75km over 4 days on horseback or by foot. Portaged, catered for, 1 support vehicle. Accommodation from farmhouse to tents. Our own Baviaans Camino.

A route for hikers and horse riders

Esti Nieuwoudt Stewart- Published in News 24 (2016-09-01 06:00)

NO matter where in Kouga you are, you are aware of the majestic Baviaanskloof Mountains to the north, with the Cockscomb, the highest point in the Eastern Cape, watching from behind.

This area, well-known as the Baviaans, is a favourite with all outdoor enthusiasts, who will be happy to know that a new route open to hikers and horse riders has just been launched.

Owners of the Chokka Trail and Baviaans Horse Rides have joined forces in establishing the Baviaans Camino, which will traverse the Baviaanskloof Mountains as well as the Kouga Mountains.

Hikers will be accompanied by riders on horseback, who do not have to be experienced horse riders. Hikers on the other hand will have to be fit, as the route includes many ascents and descents over the mountains.

The popular Baviaanskloof is formed by two mountain ranges, the Baviaanskloof Mountains to the north, and the Kouga Mountains on the southern side. Traversing the two mountain ranges brings you as close to mother nature as possible, as for days there are hardly any signs of human life. No alien vegetation, no litter, no electrical lines. The area is home to seven of the nine biomes, and as you walk you move from spekboom to aloes, to century old cycads, mountain fynbos and proteas. Birdlife is prolific, particularly in the lower lying kloofs.

The route starts in the Karoo, on the outer edge of the Baviaanskloof Reserve, in an area known as Nakop. Hikers immediately tackle a climb of almost 4km, with an elevation of 1 208m at the highest point, with an unimpeded view over the Karoo to the north, and the Baviaanskloof to the south. A 7km rocky road leads down to the main road of the kloof, and eventually to the overnight point at Doringkloof Bush Camp.

On the second day you tackle the opposite side of the Baviaanskloof, again with high climbs and long descents. The chance of seeing humans apart from the group is almost impossible, which gives hikers the chance to become one with nature. The third day follows an old road in many kloofs, giving birders ample joy, before another long climb takes you to the top of one of the highest hills of the Kouga mountain range. And then there is a soft introduction back into civilization as you stay on a working farm, also home to a beneficiary of this hike, the Nooitgedacht Primary School.

Nooitgedacht Primary is a tiny farm school with 34 learners from Grade R to Grade 7 and 3 teachers. It is a food scheme school and the children get a hot meal every day, although there is no electricity for cooking, lighting or heating. The school’s dream is to install solar panels, and all their fund raising efforts are aimed towards this goal, including catering for hikers and riders on this trail.

The final day of the hike brings another ascent via the Moordenaarskloof Pass before you reach the last night’s destination, the Kouga River.

“We did our final scouting for the new route with Hercules van Huyssteen from the popular Baviaans Horse Rides on his horse Bismark, and the presence of the horse made the hike very special for the group,” says Eric Stewart, co-organiser of the Baviaans Camino. “We then realised that the route is ideal for those who love horses, but might not have the necessary experience.”