As much as I respect the conservation work that CapeNature does with limited resources, their treatment of hikers especially leaves much to be desired. Leonie had booked an MCSA outing to do the Tierkloof Trail which cuts north-south through the Gamkaberg back in March. A week before departure, after the previous bout of flooding, she had interacted with an official during which no indication of an issue had been given. So, we were rather surprised, to say the least, when we arrived during the late afternoon prior to departure to be told by the resident staff that the Tierkloof Trail was “closed” due to flooding. We had all driven about 400 km and were eagerly anticipating this hike that none of us had done. This was not the first time that we had booked a trail to turn up and find it “closed”: it happened here and here for the Boland Trail. It seems that communication between the reservations office and the local reserve staff remains non-existent.

There was much shrugging of shoulders and blank looks from the rangers as they pored over their reservation list, where our booking was clearly indicated. Matters were threatening to take a turn for the worse as heels were dug in, but then we looked at the map and noticed that the 4×4 trail snaked up and across the range to the same overnight camp at Oukraal. Why couldn’t we hike there along that trail? Well, we could, so that is what we did the next day. Plan B activated and a weekend saved.

As if to compensate, the weather decided to be on its best behaviour for the following two days, windless and pleasantly warm. And Oukraal is a beautifully situated, rustic camp, set amongst large rocks with panoramic views of the peaks in the Outeniquas to the south. Comprising four, comfortable and clean two-bed A-frame huts with stone parapet walls, a snug shelter with a braai area, kettle and grid, an eco-toilet, basins and canvas chairs, it is a particularly well appointed overnight stop as hikes go. Let us commend CapeNature for this well-kept secret. At night only the odd farm light is visible in the distant valleys and the night sky glows far to the east above Oudtshoorn. We saw tracks of the mountain zebra, but never spotted one. Succulents and surprisingly diverse fynbos populate the top of the range. We came across a sluggish red adder at the same place on the way up and the way down, clearly catching some winter rays in the stony track.
View north-east over the Olifants River valley
Lower Tierkloof from the viewing deck
Santie and me on Bakenskop
Oukraal camp
As pleasant as the hike and the company was, I would still want to experience the Tierkloof Trail, which follows the deep canyon and then jacks up suddenly near Oukraal. By contrast, the 4×4 track has a far friendlier profile, but climbs relentlessly for 957 m over 14.7 km. A hike up the kloof and down the 4×4 track would make for a diverse hiking experience.
Dusk at Oukraal

View the shared photo album

I had been the first person to approach Gamkaberg from Calitzdorp initially and took the direct route south from the turnoff on Route 66. A stop-and-go worker did not object when I headed due south along the narrow gravel road to the reserve, until, much to my surprise, I was confronted by a 100m wide drift across the Olifants River, with a discernably swift flow visible near the far bank. Suspiciously, there were no fresh tire tracks, but I engaged 4×4 and nosed in. But after about 20m with water lapping at the running board and the bottom not visible, I reversed out. I called the reserve office who confirmed that the drift was unsafe and recommended a detour, which I took. This was another small detail that CapeNature could have warned us about. There were also no warning signs at the entrances to this route – the roads authorities are to blame here. At least I was able to warn the other vehicles in the party.