Hiking and Trail running
CO-ORDINATES: 33°17'46.73"S, 21°36'37.28"E
DISTANCE: ± 11.5km (BEGIN TO BEGIN)
± 9km (BEGIN to 17 ON MAP)
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: CHALLENGING
ESTIMATED TIME: ± 4hrs (BEGIN to 17 ON MAP)
± 4.5hrs (FULL CIRCLE)
MIN. ELEVATION: 394m (along route itself)
MAX. ELEVATION: 667m (along route itself)
MARKED WITH: Rocks With White Arrows & Footprints
This route traverses the sectional farm “Dwijka”, initially cutting through Fonteinskloof on a historic route to an old windmill on the foothills of the Hartmansberg and eventually passing down to the Gamkapoort dam.
The route starts (and ends) at the gate to Gamkapoort dam 9km from the lodge. Park your vehicle at any ‘parking bay’ and walk back in the direction of the lodge –about 315m – point (1). Turn left and follow the jeep track crossing a usually dry river bed, and pass a water hole (2) (Fonteinkloof Waterhole), and the remains of an old windmill. Shortly after passing the old windmill the route branches off to the left of the jeep track (3) (at a rock with a white foot painted on). You are now on a game path mostly utilized by game to visit Fonteinskloof Waterhole. This track runs roughly in a western direction and then turns south and you begin going uphill. You have then passed the ‘ganna flats’ on the right (4) (highly palatable to browsers and grazers).
(5) takes you past an interesting small ‘koppie’ (conical hill) on your left, paler in contrast than the surrounding hillsides and devoid of plant life. The geology here is sedimentary in origin (formed by particles settling on ancient sea floors and river beds). An erosion resistant cap exposed this strange geological formation over millennia.
The path veers right and tops out a small hill. Head for the white pole (6) and follow the white painted rocks crossing the little hill. Having dropped back down into a drainage line on the western side of the hill, the route continues left (7) – southernly. There are rocks with two little white feet along the way, but the game can move them at times! Just walk up the drainage line that leads you up Fonteinkloof.
At point (8) you will see signs of the old road. It is a sobering thought that a ‘road’ was hand-built here with the sole purpose of transporting a massive drilling machine to point (13) on the map. (The reserve historically consisted of several separate title deeds / farms. Every section of the reserve had to have its own water in order to be deemed an independent farm. In order to achieve this, the then land owner had to build a makeshift road to a potential drilling site, and with the help of three tractors (old McCormick, Fordson and John Deere) finally managed to tow the heavy drilling machine up this road into position for the drilling to commence. An old windmill, cement water trough and corrugated dam at point (13) are evidence of this effort at a most unusual location. Fortunately water was found and one marvels at the effort and risk involved in an uncertain outcome of water or no water.)
Still heading south up Fonteinskloof towards the Hartmansberg, take a left at the first ‘fork’ in the drainage line (9). Criss-crossing a drainage line with Acacia trees (Vachellia karoo/ Sweet thorn ), keep your eyes peeled for kudu, dassie, klipspringer and baboons frequenting the cliffs on either side of the gorge and you might glimpse a pair of soaring Verreaux eagle (also on the lookout for dassies).
Grazers such as zebra, gemsbok and red hartebeest also use this ravine as a highway between the southern foothills and the Fonteinkloof watering hole. You will likely see quite a lot of game tracks and droppings during this stretch of the hike.
At point (10) you will cross a line of rocks demarcating an old boundary fence. Farmers packed rocks at the base of fences to avoid livestock and predators such as jackal to pass between camps. Shortly thereafter a crude ‘bridge’ (11), countless rocks packed laboriously by hand to transport the drilling machine across a gulley.
Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) thrives in direct sunlight and is abundant along this hike especially on the northern and eastern facing sunny slopes. Also Guarri and Num-Num shrub.
At point (12) on the map, the gorge opens up to the east and west at the foot of the Hartmansberg. Here the path leads off to the left and gradually climbs in an eastern direction towards the old windmill (13). You are bound to see quite a lot of calcified leopard scat along this stretch. Take a moment at the lonely old windmill; listen to the creaking of its joints as it stands alone on the hill top, a stark and contrasting reminder of the importance of water and the brave men and women who were the pioneers of the Karoo. Imagine transporting a drilling machine to this point in the mid 1900’s…one can appreciate the amount of work and effort invested in finding the critical element --- water! We think that at that time Fonteinskloof probably still boasted some surface water springs as well. In the recent years prior to the onset of the current drought period, pools of water were common along the way as you walked up this valley.
From here the route heads eastwards and onwards. Keep to the left of the clear ravine divide, choosing your own path (there are countless game trails, just keep descending eastwards). In some areas you can walk in the water drainage line. You will pass over an old stock fence (14) demarcating the divide between the farms Olyvenfontein and Dwyka River. Roughly in between point (14) and (15) on the map there is a wooden signpost marked DWIJKA ↑ (refer to pictures) indicating that the path leads out of the drainage line (which itself curves to the right now) and crosses the hillside on the left of the ravine. While ascending you will get a glimpse of the dam further ahead, and a large rock marker with two white feet and an arrow. Continue east over the shoulder of this hill and you should see the drainage line again on your right (now a small ‘klofie’) which has curved back towards you. Look out for a signpost marked SAN CAVE, leading you right off the hill on a short steep descent to another signpost, also SAN CAVE (15).
(A recently discovered bit of San rock art in a west-facing cave. It seems that the Gamka and Dwijka rivers are depicted in some way. Looking carefully just above and to the left of the obvious rock art is a man who appears to be swimming. The ‘rainbow’ type stripes of the main section of rock art are possibly indicative of the rivers, or karosses.)
Head back to the lower SAN CAVE sign, and from there just head east along the drainage line till you reach the fence between Bosch Luys Kloof and the Gamkapoort dam – climb over the stile (16) and continue to the right for some 50 metres to reach the disused Dept. of Water Affairs toilets and road. It is the road used by the Dept.of Water Affairs to access the dam wall. Turn left on this road and follow it back to your vehicle.
The dam wall was built in the period 1967-69, damming up the two rivers Dwijka (lioness in Khoi language) and Gamka (lion in Khoi language) for irrigation water for farms downstream. Enquire at the lodge for a chat with Fox Ledeboer (17) (caretaker of the dam) if interested.
San Rock Art – Kindly Take Note:
Our Policy – leave all untouched: take only photos, leave only footprints!
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