On Wednesday, Ant and MJ Hooper, and Julian and Tricia Turner joined Renee and me to walk the Fynbos Trail. It was an inauspicious start as we had to go via Caledon to reach Stanford – this as a result of the approaches to the bridge over the Klein River having been washed away by the recent floods. It did, however, afford us the opportunity of a lunch at Van Brakel’s Stoor, a very traditional farm stall on the road to Napier.
From there it was a short drive to our starting point at the Growing the Future project on Steynsbos, where we met our host and guide for day one, Sean Privett. Needless to say it started drizzling as we set out, but soon cleared and we were able to enjoy a cool walk through a variety of coastal fynbos, an ancient milkwood forest and mountain fynbos. Sean was an excellent and enthusiastic guide, who kept us well informed along the way, with his detailed knowledge of the flora and fauna. After 6.5 km we arrived at our overnight destination, Fynbos Retreat, a farm we had previously visited and walked on when it was known as Witvoetskloof and was owned by Chris and Elwyn van Schouwen.
Our hosts for the night were Jan and Perdita and they made sure we did not go hungry with a constant supply of delicious pizzas accompanied by a selection of Lomond wines.
Next morning we met our guide for the next two days, Billy Robertson. He had a hard act to follow, but handled it with great competence and an ever cheerful and endearing manner, keeping us all amused and appraised of the area and its treasures. Our hike took us through verdant valleys with wonderful forests and fast flowing streams with occasional waterfalls, and then up to the peak at Flower Valley Farm, before dropping down again to Stinkhoutsbos where a delicious lunch awaited us. Sean met us there and we were each given a tree to plant as part of his project to return this fire-affected forest to its former glory. From there it was a shortish walk to Sean’s farm Witkrans, where we spent the night, but not before being royally entertained by Sean and Michelle who presented us with a wonderful lamb potjie. We had completed 12 km on the day and were quite tired as the terrain was anything but flat!
After a hearty breakfast at Sean’s, Billy once more led us off on our last 7 km stretch. We passed the Bodhi Khaya retreat and headed up a valley towards the back of Grootbos. The streams were in full flow, but we managed to get by without getting too wet. Our walk took us up through three ancient forests where we marvelled at the huge white stinkwood and wild peach trees, one of which even had leopard scratch marks on the trunk. At one point we had to scramble over a new landslide caused by the recent heavy rain.
Eventually we crossed the ridge and descended into the renowned Grootbos milkwood forest where we were once again amazed at the wonderful shapes assumed by the ancient trees, one of which we were assured was around 1500 years old! From there it was a short walk to Grootbos where we enjoyed a final lunch, before returning to our cars at Steynsbos for the drive home.
Overall it was a wonderful three days and we all agreed that our hosts and guides were of the highest quality. This walk is recommended for anybody of average fitness. It was an experience we will never forget.