Pakhuis Trail

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.

Interesting Read

10 reasons hiking is good for your soul (and why you should start hiking today!)

There’s a truckload of research out there telling us that hiking is good for us. As a form of exercise, there’s nothing like a brisk climb to get your heart rate up. Check out this great infographic.

Physically, the benefits are numerous. Getting outside for even a short hike regularly can reduce your risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and help to prevent type II diabetes.

Hiking makes you strong. And it doesn’t just work your legs. Clambering over uneven surfaces and navigating your way around rocks, fallen trees, across streams and over tree roots engages your core and works your upper body for a true holistic work out.

But the physical benefits are almost incidental to how hiking can contribute to your overall mental health and wellbeing.

This isn’t a ‘get fit and lose weight in 30 days’ post. It’s 2018 people and it’s about time we focused on more than aesthetics. Health is more than cardio and strength conditioning, and our New Years resolution reflects that (hike more, worry less!). Here are ten reasons hiking is good for your soul (and why your should start hiking in 2018).

1. Hiking clears the mind and reduces stress
Our lives are busier than ever. Nine to five jobs, full social calendars and everyday life admin is enough to keep us at a permanent level of stress below the surface. Going for a hike reduces your blood pressure and cortisol levels producing a calming effect only nature can offer – over an above the benefits of exercise alone.

2. Hiking makes us happier
Getting out into nature decreases what psychologists call rumination’, which are negative thought patterns that play over and over in our heads such as dwelling on embarrassing or disappointing moments or thinking about everything we think is wrong with our lives. Never underestimate the ‘happiness effect’ of being outdoors.

3. Hiking improves sleep quality
Walking or climbing over uneven terrain uses 28% more energy than walking over flat ground. You are also removing all the new age stimuli that we often expose ourselves to throughout the day and right before bedtime (phones, computers, TV’s and the like). The result? Better sleep!

4. Improve your memory through hiking
Studies have shown that people who regularly spend time in natural settings, hiking or otherwise, have improved memory and recollection. So if you’re rubbish at sudoku like me, just grab your boots and hit the track!

5. Hiking reduces anxiety and depression
Associated with the benefits of lowering stress levels, hiking has been proven to reduce anxiety by quietening the mind and allowing you to zone in on your breathing to a part meditative state. For natural stress relief and an instant mood boost, head outdoors.

6. Got a problem to solve? Go for a hike
Researchers believe that all the extra mental stimulus and information bombardment we are faced with daily overwhelms our brains resulting in reductions in our cognitive resources, limiting our creativity and problem solving abilities. Getting out into nature away from these stimuli restores our depleted attention circuits, freeing up more brain power for creativity (so leave the gadgets at home!).

7. Hiking makes us more generous
Whenever we hike tracks or trails for the first time, or stumble upon an absolute gem of a natural feature, we always return home with a renewed appreciation for mother nature and her bounty. The corresponding increases in positive emotions actually makes us feel a heightened sense of gratefulness and increases our generosity towards those around us. 

8. Reconnect and take time for yourself
When you find yourself caught up in the race, going for a hike is a chance to reflect, recharge and reconnect with yourself when you’ve been too busy to take notice. Sometimes just taking some time out and tuning into yourself can help you identify if you’re feeling a little under the weather, or have been more stressed than usual.

9. Hiking with friends
Hiking alone can be a spiritual and rejuvenating experience, but hiking with friends and sharing the experience can bring you closer together to form stronger bonds and create lasting memories.

10. Learn to live in the moment
When was the last time you really concentrated on being truly present and in the moment? The beautiful simplicity of getting out into nature removes that barrier between you and the natural environment. Everything is up close and real. No filters, just nature.