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Knersvlakte

I was for­tu­nate enough to be invited by the SAP­STAP­PERS (the South African Police hik­ing group) to join them on this epic walk.

Oor­logskloof means “War Val­ley”, and at times on this hike I felt like I was at war, at war mostly with my thoughts, spe­cially the first two and a half days.This is most cer­tainly not a hike for begin­ners or those that suf­fer from acrophobia.

I will not bore you with a route descrip­tion, as the map has a very detailed and accu­rate route descrip­tion, and will rather try and touch onto some of the high­lights of this incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful hike.

Day one is very deceiv­ingly easy, but if this day was any longer, the word easy might become pro­fan­ity in most peo­ples vocab­u­lary. The day is just long enough to let you know what you are in for in the next cou­ple of days. The map indi­cates an esti­mated walk­ing time of three hours, but we com­pleted this sec­tion in just over two hours, and we were not very fit. It is how­ever NOT rec­om­mended to join day two with day one.

oorlogskloof_day_4

Day two must be one of the most dif­fi­cult 8.5km I have ever walked, and this sen­ti­ment was shared by the rest of our party.The ter­rain demands that you have to climb over and under huge boul­ders test­ing your bal­ance and strength to the limit all the way. This makes for extremely slow and tir­ing hik­ing. Just when you think things can­not get any worse, you are faced with a mas­sive uphill. I can­not imag­ine what this must be like on a hot, wind­less sum­mers day, but one word comes to mind, torture.

As you approach the cliff face, you should hope­fully see a water­fall. I say hope­fully, because this means you will have water on the plateau above the cliff that you still have to nego­ti­ate. (We will get to the cliff part in a moment.) The water­fall poses a few chal­lenges of its own. I have to admit here I was really won­der­ing why I ever both­ered com­ing on this hike. Maybe I just had a “head thing” but this bit hon­estly scared the day­lights out of me. This sec­tion is extremely slip­pery, and should you get hurt here, I think it might take more than a while for help to arrive. You will agree with me once you have been there. DO NOT try and pass in front of the water­fall, walk into the water­fall and you will see a “cave” that you can pass through. This is the actu­ally route and far safer than try­ing to walk around (in front) of the water­fall. The “cave” was a bit claus­tro­pho­bic for some, but for me a wel­come relief after the waterfall.

A few metres after the water­fall the last hor­ren­dous piece of uphill for the day awaits you. Here I could actu­ally see my fel­low hik­ers minds work­ing over­time, won­der­ing how we were going to get down this steep bit first thing in the morn­ing. I was just too glad that the day was over and all I could think of was a good wash and some­thing relax­ing at the end of this long hard day.

three-in-one

Need­less to say the steep down­hill down to the Oor­logskloof River awaits you first thing in the morn­ing. After the hike we were for­tu­nate enough to speak to Wes­sel (the guy that actu­ally built this trail) and he told us that in the begin­ning days of the hike there was no huge “stairs” lead­ing up the cliff face, and it was a wild scram­ble get­ting to the top and down again. I shud­der to think what this must have been like. Another inter­est­ing fact, it took Wes­sel and his team a year to build the few steps that lead up to the plateau.

If the river is not in flood it is an easy hop across the boul­ders to the other side. I would not have enjoyed it to much inch­ing myself across the “bridge” if the river was in flood. Those poplar poles looked like they have had more than their fare share of sun and with my weight on them.…No I rather don’t want to go there.

Once you have crossed the river you are greeted by the last big uphill of the hike, but all the time I was won­der­ing “what has Wes­sel got in store for us this time?”, as there is no vis­i­ble path up the sheer cliff face. My jaw fell to the ground when I saw the chim­ney. “How did Wes­sel find this? He must have spent hun­dreds of hours in this beau­ti­ful land­scape, fine comb­ing every lit­tle nook and cranny. The chim­ney must be about two sto­ries high, but thank­fully there is a chain that you can pull your­self up with. Right after the chim­ney there is still one more lit­tle “hairy” piece, then after that the hike is plain sail­ing. The 1.5 km from Drie­fon­tuin to the top of the chim­ney took us three hours. That is extremely slow going.

On the plateau about five min­utes after the chim­ney, we came across the first of the two Black Spit­ting Cobras, busy con­sum­ing a rab­bit. We were over­joyed to have wit­nessed such a rare an occasion.The next sight­ing was the very next day when one of the hik­ers almost stepped on the snake. For­tu­nately the snake got a big­ger fright than we did and quickly made its escape.

Much later the after­noon we finally arrived at Dol­tuin, where a wel­com­ing swim/​wash was to be had.

Day four is by far the longest day, but some­how the 17km just “flew” by. Do not be put of by the dis­tance and opt for the escape route, as this is the most beau­ti­ful day of this five day hike. Most of our party how­ever did opt for the escape route and the three of us that were left com­pleted this sec­tion in just over five hours. Once again, how Wes­sel found all these caves and arches is truly amaz­ing. He made a huge effort so that we hik­ers see all the best land­marks in a short space of time.

Pramkop­pie camp­site also has a lit­tle river flow­ing behind it, where a cool down after a days walk­ing is always wel­come, but once again I won­der if this stream will have water in the height of summer.

The last day of a great five day hike always leaves a bit­ter sweet taste in my mouth. Bit­ter because I am sad to leave the peace and quiet of the wilder­ness, and new friends that were made and sweet because once again I can enjoy the trap­pings of mod­ern life , such as a hot shower, my own bed and some­thing ice cold to drink.

The walk back to your vechile is once again an easy walk, with great views over the Knersvlakte. Dri­ving back home and look­ing up at the moun­tains that you have just spent five days in, you can­not believe that there is so much beauty in this very unfor­giv­ing dry landscape.


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Pho­tos by Andre, Wynand, Divan and Jens

This is Hel­gas expe­ri­ence of Oorlogskloof

rivercross

Rock Pigeon Route

Be warned – this place is hot and DRY. We have attempted this hike twice before our third suc­cess­ful completion…in win­ter. The sum­mer months every­thing is DRY. We almost died of extreme heat exhaus­tion and de-​hydration. Trust me, not a pretty sight! This is an account then of the last and least dry hike.

Day 1:
The air was still as we entered the Nieu­woudsville hotel – the local bar lady, Woute­rien, kept our glasses filled. Some last minute shop­ping at the local China-​man shop pro­duced some sun glasses and rather odd-​looking plakkies (slops)for one of the boys. Here we start. The going is slow but the scenery is beau­ti­ful. Over and under many rocks and hills. Day one is over and we are glad the “worst is over” (ha-​ha). We make a mas­sive fire and sleep in pre-​pitched tents. There are no ablu­tion facil­i­ties on this hike.

Day 2:
The ter­rain is SUPER chal­leng­ing – boul­ders upon boul­ders to climb under, over, around, hug, slide on – the boul­ders are just never-​ending. It reminds one of the first two days of the Fish River Canyon Hike. Plenty of minor injuries are sus­tained; most hik­ers’ legs look like war zones! This is not called Oor­logskloof for no rea­son. We are all tired and the worst is still to come – the water­fall! Climb­ing up the wet water­fall to reach the Closter-​phobic chim­ney behind it and crawl through…what an ordeal! Scary but excit­ing! “Iron man” is stand­ing in the down-​pour of the water­fall – tak­ing all the ruck­sacks and help­ing every­one along. Peter helped at the chim­ney (through and behind the water­fall) mov­ing all the heavy cargo and help­ing every­one to safety. Fur­ther on we fol­low giant steps and lad­ders over meters of noth­ing and we are even­tu­ally on top of the plateau!
We are all happy to be ALIVE and set­tle down at camp to braai with a very well deserved dop (drink).

Day 3:
Some of the guys have been sleep­ing out­side and the cold & lack of sleep is evi­dent. This day takes us down the steep plateau and up another. We are sweat­ing! More ups and downs and around our favourite boul­ders and all of a sud­den, hallo, a mas­sive chim­ney to pull your­self up in! Ruck­sacks are being passed on. Then, around the shoul­der of this chim­ney and through a loop and then, pull your­self up by a chain over a sheer drop of around 30+ meters! Hair raz­ing espe­cially when the strong guys in front of you are start­ing to panic and there is no way back! One very ath­letic guy in front of me was par­a­lyzed with fear — not very moti­vat­ing I can tell you! Many a prayer was answered that day – we all made it!
The Camp site is hot and bar­ren and Deon goes for an unplanned swim with all this kit in the pool just before the camp. It is hot with very lit­tle shade. How­ever, it is Waldo’s Birth­day and we start the cel­e­bra­tions. Jan­ice brings out the sparkles and we are all kids again. The night is very cold and frost is all over our stuff the next morning.

Day 4:
This is to be a long day (17km) with no water. Part of our group decides to take the short cut. The walk is great for both groups but hot. The longer route runs right around the plateau over­look­ing the large “Kners-​vlakte”. The camp site is well sit­u­ated under lush trees with a beau­ti­ful river. The wine is taken out and soon the group is as one again. We fall asleep but not for long, here comes the rain! Every­one sleep­ing out­side finds a space in a tent and the rain con­tin­ues right through­out the night and the next day.

Day 5 — The last day:
We get up in the rain, pack in the rain, walk in the rain, get very wet and even­tu­ally, grate­fully reach the cars. We are glad we did it but also glad to have ended this war!

Helga de Goede

Day two must be one of the most dif­fi­cult days that I have ever hiked. To make mat­ters worse, the first two times that we did the hike we were promised water at he camp­site, but there was none. So both times we had to walk down to the river. With some dif­fi­culty we found the lit­tle rivulet seep­ing out of the rock, at the bot­tom camp­site. The water was ice cold and fresh. On both times the water in the river was fairly stag­nant, and if you are going to drink this water, water puri­fy­ing drops is an absolute must.

Jens

Oor­logskloof, Niewoudtville
Con­tact Details
Tel no 027 2181159 G.P.S. 31.438654,19.07698 (I am not 100% sure about these co ordi­nates as I did not have the gps with, but this is close to the start)
Cell no Email
Fax Web­site Click here
Hike Details
Near­est Town Niewoudtville Max Per­sons
Dis­tance from Town Overnight Shel­ter Small 3 man tents
Map to start of hike Brochure
No of days 17, depend­ing on the route Trail Type Cir­cu­lar
Tips and things to do

These tips will prob­a­bly apply to many camp sites, but this is what we thought should not be forgotten

Make triple sure about water avail­abil­ity before attempt­ing this stren­u­ous hike
No begin­ners
Pack a med­ical kit!
Take more pho­tos at the lad­ders even if you are really tired (and scared)
Take water puri­fy­ing drops with

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