Groot Winterhoek was our first dabble at hiking in a wilderness area. This means that the accustomed standard hiking accommodation of huts, beds, fires and “toilets” are thrown out the non existent windows. Equipped with a tent and compass the intrepid hiker is free to roam the wild at his or her leisure. We were less adept, as our contribution to the hiking hall of fame was sleeping on an inflatable double mattress. Remember sharing is caring! This is a hiking experience that every hiker should place on their to do list. Depending on your schedule this is a really easy hike to do, unless your aim is to conquer the highest peak in every nature reserve, then i suggest you read a different blog. The attraction is Die Hel rock pool, arguably the finest our fair Cape has to offer. Our hiking itinerary was planned around spending an entire day at the pool, and considering the 40 degree plus temperatures, there is no guilt about slacking it.
The Groot Winterhoek wilderness is managed and booked through Cape Nature, and details are available on their website. The Wilderness is just outside Porteville, approximately 120km north of Cape Town along the N7.
We did this in January when the temperature was pushing past 40 degrees (our guesstimate), even though summers are recorded as being moderate. Winters are extreme, “Groot Winter” its not translated as “Big Winter” for nothing.
The start of the trail is at the visitors entrance and the Veepos cottages at the North of the reserve. For those not inclined to sleep in tents or outdoors this may be booked, as well as Die Tronk cottage, accessible via a 4×4 route and close to Die Hel rock pool.
Although as a wilderness one is free to roam off the path, in the heat its best to stick to the path and get to the next water point.
There are awesome swimming spots along the way. Nothing like getting the clothes off after a hard morning’s stroll in the valley. Come to think of it nothing like getting clothes off generally. Remember too much sharing is questionable! Keep it clean. (waterfall co-ordinates: 33°01’33″S
An interesting feature of the area are the bizarre rock formations. Cliick!
After a short eternity of hiking in nauseating heat we arrived at De Tronk cottage, which after a long day’s hike is a luxurious bliss. We didn’t stay in it. There are various shelters which may be used, they are old farm houses probably dating as far back as the 20th century. They are merely concrete floors with a roof. Bed technology was only perfected late 1990’s which was too late after Groot Winterhoek was proclaimed a wilderness area which prevents further buildings being erected. Since we didn’t have a tent half the party slept inside a shelter and the rest outside under the stars. Its a compromise. Outside it was COLD. But I can live with frostbite. I can’t deal with spiders that inhabit the shelters. I know they are the harmless rain spiders but this species has a personal vendetta against me , and are out to get me. Besides, the double inflatable mattress was a tight fit in the shelter . The shelters are also very dusty. The outdoors isn’t as dusty, its more outdoorsy. This shelter pictured is about 100m before the Tronk cottage, and there is a small stream running behind it for with a pool just large enough to bath/kneel in. With biodegradable soap. Naturally. If you have a tent then carry on pass Tronk cottage along a jeep track for a couple of hundred meters there are good camping spots under some trees next to a small stream. (Die Tronk: 33° 04′ 72″S 19° 05’27E)
Although beds were not invented yet, a surprising discovery of a disused toilet by one of the shelters was uncovered. It was probably abandoned after it was decided that toilets can only function if conneceted to a sewerage system.
When an ex military Scandanavian hunkers down for the Danish winter, its time to put on your willy warmer
The next morning, carry on south along the path towards Die Hel. Its easy to follow. Eventually the path will veer dow n into a valley that forms the theater around Die Hel. Its a short steep schlep down, but once you there, time to take the clothes off! An entire day was spend here, just tanning, swimming and jumping off a rock (into the water). If Im going to hell (most likely) then I hope its named after Die Hel. (33° 05′ 18″ 19° 04’30″E)
Camping in the Die Hel valley is not permitted, for good reasons. Its a place that should remain pristine forever. If you see someone defiling or littering the area you have my permission to kick them in the groin and push them off a cliff. I have authority.
The next day we took the easy exit that follows a jeep track north along the western side of the reserve. After a day spend slacking it in the pool one does not feel like trekking in 40 degree heat so we rose before dawn.
I plan to do this in the near future with the benefits of a tent and a couple of days to explore the eastern section of the reserve. (Mandatory day at Die Hel included)