30 years Kloofing in the Nuy River Gorge

The year 1988

We were just two 18 year old Swiss youngsters in the midst of our apprenticeships: Stephan a Lumberjack and myself an Architectural technician. But the opportunity of adventures way down in South Africa was too great to turn down! So we booked a 8 hour train journey to Luxembourg and the cheapest flight with Luxair to Cape Town. Stephan forged himself a 1.5kg Dundee-style knife, in case we were to encounter angry Lions – Needless to say the flight attendants had a good chuckle when we boarded “sword and all”.

Equipped with a Survey General map of the area, food for only two days and PEP store blankets for “sleeping bags” we explored the NUY RIVER GORGE on route to my Granddad’s farm, Simonskloof here in the Koo Valley. The adventure took three days, hiking old jeep tracks, then endless river crossings, bivouacking on the sandbanks cooking like cowboys on a open fire, the pot coffee and baked beans were missing though. The following day the bushwhacking and boulder hopping continued only to grind us to a halt at a rather magical rock dam half way up the gorge. We camped a second night, running very low on food but filled with an air of epic-ness.

A real adventure

In the morning of day three, after another cold African night wrapped in a thin blanket, we gathered drift wood to make a raft for our backpacks – not knowing that they actually do float, if you wrap them in a rain cover or wet-pack its content… After a 80m swim through icy mountain water, we scrambled several more hours to finally reach the towering wall of Keerom dam. Form there it was a quick 5km hike on Jeep track to my Granddad’s house.

And then some…

After a week on the farm helping with repairing fences we hit the road to the East for a more civilised hike along the well established Fanie Botha hiking trail.

However the Nuy River Gorge was deeply ingrained in my young soul and so a life changing adventure was born!

Now it’s your turn: http://www.simonskloof.com/kloofing/

Geo…What?

18m… 12m… 5m… more to the South, no… a step to the West. Yes… there, that must be it, under those rocks!!! YES, GOT it!!!

Twin Peak geocacheThis is pretty much how it feels for some 3 million people around the world every weekend, off day or whenever they have a free minute to head out into the woods, hills, malls – yes, even the malls.

Armed with a GPS (Global Positioning System device) or a mobile app and a Waypoint downloaded from the internet, they are poisoned to find a little box, as small as the dice, but more often the size of a 35mm firm container or a lunch box sized Tupperware container containing a logbook and sometime even some additional items for swopping. These boxes called Geocaches with names like Under Pressure 2, Disconnected, or A bridge too Far, are hidden in the most unusual places, under park benches, in trees, on mountain tops, or in private post-boxes or under garden gnomes or rock piles.

Locomotive geocacheCurrently there are over 2,5million caches hidden in 180 countries all over the whole world, 12’000 alone in SA, ~40 in and around Montagu. The game is called Geocaching and started in 2000 with the opening of the American GPS satellite system to the general public.

The first geocaches were simple sturdy ammo-boxes and over the years people downsized them to tiny containers called NANO caches, suitable to be hidden in heavy traffic areas like shopping malls, restaurants or bus and train stations. Other caches were so big they needed no log book, but a confirming photograph of the Geocacher in front of the object like a geological formation and then called EARTH cache. These caches are often very educational, as are those placed at historical monuments or plaques. Did you know for instance that Montagu has at least 5 Boer war forts and where they are – Geocachers know! The caches are placed by the players themselves under strict rules, with great respect to the environment and permission of the landowners.Geo Coin at Twin Peak sm

Sometime you might even find a GeoCoin (see above) or a Travelling Bug (TB) in the cache, those are traceable items which players released into the game to travel the world, some time with a dedicated mission like: Visit mountain summit caches all over Travel Bug - Geise Glöggli - The Bellthe world, YES even Mt.Everest has a cache right on top, called: “Earth’s Roof – Mount Everest Peak”. Our personal Geocoin made it all the way to the Ramat Razi’el in the Judean Mountains before getting lost back in 2011… another TB called “s’ Geise Glöggli – The Bell” travelled 37334.5km so far and is currently in North Carolina.

The 16th of August is International Geocaching Day, for more info on this awesome treasure hunt visit Geocaching.com In their own words: “People geocache because it’s a way to explore the world around them with friends and family and because it’s fun. Geocaching is a free game that reveals a world beyond the everyday.”

Geocache Rebirth of a RiverSO, if you love to spend a whole weekend geocaching and never step into your car, head for Simonskloof, we currently have 10 caches within our boundaries and another 8 within easy reach.

Sacred Sweat Lodge Ceremony

Tim Sikyea - photo by courtesy of wuante.comTim Sikyea will be back at Simonskloof Mountain Retreat for seven days of Sacred Sweat Lodge Ceremonies.

The dates are:
Wednesday the 11. – Tuesday the 17. of September 2013.

For more info please see SWEATLODGEFLYERSEPT2013flyer and for bookings contact Leela Codron directly at leela@sevaunite.org or 079 015 9041.

Please also refer to the Facebook group: “Sweat Lodge Ceremony” for further updates.

Wild Weekends

Wild Weekends - cover page LRAt the beginning of the year, the two “Girls Gone Wild” visited Simonskloof for a Kloofing trip down the Nuy River Gorge for the Sunday Times Travel Weekly.
All satisfied, with a glass of bubbly (it was Claire’s birthday too) in hand and reflecting on the past adventure, a crackling fire and a starry Karoo night sky above, they mentioned to me, that there might be a chance to convince their editor to include this awesome trip and location in their upcoming book.

A few month later, there you go: Check it out!
What a stunning collection of local weekend adventures! …and on pages 112-115: Simonskloof’s Kloofing trip 🙂
Wild Weekends - Simonskloof page 1
A perfect (x-mas) gift for any adrenaline addict or outdoor lover. Enjoy, I definitely am!

Thanks Claire Keeton & Marianne Schwankhart!!!

To view more pages visit us on FaceBook.

THE Butterfly Guide!!!

SABCA_book_front-coverWay back in May 2008 Silvia Mecenero a Lepidopterist for the SABCA (Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment) spent some days at here at Simonskloof to collect butterfly data for a nationwide research, it resulted in 6 positive identifications at Simonskloof:

– Vanessa cardui
(Painted lady or Sondagsrokkie)
– Eicochrysops messapus messapus
(Cupreous blue or Koperbloutjie)
– Zizeeria knysna
(African grass blue or Duwweltjie-bloutjie)
– Cacyreus dicksoni
(Dickson’s geranium bronze or Dickson-se-malvabloutjie)
– Stygionympha vigilans
(Western hillside brown or Westelike-rantbruintjie)
– Cassionympha detecta
(Cape brown or Kaapse-bosbruintjie)

Almost 5 years later she’s been the co-editor of “Conservation Assessment of Butterflies of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland: Red List and Atlas” which is now going into a very limited print.

Click here to order this comprehensive guide – Available until 31. March 2013 ONLY!!

The 2013 Nuy River Gorge Kloofing season has started

Last weekend we had our first Kloofing trip of the 2013 season in the Nuy River Gorge.

Nuy River Gorge KloofingWhat a blast and what a fantastic group: A French-Swiss-South African Family of note! As my back-up/helping guide, there was our WWOOFer from the “Dutch Mountains”. Also for the first time we offered a self-catered option, were the participants cooked for themselves. But had they not been “vegetarians”, they probably would have wrestled us for our T-bones steaks on a red hot rock and the bottle of Tangled Tree Shiraz (a most delicious local wine in a convenient PET bottle) – hey, gotta do it in style! The freshly brewed coffee we did share though.

Camp in the Nuy River GorgeThe weather played ball too, with a slightly over cast sky in the morning but sunny descent while abseiling. The river water was the chilliest for a December trip I’ve ever experienced, yet was perfect to cool off from the afternoon heat. And yes backpacks do float – no need for Otter-Trail style “French Polonies” NO pun intended – all you need is a backpack rain cover and it floats!

Our next trip is just around the corner, this Saturday it’s an “All in One Day” on a slightly shorter loop and with a perfect weather forecast: A slight drizzle at the end of the day, but we’ll beat that with an ice cold Windhoek draft!

Nuy River Gorge KloofingSO, if you are feeling adventurous, get a group of 4-6 friends together and call us with a date and type of trip you prefer!
Your life was meant to be an Adventure – Grab it!

For more pictures please visit our Facebook page!

Leopards roam Simonskloof

We finally have photographic proof: The Cape Mountain Leopards roam Simonskloof!
Leopard Yesterday, a week after on of the guest took a photo of two Leopard prints down toward Keerom dam, I downloaded the data from the two camera traps set up by the Landmark Foundation. And what a joy: 1 Leopard, 2 Rooikat, several Steenbokkies, 1 Rhebok, a couple of Scrub Hare (still hoping to spot the Riverine Rabbit…) 1 Honey Badger, 3 Spotted Genet, and a couple of dogs and guests either in 4×4’s, MTB’s or on foot, including Kanda and Matata our border collies.Rooikat

Wonderful news indeed to know these cats are still alive and kicking right on the edge of a sheep farming area.

To see more of the pictures taken please visit our Facebook page!

On the Rim of Africa

Rim of Africa Sunrise at Waterfall Peak campNice when a long held dream finally comes true. Since around 2001 I’ve had this vision of creating a hiking trail from Simonskloof to Montagu and eventually connecting with Swellendam. I started with the first section from Nuy Valley to Simonskloof in 2003 and after several rebuilds due to fires and floods, added Simonskoof-Langdam in 2010.

This year I was asked to join an even bigger vision: The Rim of Africa, a 650km mountain passage from Pakhuis pass in the northern Cederberg via the Hex River mountain and the Langeberg all the way to the Outeniqua mountains in the East – not just as part of the trail, but to guide participants along the Rim on stage 5, from the Hex River Valley via Simonskloof to Montagu.

On the 16th October I joined my group of mountain hikers, local and from overseas, at Die Tolhuis outside Ceres heading for Milner peak over into the Hex River valley. However, due to bad weather conditions, snow prediction and zero visibility on Milner, we had to transfer on day 4 to Nuy Valley and hiked the Gecko Trail as a welcome alternative, including its adventurous 14 river crossings and a final scramble up the boulderous Cobra ravine.

For the following two days it rained, so we stuck it out at Simonskloof (lucky me) getting ready for the next four days to Montagu. Monday the 22nd full backpacks were hoisted and in good spirit we headed for Arangieskop. There the hut and its fireplace kept us nicely sheltered from the 4° outside while we dried our boots and feasted on freeze dried Moroccan lamb with couscous. The following day saw us descend along the hiking trail, by-passing the dangerously steep Vensterbank and re-join the ridge by the evening. That night we slept in our tents with a howling south wind plucking on the guylines.

Rim of Africa hikers at the SwooshDay 9 started in thick mist but by the time we reached Olifantskop it had cleared and we were blessed with a vista better to none and in true Rim style we scrambled along the very top of the ridge to our camp at Waterfallkop, much better sheltered then the night before.

Our last morning on top of the Langeberg was greeted by a perfect glowing red sunrise, dry flysheets and a good coffee made from water we had collected out of rock puddles.The journey continued past the trig beacon, then down the “Swoosh” were we finally found fresh spring water again, hence it was time for a much deserved tea break. One “last” climb back up to the ridge and by lunch time we had reached Bloupunt, overlooking Montagu.

Rim of Africa hikers at ArangieskopWe descended on the established hiking trail with some sever flood damage and overgrowth shortly before the Klipspringer Cabins. Here Lola, Pete and Galeo welcomed us with ice cold beers and a mean lekker lamb and waterblommetjies potjie. A restful night followed and the next morning we walked out back into civilisation but our hearts remained on the mountains…

If you are interested in “walking” the Rim of Africa visit their website.
In 2013 another 3 stages will be added, finishing at the Outeniqua mountains.

You owe it to yourself AND to the mountain!

For more images of stage 4 & 5 visit our Facebook page.

Mayoral Tourism Awards… and the Winner is?!

Simonskloof Mountain Retreat won the Cape Winelands District Municipality Mayoral Award for Best Adventure, Outdoor and Eco Tourism business of the 2012. This was announced at a gala dinner at Kroneburg wine estate outside Paarl on the 20th of September 2012.

And if you know me well… I had to dig deep into the cupboard, past the Gortex jacket, my hiking boots and climbing gear to find my smooth black jacket and a pair of shiny shoes to look the part while shaking Minister of Tourism Western Cape Allan Winde’s hand as well as those of the Mayor and his VIP to receive my crystal trophy and two gold framed certificates.

It was a close shave, with Ceres Zip-Slide, the Hexpass Express and McGregor’s Donkey Sanctuary right on our heels. After 13 years of hard work and this year’s never ending natural disasters, this award came as a soothing surprise and pat on our backs.