Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area - Southern Africa : The greater Groot Winterhoek conservation area comprises 30 608 ha, of which 19 200 ha was declared a wilderness area in 1985. It extends in altitude from about 1000m to 2077m at Groot Winterhoek Peak, through rugged and spectacular sandstone rock formati

The greater Groot Winterhoek conservation area comprises 30 608 ha, of which 19 200 ha was declared a wilderness area in 1985. It extends in altitude from about 1000m to 2077m at Groot Winterhoek Peak, through rugged and spectacular sandstone rock formations, flat sandy vlaktes and spectacular rivers and gorges. Sneeugat (snow hole) and Botany Peak epitomize the areas botanical and hydrological significance.

It lies east of Porterville, north of Tulbagh, and is bounded by Beaverlac, Vogelgat, and Agter Witsenberg and the Four-and-Twenty River range. The Vier-en-twintig River runs through deep gorges from Die Hell to De Hoek. The name Groot Winterhoek means great winter corner. Some 1450mm of rain falls mainly from April to September, with very cold winter nights and frequent snow.

San and Khoi rock paintings - believed to date from 300-6000 years - abound. Please do not desecrate them.
The first farms in the area include Perdevlei, De Tronk, Louws Legplek, Driebosch en Kliphuis. They are now overnighting facilities for hikers. The early mule tracks are still evident.
In 1909, a group of Portuguese-speaking herders, known as the Makatese, stayed at De Tronk: they all apparently died of flu and their graves can still be seen.

The conservation area protects Sandstone and Shale Band Fynbos. Specials include the Tulbagh Powderpuff (Kliphuis), Red Disas (along the streams in late summer). The accounts of the vegetation for the area are rather poor, hence this project to highlight them.

One is likely to encounter Klipspringer, Grey Rhebuck and Grysbuck. Predators are shyer and include Leopard, Caracal, Wild Cat, various mongeese and genets.
About 100 bird species occur in the area (incl. Cape Rockjumper, Black Eagles, Goshawk, Jackal Buzzard, Black Harrier).
Lizards (including Geckos) contain several interesting species.
Amphibians are well represented.

see http://www.capenature.co.za/reserves/groot-winterhoek-wilderness-area/ for accommodation and hiking options. Beware of rapid weather changes.

Popular hikes include (numbers are limited: book well in advance):
* Parking area to De Tronk via jeep track (14km, 3½ hrs)
* Parking area to De Tronk via Kliphuis River (13km, 3 hrs) (beware: dangerous crossing in winter)
* Parking area to Protea Pool (1.5km, 40 min)
* Parking area to Groot Kliphuis via Kliphuis River (16km, 4 hrs)
* De Tronk to Die Hel (5km, 1½ hrs) A steep, difficult and dangerous descent into the gorge to one of the deepest and largest mountain pools in the Cape.
* Groot Kliphuis to Perdevlei via jeep track (7km, 2 hrs)
* Groot Kliphuis to Perdevlei via Klein Kliphuis River (6km, 1½ hrs)
* Perdevlei to De Tronk along Klein Kliphuis River (12km, 2½ hrs)
* Die Hel to De Hoek kloofing (9.5km) A demanding route for true adventurers.

04 May 2015
Tony Rebelo