Wellington. – It is true what they say, the best things in life are found closest to home; all you need to do is look.
For me home means Wellington in the Western Cape, the more modest of the Winelands towns and certainly one of the most scenic with its outlying vineyards, table grape and citrus plantations, as well as dominant mountain ranges that hold the town in their curve. Specifically the Hawequa, Slanghoek and Liemietberg, which sealed the valley from the hinterland before the completion of Bainskloof Pass in 1853.
Designed and built by the renowned geologist, road engineer and explorer Andrew Geddes Bain, this remains one of the country’s most scenic mountain drives. Today more than a passage to the interior, it’s an entry point to recreational beauty, hiking trails and picnic spots. One that celebrates the area’s history, the men who carved the road and built the water furrows, not forgetting its monument to students lost in a flash flood in 1895 and the tucked away ruins of an old house begging for discovery.
The place begs for further exploration and the best way to do this is by hiking one of the trails on offer.
To set the scene, the Liemietberg Nature Reserve stretches over part of the 102000ha greater Boland Mountain range and forms part of the impressive Cape Floral Region, which lists 277 varieties of plants including Protea, Erica and Gladioli. Amongst the fauna there are jackals, the elusive leopard, baboon, otter, honey badgers, klipspringer, steenbok and grysbok, 182 species of birds, endangered frogs and a diversity of fish swimming in the streams.
It’s an untouched natural paradise.
Nine clearly marked hiking trails have been set out to offer varied levels of difficulty. Depending on your interest and group dynamics, you could opt to spend a day with the family and a picnic at Tweede Tol or Balgat swimming holes. However, should you choose to do one of the longer trails, I’d recommend the Bobbejaansriver hike to the three-tier waterfall (9km), the Murasie up to the ill-fated Hugo’s Rest ruins – said to be haunted (7km) – and the intensely beautiful overnight Liemietberg Trail (31km).
There is a camping site at Tweede Tol as well as affordable overnight accommodation offered at the Bain’s Kloof Corner Lodge, and I do recommend that you make a weekend of it. Hiking permits are required and can be bought at the Lodge or from Cape Nature. The ‘Liemietberg Nature Reserve and Hiking Trails’ map from Cape Nature conservation offers a comprehensive details, you can pick one up when you get your permit.
My secluded and rather secret spot for a quiet escape is the little dam formed by the weir on the Witte Rivier, just off the memorial to four students who lost their lives in a flash flood here in 1895 and the hiker’s overnight hut. It’s not easy to find the path down, but once you have, it will take you to a private world with pristine water for swimming, boulders to sunbath on and nothing but rich vegetation and elevated crags for company.
I have certainly found that in a fast paced world dominated by noise and technology, one learns to value time off the beaten track. Hiking in Bainskloof with a swim in the cool river or rock pool, really rejuvenates and invigorates me. The area holds a sense of mystery that leaves me sure there is always more to be discovered and I invite you to come out this way to learn more.
It certainly is as close to nature that I can get in my own back yard – here are some things to keep in mind if you go:
– Bain’s Kloof Pass and its attractions are only an hour away from Cape Town.
– There is sporadic or no cellphone reception on the hikes, make sure you have a permit and that somebody knows where you are and when they can expect you back, especially if you’re venturing onto one of the more remote routes.
– Take snacks, water, sun-cream, sunhat and a windbreaker too. You can fill your water bottle up from the streams you find along the way.
– Temperatures can change quite rapidly, check the weather reports and always include a light windbreak for in case.
– There are many swimming holes to be enjoyed, do just that and then dry off on the surrounding rock with dassies for company.
– This is an untouched and mostly undiscovered part of the world; please make sure you treat it with utmost respect, leaving no litter or damage behind.