My family decided that we should spend the week of the 5th of April walking the Tsitsikamma trail once again, as we did in the December of 2008. This week was the university recess week, and for me it was the week before my linear algebra test. The plan was to do the full hike from Kalander hut all the way to Sleepkloof hut and end at Stormsriver. Our choice of date (although forced by my schedule) turned out to be less than ideal. During the Saturday night before we were set to start, there was a huge amount of rainfall resulting in flooding and consequently a large amount of damage – parts of the road were washed away, and the water rushed through many of the cars that were parked there overnight.

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Bridge over Grootrivier – Photo courtesy of Hansie Venter

Day 1, Nature’s Valley to Kalander – Sunday the 5th 

We drove through the Sunday morning, and started the short walk to Kalander Hut. The bridge along the way was unfortunately washed away, so we had wade through the waters to get to the other side. Needless to say, we were all soaked by the time we arrived at the hut. Luckily it was nothing that a bit of sherry could not fix. 

My father and I crossing a tributary of the Grootrivier - Photo courtesy of Hansie Venter

My father and I crossing a tributary of the Grootrivier – Photo courtesy of Hansie Venter


Day 2, Kalander to Bloukrantz – Monday the 4th 

We started the day early and did the steep walk up to the fynbos plateau, from where we had beautiful views of Nature’s Valley and the ocean. After we caught our breath and adjusted our bags a bit, we were on our way again.

The fynbos only lasted for a short while, and soon we where in the afromontane forest, with no shortage of shade or bird life. I had some recollection of a picnic bench somewhere along the way, and surely just as we crossed the R102, we came across the site. This marked our first stop for the day.

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 We continued and somewhere around the 7-8km mark we crossed the N2 – from here on we were on our own. The trail eventually led us onto a gravel road, which would take us to the hut. This road went on much longer than we expected (although I had some recollection of us facing a similar problem in 2008), but eventually we made it to the hut.

Later as the sun started to set we saw a group coming up from the trail leading to Keurbos hut. They were one day ahead of us and had set out that morning to Keurbos, but the high rainfall had washed away the bridges on the trail and meant that they had to turn back. They had tried crossing the river, but the strong currents made it an impossible task. On top of their exhaustion, we had to relay the unfortunate news that the floodwater had rushed through all the vehicles at Nature’s Valley.

To my great disappointment we could not continue to Keurbos – our new strategy was to take the escape route out to the Bloukrantz forest station, drive to Boskor, and rejoin the trail at Heuningbos.

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Day 3, Bloukrantz to Heuningbos via the escape route – Tuesday the 5th

The day was spent with minimal walking and lots of waiting. The group in front of us decided to continue with their trip, despite the damage to their vehicle.

I recall the section from Bloukrantz to Keurbos, to Heuningbos as being the most beautiful – it is especially isolated and unique in this regard. It really was  a tragedy to skip this section that wanders underneath fern canopies and through fields of fynbos. I have included a few photos from the 2008 trip here below.

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We reached Keurbos with ample time till dusk, so we explored around a bit and spent some time in the Kleinbos river. Hansie had bought us wine in Nature’s Valley (He had fetched one of our vehicles). We left the wine in the river, which turned out to be the ideal natural refrigerator.

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Day 4, Heuningbos to Sleepkloof – Wednesday the 6th

The total number of days hiking had now been cut short by a day, but no matter. This final stretch was to include two saddles, with the second one (Nademaalsnek) being notably higher.

From the hut, we headed north and immediately started to climb. The effects of the recent rain were clearly still noticeable, with the trail being more akin to a river than a path. The fynbos stretched all the way from the hut, over the first saddle to just before the Witteklip river. Here a forest of ferns welcomed us, and we decided that it was time for a well deserved lunch break.

From here we started the hardy ascent to Nademaalsnek. After much effort we reached the top and were rewarded with a wondrous view of Sleepkloof hut and the Storms River bridge (Paul Sauer bridge) in the distance.

The last few kilometers were downhill and snaked through a small section of forest.

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Day 5, Sleepkloof to Stormsriver Bridge – Thursday the 7th

We finished early the Thursday morning, walking through a dense section of fynbos that seemed very overgrown. We had something to eat at the Spur and we were on our way.

The Tsitsikamma trail is immensely rewarding and in my opinion one of the most beautiful trails I have done. One cannot help but feel humbled when isolated so deep in the mountains and surrounded by such beauty. We are planning on finishing the two days we skipped at some point in the coming year.

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