From the sum­mit of Perdekop in the Mont Rochelle Na­ture Re­serve near Fran­schhoek, it feels as if the whole of the Western Cape is laid out at your feet.

Make the most of these sunny days – put on your walk­ing shoes and head for the moun­tains.

go! - - Contents - – Fiona McIn­tosh

Well marked and with plenty of es­cape routes, Perdekop Trail in Franch­hoek’s Mont Rochelle Na­ture Re­serve must be one of the best moun­tain hikes in the coun­try. It’s a cir­cu­lar trail that can be hiked in ei­ther di­rec­tion, al­though I pre­fer to do it clock­wise as the climb up is more grad­ual and you end with a re­fresh­ing dip in a river pool. The flip side is a long, steep de­scent: If you have bad knees, con­sider go­ing anti-clock­wise. The gravel ser­vice road forks al­most im­me­di­ately on the other side of the en­trance gate, with Perdekop Peak sign­posted to the right. Ig­nore the sign (un­less you’re walk­ing an­ti­clock­wise) and go straight up. Af­ter about 450 m, the gravel ends and the climb­ing be­gins, ini­tially up a se­ries of steps and zigzags. Ba­boons of­ten sit on the rocks and watch the hik­ers here. Please don’t feed them. The well-main­tained trail then as­cends grad­u­ally through strik­ing, cobalt-blue maag­bossie ( Aris­tea africana) and patches of white ev­er­last­ings, to Break­fast Rock. A kilo­me­tre from the gate, this is a pop­u­lar pic­nic spot and turn-around point for those who want to do a shorter hike. En­joy the stun­ning views and the birds flit­ting from flower to flower. Across the val­ley, you’ll be able to see the route of your re­turn hike snaking down the ridge. The path drops down a lit­tle, through an area that burnt re­cently and now sprouts colour­ful daisies and mimetes, to­wards the Perdek­loof stream. First you’ll cross a trib­u­tary stream via a bridge, be­fore grad­u­ally climb­ing through weather-sculpted rocks and up the val­ley to­wards the sad­dle be­neath Du­toit­skop. Just over an hour af­ter you set off (about 2,7 km from the gate) you should ar­rive at the junc­tion of the Perdekop and the shorter Uitkyk and Man­ganese trails. This is a good spot to take a mo­ment to ori­en­tate your­self, and to re­flect on your pace. Perdekop is still 4,3 km away and 500 m of ver­ti­cal climb­ing awaits. The trail also gets sig­nif­i­cantly more rugged. The route is marked with sign­boards, painted foot­prints and cairns, but it’s not al­ways easy to fol­low, es­pe­cially if vis­i­bil­ity is poor. Sec­tions through boul­ders can also be slip­pery. If there’s mist or rain on the higher peaks, or if any­one in your party is not feel­ing con­fi­dent, rather con­tinue straight for an­other 20 min­utes to the sum­mit of Uitkyk Peak, then re­turn the way you came.

Want to carry on to Perdekop?

Okay, let’s go! The trail climbs steeply off to the right of­fer­ing spec­tac­u­lar views of Wem­mer­shoek Dam in the val­ley of the same name. Keep your eyes on the path: There’s a drop-off to your left. Once through the boul­der fields, the gra­di­ent eases and the path con­tours along the edge of some cliffs be­fore travers­ing grassy flats. It’s re­ally alpine up in the high moun­tains, with airy drops and soar­ing birds of prey. The veg­e­ta­tion be­comes sparser as you climb, with bright vy­gies, strik­ing yel­low but­ter­fly lilies and other bulbs sprout­ing among erica and stunted cone bushes. When I hiked the trail in De­cem­ber 2017, del­i­cate lap­muis ( Gla­di­o­lus hir­su­tus) were in bloom, cloth­ing the veld in pink. The path here is un­du­lat­ing and a bit loose at times and it will de­liver you to an­other stream cross­ing just be­low the turn-off for the re­turn leg. You have less than 100 m of climb­ing to go, so hang in there. The sum­mit is marked by a big bea­con. Look for the sum­mit book buried at the base of the bea­con on the side that you ap­proached from and record your achieve­ment. From the top of Perdekop, you can see for miles – on a clear day, all the way over the Winelands to Table Moun­tain. Once you’ve feasted your eyes, head back to the junc­tion and turn left. The de­scent largely fol­lows a ridge line, of­fer­ing su­perb views of the Fran­schhoek Val­ley, and some­what de­press­ingly, the sandy ex­panse of Thee­wa­ter­skloof Dam. At first the path me­an­ders through grass­land, then it be­comes in­creas­ingly rocky as it drops through dense stands of proteas alive with sug­ar­birds. The fi­nal 2 km are quite pre­cip­i­tous, with some steep, slop­ing slabs that can be slick when wet. Take care on tired legs. A dip in a tan­nin-stained river pool at the end is re­ward for your ef­forts, then it’s a 10-minute hike back up to your car. Dis­tance: The cir­cu­lar route is 13,4 km long and will take about six hours. Where? The en­trance to Mont Rochelle Na­ture Re­serve is just out of town up Fran­schhoek Pass (R45). How much? A hik­ing per­mit costs R40 per adult (free for chil­dren un­der 16 if ac­com­pa­nied by an adult) and you can get one at the re­serve gate, at the Huguenot Mu­seum in town, or at the Fran­schhoek Tourism of­fice. You can also buy your per­mit on­line at webtick­ (search for “Hik­ing @ Mont Rochelle”; R50 per per­son). A map costs R20. Open­ing times: The gate of­fice is open daily from 8 am to 4 pm, but you can en­ter at any time if you’ve bought your per­mit on­line. Wa­ter? You cross two streams, but carry enough wa­ter just in case they’re dry. It’s a long day out and there’s no shade. Con­tact: 021 876 2861; mon­trochelle­hik­

VIEWS OF THE VAL­LEY (above). Af­ter reach­ing the sum­mit of Perdekop Trail, a long de­scent lies ahead. The path is steep and nar­row at times so keep your wits about you.

VELD AND FYN­BOS (op­po­site page, clock­wise from top left). The route fol­lows the Uitkyk Trail to the sad­dle be­neath Du­toit­skop be­fore branch­ing off to the right. Re­ward your­self with a dip in this river pool just be­fore the short climb up to your car. The trail is well marked with sign­posts, foot­prints and cairns. Don’t for­get to sign the sum­mit book – you’ve earned the right to put down your name.


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