A bucket list hike that’s a real challenge
These days the word ‘Camino’ is usually used to indicate a pilgrimage. A voyage of self-discovery. Most Caminos however see people discovering European pastries and touristy hilltop villages with curio shops. If you really want to get to know yourself, the Baviaanskloof will offer you no distractions.
Make no mistake, this is a tough challenge for even the fittest slackpacker. 95km in 4 days over the incredible Baviaanskloof and Kouga Mountains will test your strength, endurance, mental state and sense of humour! You’re going to earn your dinners. The talk among hikers is that it is likely the toughest hike in SA. With a total elevation gain of over 3,000m and interesting weather you’re in for a challenge. You’re conquering not one, but two mountain ranges.
With your clothes being shuttled and your meals and tea stops catered, it’s just you and a daypack through the Kouga Mountain range. Honestly, I don’t think the trek is possible with a backpack. Luckily there is a team on hand catering to your every whim and desire. Tea stops have chairs laid out and homemade biscuits and charcuterie. And meals are hearty and meaty – or the opposite of trailmix and dehydrated food rations.
There’s the brilliant option to do the whole route on horseback or share a horse between two people. This doesn’t mean this is an easier option. You don’t have to be experienced, but you should be able to sit on a horse for eight hours day after day. The horses are the definition of well trained, and even beginner riders will have a wonderful time on these strong, fit, boerperde. The horses give the trail a completely unique feel. Just seeing them around all day is a special experience. Try to have at least a couple as part of your party.
The trail starts in the Baviaans region of the Karoo where hikers and riders meet for dinner at the Willow Historical Guest House the night before embarking on their camino. It’s a relaxed and early night before Day 1 sets the tone by kicking straight off with a ferocious ascent: a 4km climb with an elevation of 400m to Telkom Tower with broad views to all sides.
Once on top of the Baviaanskloof Mountain, you get your first unimpeded view over the Kouga Mountain Range to the south – your playground for the next 3 days. No civilisation in sight.
The area is unlike any other, and untouched for the most part. Honeybush grows naturally here among the fynbos. Your hike takes you from the vegetation of the Succulent Karoo to the Nama Karoo. From Fynbos, Proteas and Renosterbos to the Wild Plum, Ghwarrie, Num-Num, Shepards
Tree and Botterboom. From lunar landscapes to Yellowwood forests.
It’s day four. A few more uphills over the Zuuranys Mountains to Nuguniland just outside Kareedouw, and nostalgia starts setting in. When will you ever be so deep in the middle of nowhere again. It’s now almost just a memory – one that will remain with you for many years to come.
I hope that the Baviaans Camino will continue to enchant all those who take its path. Here, where few others have ever set foot.
Good to know
Timeframe: 6 days, 5 nights, hiking over 4 days
Distance: 95km (give or take), total elevation 3000m
Route: A north-south traverse of the Baviaanskloof Mountain and Kouga Mountain Range
Terrain: Old and unused farm roads and some footpaths, rocky
Difficulty: Tough but epic
Group size: Up to 14, of which 6 can be on horseback
Availability: Set dates between March and October
Accommodation: A guesthouse, farmhouses, an outpost, and one night in tents. In true camino spirit all facilities are shared, no single supplements.
2021 Rate: R9 650 pp which includes 5 nights’ accommodation, three meals per day, aid stations, luggage transfer and a full support crew with guides.
Horse riders: an additional R4 000 towards transport, horse feed and other related expenses.
Catering: Hot breakfast, packed lunch, snack pack and supper included. Coffee station and honesty bar available.
Gear: Hiking/riding gear (helmets can be supplied), a day backpack, hiking poles, water bottles, towels, sleeping bags, pillow, rain jacket, buffs, gloves. Be prepared for unexpected extreme heat or severe cold. Hiking boots with high tops such as the Altitude Initity are great. Or go old school with the P.C.T. if on a horse.
Riders: Fit for walking in case you have to do some in hand. Riders are fully responsible for horses
which means feeding twice a day, giving water late at night, grooming and tacking up.
Information on horses: Hercules van Huyssteen 082 925 9301
Further info: www.baviaanscamino.com