I was privileged to be invited, with five others, by Santie to share her birthday hike in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area – one day for each decade. Although we had wonderful weather – windless and sunny – and simply being out there with like-minded people was uplifting, it was bittersweet for me. My 90-year-old dad was lying in hospital struggling to survive pneumonia and although it seemed that he was about to be discharged shortly before we departed, he could not survive a secondary infection. So my thoughts were often elsewhere. And when I returned and visited him, it was clear that he was not going to make it. Should I have been there for him over that long weekend? He passed, mercifully, two days after I returned from the hike.

So it is difficult to write an engaging post about what was a great hike. But briefly:

Day 1: a short walk to Disa Pool which has some flat and level sites close by.
Camp at Disa Pool

Day 2: there was a change of plan, so we trekked to Perdevlei, a remote valley, via Groot Kliphuis. This day was quite long and challenging for those of us who have not done full-pack hikes recently.
Tea at Groot Kliphuis

Looking back to Groot Kliphuis
Perdevlei with Groot Winterhoek peak in the background

Day 3 saw us take a short hike to a tranquil pool on the Klein Kliphuis River, below Groot Winterhoek peak. Santie wanted to wake up on her birthday at this pool – and it is indeed a special place.
Santie and Le Roux at the Birthday Pool
Sunset on the Klein Kliphuis River

Day 4: we continued down the beautiful valley, over a neck to De Tronk where Cape Nature has rehabilitated the farm buildings into well-appointed hiking cottages. I recognised the place from a previous hike twenty-one years ago. We were there by lunch time and then scrambled down to Die Hel, a deep pool in the gorge. Die Hel has the atmosphere of a religious site. Some, at the birthday girl’s insistence, took a skinny dip. We were back at the De Tronk shortly before sunset, where Santie was surprised by a cake with candles.
Crossing the neck

Me at Die Hel in 2001 and 2002

Me at Die Hel in 2001 and 2022

Klipspringer cottage in 2001 and 2022

Klipspringer cottage in 2001 and 2022


Day 5: the yomp back to the parking area is deceptively long and rises through a good 600 metres. By this time I was thinking about a ‘burger in Porterville. The one at OppiKoffi was pretty good.
Birthday girl in the pool

A revelation of the trip was the excellent dehydrated hiking food from the Dri Food Co. My personal favourite was red lentil dahl, precooked. Back in the day we sometimes took overpriced, awful tasting dehydrated meals that came from New Zealand, I think. But Dri Food’s meals are extremely tasty and nourishing, all plant based. And the owners, Lizelle and Julian, were also on the hike to “field test” their products. It is not often that you meet the people behind the product.

Visit the shared photo album