Transkaroo Hiking Trail

Near Middelburg, Eastern Cape


The small town of Middelburg (Eastern Cape) is situated about 97km south of Colesberg on the route that most people take when travelling by car to Port Elizabeth. At first glance the area has very little to recommend it but, as has happened so often before, this little farming community has a real gem of a trail hidden in its 'backyard'.

         
 

You report to the main farmhouse where you are given brochures and a good 1:50000 map ( photocopy ) with  each days routes clearly marked in  different colours. You also get the keys to the various “huts”. 

Base house at Wilgerfontein was huge. With gas stove and fridge and hot shower, big braai under cover with plenty of wood. With an indoor fire place candles and gas lamps, a big lounge with so many chairs etc  that you are spoiled for choice!

 Photos from the trail, interesting stones and artefacts provided interesting decor. Secure parking was provided in a barn at the back of the property.

 

Luxury but in homely and

rustic surroundings

 

 Day 1- Wilgefontein to Uitsig

         
 
 

Day one from Wilgerfontein to Uitsig starts on the dirt road for a short distance, then veers off to follow a stram up Visserskloof. Here are magic pools and rock formations. Eventually you reach the “top” and enter the Stone Desert………a more barren but still attractive and interesting area. You do a circuit in a sort of “bowl” before cresting at a ' beacon’ from where there are good views and a view of Kompassberg in the distance.

Then there is a long and very gradual descent which in the last stages enters a shallow , dry , stream bed ……more like a “sloot’….which leads virtually to the doorstep of Uitsig “hut”

 

 

         
 

Uitsig is magic. Its an old barn/cowshed divided into two. You open a gate which comprises the whole of one end wall of the structure. This reveals a stone flagged floor. Old shuttered windows with bric a brac on the windowsills. A large indoor fireplace and braai grids and wood. A massive central table made from the end of a cable drum. Seats and benches are tree stumps and poles. The entire place is decorated with  “hikers graffiti’ burnt into planks and poles  (purposely left there for that purpose)  with branding irons supplied by the farmer.

 

Sleeping was on foam mattresses on stretchers in the inner section of the  structure which has candles, a wash hand basin!!......the old wooden feeding trough still in place on the far wall and swallows nests on the ceiling. There is a gas lamp , toilet paper and even curtains. But its all rustic…………..so nothing is spoiled. There is a shower and a long drop with a view.

 

 

         
 
 

Nearby the hut there are some derelict old buildings that date back more than 150 years. As you wonder through these relics from past eras, try to picture some scenes that must have taken place within the walls that are now only broken down shells.

 

 

         
 

Windows that have been looked out of by successive generation with very little change to the view.

 
 

 Day 2-Uitsig to Weltevrede

         
 
 

Up the jeep track, past more ruins,…..wind around in the veld,…collect porcupine quills,…pass an old kraal,…..pass ox wagon tracks,…….and ascend gently to a beacon where there is a great “totem pole’ consisting of planks with hikers names etc branded on them.  (You do this at the overnight stop and then if energetic, carry your plank up here )

Then its more relaxed traipsing through the veld until you drop to another ruin surrounded by pepper trees. Close to this you enter a stream with a big clump of shady poplar trees.

 

 
     
 

Leaving the trees you now do about 4km up a stream bed with lots of pools, frogs and wild mint. Not what you would expect from the Karoo at all!!

You then exit to the gentle rolling hills at the top, to be gazed at in wonder by a herd of cows and eventually we arrived at the house at Weltevrede.

   
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

         
 
 

Another magic old place with all the facilities you need and a bucket shower that is properly designed , well constructed and really works!!

 
       

Day 3-Weltevrede back to Wilgefontein

 

 
 

The last day back to Wilgerfontein leads past 2 small dams, then after a gentle up and down which passes a well preserved bushman painting, you are in another stream bed.  Along this part of the route you pass some lichen and mosses in damp patches by the stream

 On this day we spotted the occasional buck.

You ascend to a plateaux with views and this warranted 2 loooong breaks just relaxing and enjoying. Later you pass a fossilised stream bed. All too soon you see base in the distance below and after winding you down n round a koppie and through more poplar saplings, you reach the end.

 

 
 

Conclusion

A well laid out trail with a surprising variety of scenery and vegetation. The trail is well marked and the facilities are excellent. Winter can be extremely cold while summers can be very hot and there is little shade along the way. The trail is certainly worth doing especially as an add-on to a trip to the Cape. Total trail distance is 42km over 3 days but a shorter route is possible.

Thanks to Robin MacDonald for the use of his photos and comments

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