Words & pics Ron Swilling
Somewhere between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point, between small coastal villages, agricultural land and pine plantations, lie 18000 hectares of pristine veld pulsating with wild energy. Four friends and I took the chance to escape the complexities of life for a day of walking in this.
I entertained the deliciously evocative word ‘heart-land’ as we entered Kogelberg Nature Reserve, anticipating time spent in the wild openness. The gushing and sparkling Palmiet River sped out from the mountain enclave, tumbling over rocks with snow-white bubbles of icy freshness. Walking was what we were going to be doing. Twenty-four kilometres of it.
As the path rose above the five attractive eco-houses bedecked with grassy roofs, we started to peel off layers of clothes. Those in the front were setting a swift pace that hardly allowed a chance to pause for photographs. We sped through Oudebos, one of Kogelberg’s three pockets of indigenous forest that nestle between mountain shoulders. Golden water bubbled between trees and ferns, and soft, spongy earth rebounded underfoot.
A series of uphill climbs quickly sobered us up to the fact that the eight-hour hike wouldn’t be all easy cruising. The leaders started to slow. We popped out of the forest to climb up craggy slopes. Rolling green mountains sported hairdos of furry fynbos and radiated a soft and subtle beauty. After four hours’ walking away from the sea, which now appeared as a blue swathe on the horizon, we pored over our map wondering when the path would loop around.
We shared the mountain kingdom with frogs, spiders that barricaded the paths with masterful webs and a rich variety of diverse fynbos, regrown after fire ravaged the area several years ago. This was the stomping ground of mountaineer and botanist, TP Stokoe, who identified numerous of the 1 600 mountain fynbos species found here, some of which were named after him.
Our shoes came off at our lunch spot amongst the rocks and restios and we wiggled toes and chatted merrily in the heart of this enchanting reserve until we remembered the distance we still had to cover and the hour of the day. The path joined the jeep track and seemed to continue endlessly. The bottles of wine and appetising supper ingredients we’d brought for the evening started to feature in conversation, as did the realisation that although the path had thankfully levelled out, this was a substantial trail demanding a reasonable degree of fitness.
Finally, we reached a signpost indicating the direction back to the office along the jeep track or the Palmiet River. We didn’t hesitate and chose beauty, the more interesting river walk. This stretch along the river has a succession of inviting swimming holes, enticing spots for searing summer days. But, the sun was sinking rapidly and the day was cooling. The mountains donned glossy afternoon robes and glistening crowns for the occasion, the fynbos shone in emerald green. After an exquisite afternoon show and just before the evening curtain was drawn, we spotted the camp in the distance.
There was nothing that hot water and good food couldn’t fix. In the morning when I woke and padded in my socks to find the kettle for coffee, I found everyone had enjoyed a good night’s sleep. Surprisingly, aches and pains had disappeared. A day in the mountain world had stretched legs and reenergised souls. Day-to-day concerns had floated away on the sliver of glistening river or been absorbed by the mountain peaks. Here in Kogelberg, we pondered peace.
Kogelberg Nature Reserve is 90km southeast of Cape Town and is reached from the R44 coastal road, just before Kleinmond.
Other hikes include the Palmiet River route, the Oudebosch-Leopard’s Gorge walk and the more strenuous Perdeberg and Three Sisters peaks. A 22km mountain-bike route follows the jeep track. White-water rafting and tubing are offered in winter by commercial river operators, Gravity Adventures and SA Forest Adventures.
Accommodation is available in five self-catering eco-friendly cabins at R1 840 for up to 4 people in season and R920 a night out-of-season 2 people. R280 an additional person.
Reservations: CapeNature 021 483 0190.
Source: Wild Magazine