Fun in the Klein Swartberg

Earlier on in the year – after I decided to post a few things on iSpot – I was contacted by Di asking if I’d like to join CREW (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers). What a stunning opportunity to help identify, document and preserve the fynbos of the Western Cape.

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The trip to Besemfontein was my first trip with Di, Bill and Brian. We headed for Besemfontein just north of Seweweekspoort, where we stayed in the charred hut that managed to survive the 2014 fire. The lighting still worked, but the water pipes had been burnt clean off.

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With no time to waste, we took the 4×4 to the shelter at the start of the Verlorenhoek trail. The top of the trail made for a magnificent viewpoint to see Die Hell is its entirety. We set off for the waterfall at the end the trail – immediately I was amazed by the collective plant knowledge of Di and Brian. The two were identifying fynbos with absolute ease.

I, on the other hand, had a swim in the surprisingly non-icy waters of the Oshoekhangsrivier and made the short, but steep trip back up to the Drifter.

Di had the following to say regarding the trail and its origins:

… the magnificent Verlorenhoek path that Dave Osborne designed and built when he managed the reserve.  This renowned conservator was one of the foremost Protea Atlassers and a wizard on birds.  His premature death was a tragedy for conservation, but this trail is a fitting memorial to a remarkable man.

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Total distance: 5.51 km
Max elevation: 1057 m
Min elevation: 694 m
Total climbing: 446 m
Total time: 02:41:22
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The next morning, Brian and I set off for Mount Aristata along the jeep track. Once again, Brian truly impressed me with his meticulous eye and seemingly infinite knowledge of fynbos! I was left to tag along and take photos of the mountain. All the while, the chilly winds and the vastness of the landscape brought back a sense of scale that I had last felt in the clutches of the Drakensberg.

Near the top, the jeep track ended and we were left to find our own way to the summit. We made quick work of this and were rewarded with a momentary glace at Seweweekspoortpiek towering above us at 2325m (the highest peak in the Western Cape).  It was near here that Brian and I found the exceedingly rare Protea pruinosa, which only grows on a few peaks in the Swartberg – this truly was a highlight for me.

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Total distance: 14.36 km
Max elevation: 1994 m
Min elevation: 1163 m
Total climbing: 1026 m
Total time: 06:58:05
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In reflection, it saddens me that Cape Nature have closed Besemfontein after the fire. The trails are in prime condition and truly minimal work is required to fix up the houses and shelter. We have the Swellendam trail and the Doringrivier in a very similar situation. Bill and Di estimate (conservatively) that 40% of the trails they hiked in their youth have closed down.

I am a huge supporter and collector of the National Geographic magazine. The past year’s editions have focused on national parks across the world (with a focus on America). October’s edition emphasized the lack of millennials visiting America’s national parks – the percentage stands at a dismal 21%. The following is stated:

A conservation constituency in a newer generation will be needed to protect wild places through the next hundred year.

It may be the ramblings of university student, but how can a generation – my generation – be expected to help conserve the little that is left, if they cannot even enjoy it? An effort clearly needs to be made to raise awareness. Surely closing dozens of hiking trails – the very trails that sparked my passion for the outdoors – does not help the cause.

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1 Comment

  1. Bill Turner

    “It may be the ramblings of university student, but how can a generation – my generation – be expected to help conserve the little that is left, if they cannot even enjoy it? An effort clearly needs to be made to raise awareness. Surely closing dozens of hiking trails – the very trails that sparked my passion for the outdoors – does not help the cause.”

    Hear, hear.!! Well said.

    What an opportunity it could be for the underprivileged to enjoy the character building experiences of hiking together in the wild if the controlling authorities. would only make OUR open spaces inexpensively available to the population.

    It is very sad to see so many trails once made, with great effort, by dedicated staff now disappearing as a result of neglect. I recently hiked part of the Attakwaskloof hiking trail which had all but disappeared until recently voluntarily cleared by a private operator and his gang, for free.

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