Oorlogskloof Rock Pigeon Route 5 day Hiking Trail outside Nieuwoudtville, Northern Cape – Quick Guide

Oorlogskloof 030Deserves to be one of the great hiking trails in South Africa! Remote, authentic and adventurous. You are continuously confronted with little rock scramble detours which highlight a kloof, waterfall, rock arch or just spectacular view. There are many, many signs naming local plants throughout. This is a real treat and everybody will get a better sense of our local plant life.

There are shorter trail options available too and a couple of day hikes too.

Pretty but super busy in flower season (Aug and Sept)

Overview stats:

Distance: 52 km

Total Ascent: 1800 m

Total Descent: 1800 m

Style of route: circular

Normal Duration of hike: 4 to 5 days

Landowner: Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve. For permits and further info call (027) 218 1159

Events: Ugene Nell holds the Oorlogskloof Trail Run here in April and this is a fantastic way to experience the terrain for those that like to move fast but don’t necessarily see much of the surroundings.

Description:

We collect our permits in Nieuwoudtville at the Nature Conservation Office. Nicolette is helpful with maps etc. We check into the Wapad Guest House in Nieuwoudtville and sort kit for tomorrow’s early start. It is super basic but a roof over our heads (and a roaring fire) is all we need for the night.

Frost awaits as we drive to Groot Tuin (6 km back towards Vanrhynsdorp you see the turn off to the left, then it is another 10 km on the good dirt road).

Day 1: 12Oorlogskloof map day 1 km Groot Tuin to Kameel se Gat

The last mobile reception is in Nieuwoudtville or close to the escarpment overlooking Vanrhynsdorp. We park our car under the pine trees as instructed and start our walk. There is a perennial stream 87m into the hike. Don’t rely on this in summer though. The 4km to Brakwater takes us 2 h at an easy pace. The hut looks amazing. We decided to do the first two days as one so this ended up in a pretty long and tough day. It was the hardest day of the 4. I would probably do it again in that way though.

Oorlogskloof 009A short while after the Brakwater hut we cross the stream while still on the jeep track. The two logs that symbolise a bridge are not confidence inspiring enough so we slide across like crabs anticipating a cold plunge. A short sharp hill and we turn off onto pleasant single track. Views are great and we see the Kareebos hut below us. The trail descends and then the tough boulder hoping section starts along the base of the river. You wind in and out of boulder fields which makes going slow and tough. Finally the climb up the slope to the Driefontein waterfall. We were told that unfortunately the hut’s roof had a leak (more like it did not have a roof) so we descended to Kameel se Gat back at stream level. Glad we did not have to do that on cold legs, first thing in the morning. Having said that the sun set views from the top must be amazing.

The night proved to be pretty cold and it took us a while to get going in the morning. Glad I had packed porridge for breakfast – quick and easy to make a warming meal on my MSR.

Day 2: 12km Kameel se Gat to Doltuin

Oorlogskloof map day 32

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sun touching the rim of the canyon early morning

We cruise a few minutes down to the river and cross the smart bridge to the far bank. The ascent up the far bank take us 45 minutes or so. It finishes with an amazing chimney and rope/ladder combination which spits you out on the escarpment. Staying left we cruise on easier going that the previous day. As we descend down into the valley we pass some graves close to the path under a bunch of trees. I can’t imagine a better place to rest in peace. The path continues a few km to reach the Doltuin hut at what seems to be the head of the valley.

 

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water at Doltuin

Here it is possible to take the escape route which cuts out the last day. We take a stroll around in the evening to loosen the legs. The river is full but the water is cold so we decline a swim in the river.

 

Enjoying the last few rays of light on the stoep we settle in for soup and an early dinner. Tomorrow is a long day.

Day 3: 15km Doltuin to Pramkoppies

Oorlogskloof map day 4

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Granaatdraai with the hut in the far distance

The early section meanders up the valley. You can see the path from the hut as it ascends the head of the valley. We fill up water bottles under some trees which is a really pretty spot.

 

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chain securing a rocky descent

The climb up Granaatdraai is not too bad and we quickly find out selves on top. A cool wind is blowing so we walk in long sleeves all day. Today is the day of 10 rock arches and we start counting. We make good time and have lunch at the turn off to Arrie se Punt. We leave our bags here and scamper along the loop to quickly reach the outlook. You get mobile reception here and I respond to some birthday messages. Weird being drawn back into that seemingly foreign world. We take photos and admire the view of Gifberg, Vanrhynsdorp and the VanRhyns Pass (another Thomas Bains masterpiece). The walk back to the junctions takes us through some interesting kloofs and rock formations, well worth the extra little loop.

 

We continue our count of rock arches as you can see here.

A bit of open ground and then we start to descend along the side of Pramkoppie. The path shows signs of erosion and needs a bit of TLC but we manage it quickly in the afternoon sun. A short stroll along the valley floor to the most beautifully located hut below red cliffs and close to some trees and a stream. We soak up the rays. A great way to spend my birthday.

The water spot is among the bushes behind the hut and is marked so are the toilets at the huts. No roof, just au Naturel long drop.

The next day is our last so we plan to leave a little earlier to accommodate the drive home too.

Day 4: 9 km Pramkoppie to Groot Tuin

Oorlogskloof map day 5A short distance from the hut we visit rock art in a cute shelter. The path ascends the valley slope and we hear baboons announcing themselves. Today the path skirts across the top of the fairly flat escarpment and we get great views. The grey skies add to the scene and bring out the colours of the land. When you are almost at the junction to Groot Tuin you are led into the heart of Spelonkop. Narrow Rock passages turn this way and that until you are spat out on the path you came in on. A short up hill and a stroll through the initial grove of Poplars lands you back at the car.

Recommended Tactics:

The Rock Pigeon Route is comfortably completed in either 4 or 5 days. Day 2 (on the 5 days schedule) is the toughest going as you have a long section of navigating through a boulder field which takes its toll. This was the second section of our Day 1.

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huts are comfortable

Huts offer bunk beds and wooden tables and benches to house between 12 to 16 pax. Huts all have solar electricity for lighting and you can charge your electronics. A three prong socket is available. Bring your adapters.

 

I recommend that you drive to Nieuwoudtville on day one and get sorted in accommodation there and then start the hike. This leaves enough time to combine day 1 and 2 of the hike. The quoted times are conservative but not overly so. Going is generally slower than on other trails due to the path weaving in and out of boulders, gullies and interesting features.

There is no reliable mobile phone reception along the trail except at Arrie se Punt and the edge of the escarpment at Pramkoppie.

Water could be a problem in summer and it gets pretty cold in the middle of winter so in between season are probably best for hiking.

Nutrition / Hydration availability:

It is quite a good idea to carry a few extra water containers to fill up at the overnight huts. Generally the water source is about 50 m to 100 m away from the hut.

Other info:

Closest Food Retailer: Clanwilliam has a pretty good Spar, butcheries and bottle stores. Otherwise  sparse resources can be obtained in Van Rhynsdorp.

 

No Fear

no fearThe first thing I see is a FB message that my oldest friend is safe.

“Safe from what?”

That means others are unsafe – in danger.

Only then do I find out another city is under siege. Not by a gunman outside a Mac Donalds but by fear.

This is the fuel in New York, Philadelphia, Paris, Mombay, Nice, Muenchen.

This has to stop.

“Violence is not outside it is within”Swami said.

So to the fear.

I had a poster of Dan Osman doing the crucifix high above the Valley floor.

No Fear was the brand. I stared at it for hours wondering how he could have no fear.

Now I realise that is is within us – this fear.

We create it and we have the choice not to.

 

 

 

Choices

GPSI stop at the cross roads. My GPS tells me right but I am not sure. I think it is left.

I have a choice. In fact I have many choices. Right, left or in fact do I stay among the traffic and hooting and chaos? They are all my choice. Even if I don’t choose.

If we choose to be healthy, eat the right stuff, train correctly we make that choice. And there are consequences like good performances and PB’s, there are other consequences we downplay like not drinking before a big race, taper nerves, exhaustion etc. We know them too well.

Then there are those that we do not talk about. We may not choose them directly (we can debate that) but our choices certainly have these consequences.

We can’t just choose the good and take credit for that and when something does not work out the way it is intended then throw our toys.

I asked the question why we choose injury. An honest question not meant to be anything but.

Maybe it is better to ask why we made the choices that resulted in this outcome. Harsh? Possibly but it is a question worth asking. Why do we choose injury, over training, sickness?

Is it because we are writing cheques that our body can not cash? Are we possibly even writing cheques our being can not cash?

What if this were true?

What if we’re ignoring the message?

Are you going on a path that is not right for you? Even if you are following your mates or advice of those who say they know.

And if it is not right then what is?

 

Underneath each statement there is ultimately a question.

Go and ask better questions!

Ringing the Bell:

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approaching Orange Peal Gap, Cathedral Peak left of center, The Bell further left

I leave the Hikers Parking at  6h00 sharp. Scouting the first river crossing last night helps so it goes quickly and I gain altitude. I see two lights below me. They have chosen a different path. We all have.

I am walking out of the darkness into mountains cast in shadows. As in Magic and Loss there is an equal part hope too.

It is what ever it seems.

‘I was thinking of a series of my dreams’

Patter of my feet on the trail.

‘Was not thinking of anything specific’

Lyrics running my head

I shut them out

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looking back up Bugger’s Gully

I am surprised to reach Bugger Gully in 2:40. The other side has snow and I follow imprints in the snow trying to guess how long they have been there. I meet them later. The owners of those feet.

You can’t listen to metal with the volume low. I drop into the wave.

 

The line between shadow and light is distinct. But we all follow our own line. Some have rumble strips to warn us, others come unseen and deadly. Some are crossed and recrossed, skipped over even? Without a care in the world. Others scare us. Right now one side is sun and heat. The other biting cold. I can’t understand why anybody would choose the suffering unless to learn and ultimately emerge. I carve my own way and leave only a faint sign of my passing. My passage however leaves a huge impression. Not the act but the meaning we give.

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looking back towards Cathedral Peak

I come across white tufts, not snow. Flags waving I the breeze. I shat here! I wonder if we will ever learn.

I stumble upon Twins Cave quite unexpectedly.

And suddenly it is done.

I find a spot in the sun and out of the wind and eat my old school sandwich.

The descent down Mlanbonjwa is less fun than I thought. Typical berg pass which is too steep to run but I lose height quickly. The obligatory bush whack does not last long.

I am unkind. I enjoy running the flatter sections and catch up to the footprints of three days earlier.

I have to commit to running where I can. Walking always seems so much easier. But then I don’t want easy. There is nothing of interest there. There is interest (and learning) I suffering perhaps?

‘I walk by tranquil lakes and streams’

I don’t have the commitment to break 8h (or 7 for that matter) I arrive at my lone tent in the camp site and think back on one of the best days in the mountains I have ever had.

The lone dear makes its rounds later. I say ‘Hi’ and observe for a very long time.

‘The hard thing is to hold on to what I learn there in those high and wild places – those fleeting glimpses of the truth of reality – and to live it when I am back in my everyday. That is the real challenge.’

Lizzy Hawker

 

Several lines above are quoted (and misquoted) from the below. Thanks for the inspiration.

 

Soundtrack:

Moxica and the horse – Vangelis

Series of dreams – Bob Dylan

Link 2-3-4 – Rammstein

Tell ol Bill – Bob Dylan

Mothers of the disappeared – U2

The medallion calls – Klaus Bandelt

Someday baby – Bob Dylan

Track 5 More Melon – U2

Things have changed – Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler I believe in you – U2

99 red balloons – Nena

Here comes the pain – Farmer Boys

Pa Pa Pa Palavas – Triplets of Bellville soundtrack

“When is enough, enough?” Ian asked

I close my eyes in the crowd, in that town square, in that time. Vangelis is playing – Chamonix town square at the start of UTMB

I can still feel the tears now, many years later.

The point of life is to grow and to have fun. If you can have fun while growing then all the better.

So we need to push and do bigger, and better, and further, and more dangerous, and push the boats further from shore…

Or do we?

We confuse doing with growing.

Doing is busy, doing is filling our day.

Growth is deeper.

Growth stays with you, doing does not. This is the acid test.

Growing is internal. You probably have nothing to show for it, nothing to tweet about.

Only you will know the difference.

So when you tackle your next adventure is it to grow or to do?

 

Today I want to tell you a story.

Back in the  90’s I was actively progressing through the grades in rock climbing. I wanted to consume everything. I wanted to get better. Slowly and steadily I did by choosing partners and ventures carefully that would stretch me.

We climbed everything within our reach and we slowly expanded our horizon. The start of summer was always a period of dreaming and planning. The days were getting longer but the weather was not quite cooperating enough to do serious routes.

I remember dreaming out loud to Gareth that we could climb Ocean’s of Fear by Easter if we put our minds to it and progressed steadily through the grades for the whole summer. Each weekend building on the previous one. We would have to stick to our schedule in order to reach the goal. The learning curve would be steep but hopefully within our gradient. (or so I lead myself to believe at the time.) His response surprised me and stuck. With time I have come to understand.

I don’t remember the exact words but it went something along the lines of “I don’t want to consider each weekend working towards an end goal and not enjoy the weekend in itself” I am paraphrasing as his command of the English language is far better than mine.

Two things strike me as lessons for myself when I think back. My motivation was completely goal focussed. Whereas my partner was content in enjoying the moment for the moment. I am not saying he was lazy. Far from it. We were highly self motivated. It took me almost 20 years of exploring the vertical walls to learn that. The closest I came to truly being present was on a few meters of unclimbed rock in the Yellowwood Amphitheatre in Du Toit’s Kloof. The 200m of wall below me was known so was the short section to the top, bar the next 4m. This was the link. I was stretched physically and knew where I needed to be. The wall was overhanging and I needed all the strength in my arms to execute. I set up and knew the hold on the horizon would lead to salvation.  This was it. I committed. But in doing that move I knew that for that moment I was where I needed to be. I knew that this was here on that wall at that exact moment.

To fill the present moment is something that I work on daily.

The second lesson is to consistently think about where I am on gradient. In the case of Ocean’s it was unrealistic to follow my projected learning curve. I recently read up about David Brailsford’s Marginal Gains philosophy with Team Sky and British Cycling. The underlying thing here is to constantly know where you are so that you can make that 1% change from there. You concentrate on the now. Then the goal will present it self.