountain fynbos and through a ravine where you can stop for snacks and take a swim! You overnight on the very snug hut on top of the mountain. Day two you summit and take the long and steep decent down to the Robertson wine valley below.

The morning of the final ascent, we saw the most beautiful sunrise above a blanket of clouds covering the valleys below.

Enjoy the video and if you ever get the chance, endeavor to ascent this peak!

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For more info click on the link: http://www.campingandhiking.co.za/jl2/index.php/hikes/weekend-hikes-menu/arangieskop-robertson-march-10-menu

Hanklip’s Secret

Ever been in the area of Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay or Rooiels? Then you must have hiked up or least know of Hangklip. Well not many people know of its secret deep within the mountain – a cave! Also the home of some bats and a ancient tree. 

What type of cave?

A talus or scree cave. This type of cave is formed by openings between large boulders fallen into a random heap. The Hangklip cave is the result of it being in an gulley which resulted in water removing all the soil between these boulders resulting in an talus cave.

The “entrance” to the cave is situated under a giant white milkwood tree (a tree unique to southern Africa) which’s fruit are conveniently part of the resident bats’ diet. This particular tree my family like to call the “fairy tree” because it feels enchanted especially when making the transition between  the sunny fynbos outside and the damp, shaded interior of the milkwood tree.

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Look for the path leading to the cave (34°21’57.8″S 18°50’00.7″E) and cherish this small piece of paradise.

Table Mountain

On a clear, cool winters morning what’s better to do than be in the mountains? Where a better place to be than on Table Mountain, one of the new seven natural wonders of the world.

This is the first time I’ve hiked up Table Mountain. I realized why it’s one of the natural wonders of our world. We went up with Platteklip Gorge and down via the India Venster route.

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Three of us on top of Platteklip Gorge.

In retrospect we were actually surprised of how fun the trails in the mountain really are. I’ll recommend hiking up Table Mountain to everyone and not taking the cable car!

Kogelberg rehiked with a new twist.

The average student needs some time off every now and again. After a week of studying for a chemistry test, we thought it’s time to treat ourselves. Consequently we let ourselves loose on the Kogelberg 24km trail!

As seen in the video it was a clear and hot day. By the time we arrived at the beach our feet were aching and we were in desperate need of some refreshment before the last push home. Jumping into the cool mountain water after the long hike was a feeling I’ll never forget.

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Another special sighting we made was of the Red Cluster Disa (Disa ferruginea) hidden between the fynbos adjacent to the trail. Being a big fan of orchids, I considered myself very lucky to see this scarce and special flower.

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I hope you enjoy the video and the photos. Feel free to comment, like and subscribe. 

A Teenage Adventure!

Young, searching for identity and enjoying the world. That’s what we did. Behold the three teenagers’ big night out:

Not so many years ago two good friend and I went on a night out in the wild. We gained permission from a farmer to go camp on his uncultivated lands.

Treading our own path, picking our own campsite and spending the night under the starry sky by firelight was an experience to remember. The next morning we hiked towards the nearest road and caught a lift back home.

I hope you also enjoy watching our memorable experience!

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.
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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.

Overnight on the beach!

I kicked off my summer holiday with my grandfather and a dear friend. We hiked along the coast near the southern most tip of Africa and spent a night along the beach. It was such a relief to get in the outdoors, breathe the ocean breeze and not have to go to school!

Spescial things I encountered was an out-wash of sea urchins, seeing Jupiter and Venus (we only realized that afterwards) and watching the full moon set in the ocean at 04:00 in the morning.

Sea urchin heaven
Sea urchin heaven
A big dune
A big dune

We also walked past the house (seen in the background of the featured image) where the late British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan wrote his speech: “The Wind of Change” which he represented to the South African Parliament in the time of Apartheid.

Beautiful sunset
Beautiful sunset

Hope you enjoyed the short video and photos!