We’ve heard of the Otter Trail and the Fish River Canyon hike – and now there’s the Leopard Trail, which has only just opened. But once you catch wind of a beautiful, multi-day hike in the Baviaanskloof, what’s there left to do besides book immediately?
And that’s how we found ourselves huffing our way up sheer mountain sides and gulping in the endless views as we surfaced. We found ourselves taking detours to view rock art and share dips with frogs in cool canyon-shadowed pools, listened to bird calls echoing from valley walls and stopped to smell the multitude of fragrant flora around us.
Sonya (Getaway’s editor) and I walked this newly-opened 55km slack-packing trail, and we recommend you do the same. Read Sonya’s beautiful story in the April 2016 issue of Getaway.
Next thing I know, we’re at the top, and all around me is glorious plateau. A light breeze flows across it, channeled by gently rising hills on either side. A little way on is a clearing and in it, four horses pretty as angels prick up their ears and look at us with model faces and liquid eyes, then come nodding towards us. We pay the gatekeepers to this flat piece of heaven a precious water-saturated apple, and keep on. – Sonya Schoeman
For information on how to book, visit theleopardtrail.co.za
The drive to the Baviaanskloof is special in itself, taking you past semi-arid farmlands and finally dropping you down into Baviaanskloof sleutel (key), with its towering red canyon walls.
Cedar Falls, where we stayed for the first two nights and were warmly hosted by Maria, Willem’s wife.
A group shot before we set off on the trail.
Day One immediately elevates you above the valley floor.
Reaching the plateau on Day One.
Day One took us past horses and a grave marker before we reached an optional detour, taking us to a cool pool and waterfall for lunch.
The campsite on Day One.
We spotted this skull nestled in the rocks. This particular piece of rock art is unique: if you look at the figure’s feet, you’ll see it’s wearing takkies. Rock art is hidden along the trail and reachable only if you take a guide with you.
Day Two saw us starting early to beat the midday heat. The cloud cover broke, filtering golden light down onto the valley floor.
Life along the route.
…And death along the route.
Sonya and Ricardo setting off at dawn on Day Three.
Oscar and Ashley, (smiling as usual!) when they reached the top of a climb.
Willem, Ricardo and Sonya (who is looking very chuffed to be alive after the long ascent). The next uphill awaits on the horizon, where there is a dip in the mountain.
A bird call repetitively sounded through the valley, and Willem stopped briefly to try identify the source. Day Three takes you through prettier, diverse flora, with proteas and flowers.
Willem walking the steep mountains on Day Three.
Day Three heralded much-appreciated cloud cover.
…Which cleared towards the afternoon, revealing deep blue skies and rugged and red-hued mountains.
My favourite camping site was on night three, and specifically because of this incredible scene just 15 minutes walk down the road.
Each night’s camping was in a carefully-chosen spot, surrounded by mountains and often with a water tank for you to swim in.
Sonya taking a breather on a particularly long uphill.
After a steep descent on the last day, you reach this rewarding viewpoint over Birdsong Valley.
Rock cairns mark the trail throughout the route.
This trail is an absolute must. Book at Cedar Farm for one extra day and do this incredibly beautiful detour. It will take you through narrow gorges, where you have to wade and swim through cool waters to reach the deep, clear waterfall at the end.
Vero’s restaurant, started and run by Veronica herself, serves fresh, hot roosterkoek which you can have with butter and honey or cheese and tomato. Added bonus: buy some of Willem’s organic honey. It’s got a delicious smoky flavour and you’ll wish you’d bought two when you get back home and it starts running out. This I know all too well!
Read the full story in the April 2016 issue of Getaway magazine.
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