Easter weekend saw a return to the Outeniqua mountains. We spent four days hiking, starting at Beervlei and ending (70km later) at the Gouna forest station. This trail has a special significance to me, seeing as it was my first hike back in ’97. I saw this trip as a chance to reflect on that which has changed – both for me and for this fragile landscape.
Have a look at the Hiking Maps page for detailed information on the trail.
Day 1 – Beervlei to Windmeulnek
This section winds through stunning old-growth forest up to the Hoogekraal. Entering the forest, is entering a landscape where the light struggles to make its way to the floor.
We stopped at the Hoogekraal, but I found it difficult to appreciate the jeep track that soon followed. Nevertheless, Windmeulek remains one of my favourite huts of the trail – I went scouting (after we dropped our bags and made food), and found Leucadendron eucalyptifolium, conicum & uliginosum all in close proximity to the hut.
Max elevation: 756 m
Min elevation: 208 m
Total climbing: 966 m
Total time: 04:35:01
Day 2 – Windmeulnek to Platbos
What a cold and rainy day, but most definitely my favourite. Fynbos dominates this higher altitude mountain landscape, with bright pink ericas, yellow Mimetes pauciflorus and countless other species that I couldn’t even begin to identify.
Most of the trail is spent higher in the mountain, with two major descents. The first is down to the Karatara river, while the second is down to Platbos. There is also a myriad of little streams and waterfalls – all of which are lovely to stop at, given the right weather!
Reaching Platbos, we had the opportunity to dry out clothes in front of the fireplace, and warm ourselves a bit.
Max elevation: 830 m
Min elevation: 308 m
Total climbing: 954 m
Total time: 06:05:53
Day 3 – Platbos to Millwood
For the section up to the Homtini river, we saw clear and constant signs of an elephant (The Matriarch, believed to be the last). Firstly, the dung was scattered along the trail, and secondly, the footprints in the mud were unmistakable
It is such a privilege to be able to walk in an ancient forest where so many of these giants used to roam.
Continuing, we reached Jubilee Creek, whereafter it was uphill all the way to Millwood! Jubilee Creek is another one of those spots that has special significance to my childhood as well as to my mothers. She speaks of how they came here as children, in a time before it was open to the public.
The final uphill slog to Millwood features a patch of well-recovered fynbos. Huge Protea mundii can be seen flowering here. To think, in the time of the gold rush, this landscape was trampled to bits.
Max elevation: 496 m
Min elevation: 190 m
Total climbing: 740 m
Total time: 05:16:54
Day 4 – Millwood to Gouna
The final day we crossing the Knysna river on our way to the Gouna forest station. The climb up from the river never fails to make me shudder – it really is quite a mission when you have a heavy pack on your shoulders!
The last slog, from the top of the climb to Gouna, is covered with giant Kalanders. My mind could not help but wonder what a beautiful place the Southern Cape must have been all those hundreds of years ago when these trees first took root. It saddens me to think of all that is lost; but these little pockets of paradise, keeps me optimistic for the future of the forest and fynbos.
Max elevation: 566 m
Min elevation: 84 m
Total climbing: 771 m
Total time: 05:17:46
Growing up in Hoekwil, I often neglected the indigenous and untouched landscape that was to be found all around. I am thankful for this trip to remind me of what once was. Despite the encroaching alien vegetation, the rampant fires, the greed of neighbouring land owners and the general lack of respect for our stunning biodiversity, I am glad to call this place home.