28 December Arrival in Clanwilliam
We drove from Benoni on 27 December, staying over at Elandsrus near 3 sisters. This is an excellent stop over on a farm run by JH and Patrys. The rooms were comfortable and the food was excellent!
The temperature on arrival in Clan William was 35 C and we were met by Michelle Truter (the hike coordinator). We were reliably informed that the temperatures for the rest of the hike would be 35 – 37 C!
The Pakhuis trail is a slack pack with all accommodation, meals, guides, and transport included which is brilliant for us lazy hikers!
The first 2 nights we stayed at Blommenberg Guesthouseon a Bed, Packed Breakfast & Packed Lunch basis. The guesthouse was great, firstly we only had to pack our day pack and had a pool to cool off.
Dinner was arranged at Michael’s on Park Restaurant with excellent food and a view of the mountains we were going to challenge the next day. We were also served with a shot of Shery or Lemonade upon arrival.
Day 1 Pakhuis Pass to Krakadouw Cottages – 17 Km
The hike normally starts with being picked up at 06:30 but given the extreme temperatures we asked to be picked up at 5:00 am. We were transported to Pakhuis pass and picked up our guide Lindy on the way. This was ideal as we started to walk in the early light before sunrise and the first two hours we were hiking in the shade. The path is wide but we were glad we had a guide because in places there were many misleading paths. The scenery is stunning, everywhere there is rugged rocks and spectacular views.
Walking in stunning rock formations.
View from a rest spot.
However, the second half of the hike was in the blazing sun. For the next 3 hours we suffered in the heat – yes it was over 30°C by 8 am and rose to 37°C when we finished at 12:00.
There was a 600 m descent in the end which was tough going. One of those hikes where you can see the end but it takes an hour to get there. Yours truly as hike leader was exhausted, I had just recovered from flu and a week in UK with 6 C temperatures and rain. We were #*@! finished after that hike.
It was great to get back to the guest house and lie in an air-conditioned room. An evening swim and dinner again at Michael’s on Park Restaurant. Excellent food to end a horrific day of hiking.
Day 2 –Krakadouw Cottages to Heuningvlei– 14 Km
Day 2 is a 14 km with a steady 900 m climb. After our experience of the heat in day 1 and predicted temperature of 37°C again we opted to rather take the donkey cart ride from Pakhuispas to Heuningvlei. Thanks to Michelle Truter who quickly and efficiently changed our agenda.
When we arrived at Pakhuispas the donkey carts and just arrived so our drivers informed us we had to wait an hour for the donkeys to rest. They suggested we could hike on ahead and they would catch us up which we did. We had a fantastic stroll up the first part and then got picked up just before the steep climb. Again, it was very hot already at 9 am in the morning.
The donkey cart ride was bumpy, exciting and entertaining. One had to hold on for dear life, there are steep cliffs on a very narrow road, but the drivers are very entertaining with their constant banter to keep the donkeys moving. “Stap President Stap”, President being the lead donkey. “Kom on gaan huis toe, julle moet loop”. “Ek weet dis stuil – ons is amper booe – kom, moenie no luie wees.”
Matthew on the donkey cart
Heuningvlei Backpackers Guest Lodge
We arrived in Heuningvlei in 1 piece and the Backpackers Guest Lodge is stunning. Behind the guesthouse is plantations of Ceder trees, nearly all the trees were removed for wood in the 18th and 19th century and a fire in 2014 destroyed most of the remaining trees. The power went off around 3 pm and we were later informed about the disastrous fires in Wuppertal. The power never returned in the two plus days we were there.
The locals looked after us brining us excellent cooked meals in spite of there being no electricity. The people we met in this small clan are admirable with their work ethic and constant drive to live well. Also, we must not forget the puppies of Heuningvlei. They were the most adorable dogs during this entire holiday!
Day 3 – Heuningvlei circular route – 10 Km
Day 3 was an easy day hike of 10 – 12km in the hills to the east of Heuningvlei. The trail was not too steep with a gentle climb up of 250 m and then a 300 m descent. We stopped at 2 caves with some rock art. Again, the rock formations and views were stunning. Near to Heuningvlei the locals have permission to plant rooibos plantations to supplement their income which traditionally was mainly from sheep farming. Again, it was very hot.
We followed the traditional 9 pm ‘happy new year’ (Mauritius happy New year).
Hiking through rooibos plantations
Bushman paintings on the trail
Day 4 – Donkey cart ride and Sevilla Rock Art Trail
We had an early start again and set off back to Pakhuis pass on the donkey carts.
We were then transported to the Sevilla Rock Art Trail. The Sevilla Trail consists of 9 different rock art sites, and will took about 3 hours to complete. The Cederberg is one of the best areas for rock art in Southern Africa with 2,000 discovered sites. (The other three areas are the Drakensberg mountains in KwaZulu Natal, the Brandberg in Namibia and the Matopas in southern Zimbabwe.)
Matthew and our driver had an interesting encounter with a Cape Cobra. This is what happens when you walk ahead of the guide. The snake was on the path and they let it sliver away. After a while they continued to walk on the path only to discover the snake had also chosen this as its escape route (a bit traumatic).
This was then the end of a fantastic hike. But, this hike is best done in August or September when the temperatures are cooler and the flowers are in bloom.