Groot Winterhoek Wilderness

Porterville, Western Cape


Groot Winterhoek is another one of those hidden treasures of nature to be found in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. It consists of a large area of prime,  unspoilt, fynbos with magnificent mountain panoramas wherever one looks. From the mountains, babbling brooks cascade down to form exquisite rock pools that almost seem too pure to tarnish by swimming in. Protea and Erica add vivid colour to the briliant white of the quartzite of the path, while the tea coloured water of the streams contrasts with the rich green of the grass.

This then is the setting for the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Trail. Although this is a wilderness area and hence the hiker can walk and camp anywhere, there are well defined paths to follow and unless one is prepared to suffer the pain of being scratched to death be the fynbos then it is better to stick to these paths. In any case there is sufficient paths to walk on to provide hiking for up to five days.

I will describe the route that we decided to take but obviously the choice is up to the individual groups to decide.

         
 

The road to Groot Winterhoek Wilderness leaves the R44 2Km north of Porterville and climbs 33km over the spectacular Dasklip Pass. The steeper parts of this pass are tarred but care must be taken and time allowed for this approach to the start of the trail.

Cars are parked at the Veepos office from where the trail begins. Here one also completes the hiking register.

 
 
         
 
  Parking area to De Tronk

The distance to De Tronk is 13Km and although it is described on the brochure as a 3hr hike, this we found to be unrealistic as there are some great swimming opportunities along the way and indeed we decided to set up camp well before reaching De Tronk close to the river.

 
         
 

The pools are incredibly clear. A grass grows from the bottom of the pools and swirls against you as you swim.

 
 
         
 
Incredible rock formations Camping on the first night
 

The important thing is not to hurry your hike. All along the route there are amazing rock formations and stunning pools.

 
         
  De Tronk to Die Hel

The second day we set up camp under a large Oak Tree at the beginning of the path to Die Hel. The return walk to Die Hel from here is a comfortable afternoon's walk. Take a day pack along with your lunch. The climb down is very steep

 
The view down into the gorge at Die Hel The pool as seen from the top
A type of grass growing in the pools The bottom at last
 
         
 
The pools and relief from the heat! View from close to camp site
Second night camping site
 

The pool is more than 15 metres across and seemingly very deep. A lovely place to spend an hour or two.

 

 

         
  Die Tronk to Groot Kliphuis

The route is about 10Km long and will take about 3-4 hours. The path branches of from the jeep track just before the low water bridge and leads up to a saddle and then follows the Klein Kliphuis River valley for some distance. Be prepared for being scratched by the thick fynbos along this route. The path eventually leaves the valley and climbs steeply over the mountains.

 
On the way up
Close to the top
 
         
 
Rock outcrops near our camp
 

The camping area at Groot Kliphuis is again under large Oak trees and close to a stream.

 
         
 

Groot Kliphuis to Groot Kliphuis River

The path begins at the saddle crossed towards the end of the previous days hike. The trail follows the side of the craggy mountain before starting to descend through incredible rock formations

 
 
         
 
 

I really don't think I have ever come across rock formations to match those found here!

 
         
  Rocks, Rocks, Rocks!!!!!  
 
         
 
 

Just as one thinks that one has seen everything, new amazing formations come into view.

 
         
  For our final night we chose to camp by the Groot Kliphuis River within 2Km of the end of the hike.  
 
         
 
Nightfall and time to contemplate
 

The sunset on the final night was a fitting and to a great hike.

 

Conclusion

Groot Winterhoek deserves a place on any hiking calendar. The days should be kept short to enable one to take in the really unique experience that is Groot Winterhoek.

Hiking and camping in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness area is booked through

'In a Nutshell'

Distance from nearest town 35km from Porterville
Access road status The access road to Groot Winterhoek is spectacular and could cause people with a fear of heights a few problem. The steepest parts are tarred but the road is narrow.
Trail type Wilderness trail. Tents are needed. There are recognized paths but these sometimes get overgrown
Difficulty Moderate
Marking Although this is a wilderness trail, there are well defined paths with Cairns in places. Unless you know the area well it is better to stick to the designated paths
GPS Co-ordinates Veepos office - S32 59.895 E19 03.571
Cell phone reception No Reception in wilderness.
Facilities No facilities, take your own tents. There are some self catering houses that can be booked seperately from the trail

The Groot Winterhoek wilderness area can be booked through

Jacana Travel Marketing and Reservations

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Telephone  0861Jacana (0861 522262)

Direct phone: Port Elizabeth 041 378 1439

Pretoria: 012 803 9109

Direct fax: PE 041 378 2548

Pretoria: 012 803 4144

 PE e-mail  bookings@jacanacollection.co.za

Pretoria e-mail: rosa@jacanacollection.co.za

or

Western Cape Nature Conservation Board

Central Bookings

021 659 3500

bookings@capenature.co.za 


Footprint Hiking Club