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Groot Winterhoek

10 of us tackled this 2-day hike in February. The area is a Wilderness Area like the Central Cederberg, so you can hike anywhere within the area. We followed the fairly standard route to De Tronk, on to Die Hel, and returned via the Groot Kliphuisrivier.

Road to Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

Road to Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

Distance: 19km + 11km (+9km)
Difficulty: not difficult at all, but very long
Permits: conservation fee per person (free with WildCard) is R60 per adult, R35 children (3—12)
Booking: You need to book the trail through CapeNature on 0861 22736 / reservation.alert@capenature.co.za
Website: www.capenature.org.za

Getting there: The area is 33 km beyond Porterville. Take the N7 from Cape Town to Piketberg. Take a right at the petrol stop and head to Porterville. At the T-junction turn left to Cardouw — you are now on a good dirt road. Take a right up Dasklip Pass at the sign reading Groot Winterhoek, the pass is tarred on the way up. Just after you have crested the pass you will see the large sign for Beaverlac on the left. Pass this and continue south for 12km on the dirt road, following the sign boards to the office and parking area.

Groot Winterhoek is CapeNature wilderness area like the Cederberg Wilderness Area.

The trail is well constructed and maintained,. Whilst superbly signposted, unfortunately one or two key signs were missing from their posts. Neither the map in Mike Lundy’s book nor the map supplied by CapeNature really give you much detail, and they are inadequate for any kind of navigating should you become uncertain of your way.

Upon leaving I had a look at the info-board and was not surprised to see the hottest month of the year listed as February.

Day 1

19km (6hrs)

Leave your car in the parking lot. Don’t forget to pick up a key if you have rented for one of the huts.

The first swim of the day was in a pool on a beautiful stream crystal clear stream: Disa Pool. And sure enough, hiding in the fynbos on the banks was one lone Red disa.

Classic rock formations which make the Cederberg instantly recognisable, but the vegetation far denser. Loads of Wabooms, restios and ericas.

AS the terrain opens out again the trail takes you over a rise. As you descend the other side you will reach a T-junction. We took a left here to make a quick detour to where we stopped for lunch under one of the oaks at Groot Kliphuis which is a large rock outcrop. The huge oak trees provide welcome shade and as out-of-place as they may seem, surprisingly similar trees are to be found elsewhere in the Cederberg and are reminders of farms that once existed in the area.

Back to T-junction and on down into valley of XXX river. The river was tantalisingly close but it was some distance before we came to the water’s edge and stopped for tea and a swim. The cheeky little fish that will come and nibble at you are Cape kurpers (Sandelia capensis).

Jeep track. Concrete bridge across river. 4m above water, climbed down to swim. Up jeep track to overnight huts at De Tronk.

Disa Hut, De Tronk, Groot Winterhoek

Disa Hut, De Tronk

De Tronk Huts

Because this is a Wilderness Area, you can actually camp out wherever you like, with the exception of Die Hel.

  • Disa, Klipspringer, Suikerbekkie (Max 8 people) 1-4 persons per night R440 (off-peak) R840 (peak),  additional p/p/n R100
  • These huts are self-sustainable due to the fact that they are so difficult to reach for regular cleaning. Visitors need to clean these huts themselves before leaving. This will ensure that the next group of visitors will also have a pleasant stay.
  • Rainwater is captured from the roof of the huts and stored in tanks. The availability of this water is not guaranteed. Water is however available on route to the huts. When we were there the tank at Disa Hut was empty, but the one at xxxxx was almost full (we guessed Disa Hut saw more use)
  • Sun-dome toilets (basically fancy long-drops) are available to each hut (excluding Ribbok which has a flush toilet). Please use these toilets as instructed on the door.
  • Bunk beds with mattresses are supplied at the huts — these were in excellent condition and very comfortable
  • No electricity is available, no fires or braais

Die Hel

9km (3hrs)

I am separating this out from Day 1 and Day 2 for a few reasons: you may decide not to include this as it adds too much distance, the weather does not allow it, you want to do different routes.

This is truly the most breathtaking pool I have experienced. The water was warm and crystal clear. The deep kloof is dramatic and the cliffs around you add the splendour of the setting.

Set off from De Tronk in a southerly direction, continuing along the jeep track on which you arrived the previous day. You will soon reach a clearing from which a single track disappears into some small trees which are actually along the banks of a stream. If you have chosen to avoid the water in the hut tanks, or if there was non, this is a perfect opportunity to fill up (remembering that there is abundant water at your destination). The first kilometres are easy-going, the final few drop down slightly, and only the very end of the trail drops steeply down into Die Hel itself.

The descent in to hell and the climb back out is on a very steep trail which has rock and concrete steps built on it making it a bit safer on the way down and a lot easier on the way up.

Day 2

11km (3hrs)

The profile show the route starts at 643m and climbs to 950m in a pretty steady fashion, with maybe a bit of extra hill toward the end.

We visited Die Hel in the morning, getting back to the Huts at lunchtime.

Back north up jeep track, over concrete bridge. Pass junction from previous day. Cross shallow stream – railway sleeper. Immediately after this crossing turn right onto a single track with the river now on your right.

Moss Waterfall Pool was the last pool we got to enjoy: a broad moss-covered rock ledge up to 2 meters high with a deep pool for swimming. Delicious!

The very last section of the trail was closed, and the alternative route took us left to Bosdorp from where we walked along the road to the end. This meant missing Protea Pool, and judging by the other pools in the area, we will have to go back if only to see what we missed!

Weekend Trails in the Western Cape by Mike Lundy CapeNature logo

Marilyn’s 60’s Diner

The January ’14 edition of Go! Magazine featured the Tsitsikamma region on the Garden Route. We drove all the way from Knysna to sample the great food and atmosphere of Marilyn’s 60’s Diner!

Where: Darnell Street, Storms River Village, Storms River
Phone: +27 42 281 1711 ext. 267
Website: www.elvisfestival.co.za
Facebook: Marilyns-60s-Diner-in-Storms-River-Village

Some friends had visited and really enjoyed the food and decor, so we made the trip from Knysna.

There is plenty of memorabilia on display.

The menu includes everything you would expect from an American Diner, and includes burgers, milkshakes, and root beer.

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Wilderness to Victoria Bay

This is an amazing walk from Wilderness to Victoria Bay on the railway tracks, and includes a breathtaking bridge crossing, a dark tunnel, and glorious coastal views.

Getting there: start from the Wilderness Beach parking lot
GPS Coordinates: -33.99576, 22.56550
Difficulty: and easy walk along a disused railway line

From the parking lot walk along the beach until you can find an easy way up the bank to the railway line. From here it is a simple case of following the railway line until you reach Victoria Bay. The little trail down to hill to the beach is slippery so watch your footing. There is a shop where you can buy refreshments.

Of course not long ago this section of line was used by the Outeniqua Choo Choo; when I lived in Knysna I made the return trip from Knysna to George twice. It was a divine outing and it is such a shame that it no longer runs.

The Outeniqua Choo Choo was the last remaining continually-operated passenger steam train in Africa, ending operation in June 2009. The railway was completed in 1928, and linked George and Knysna, passing Wilderness, Goukamma, and Sedgefield. The scenic 67-kilometre route hugged the rugged coastline of the Garden Route before crossing the bridge spanning the Knysna lagoon. It was declared an officially preserved railway in 1992 and carried about 40,000 passengers per year in its time. A decade later, it carried 115,000 passengers per year, 70% of whom were foreign tourists.


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Wintergreen Anti-Chafe Cream

When distances start getting on the long side, chafe becomes a serious problem when running and cycling. A liberal application of Wintergreen Anti-Chafe Cream will solve this problem.

I experienced serious chafe in the 2013 PUFfeR and have since been careful to avoid a repeat of the agony I was in by the time I started descending Platteklip Gorge! Apart from the obvious direct pain, the discomfort is mentally draining and can affect your form as you try to avoid chafing the “hotspots” further.

I carried some of the handy little screw-top tubs pictured below in my back pocket for IronMan 2014 to do touch ups. Yes, in public: the only thing less glamorous than shoving your hand down your shorts and massaging cream into your private bits is having same bits rubbed raw!

Wintergreen IronMan South Africa 2014

Wintergreen IronMan South Africa 2014

Wintergreen logo

île de païn

île de païn used the word artisan to describe their bread long before the term was adopted by the Hipsters among us.

Getting there: Entering Knysna on the N2 from George, turn right at the first traffic light onto Waterfront drive, at the second traffic light turn right onto Long street. The road takes you across the water to Thesen Island. Continue until you get to a four-way stop. Ile de pain is just across the stop on the right hand side, in the Boatshed, under the big coral tree.
Website: www.iledepain.co.za
Facebook: île-de-païn

Having worked in the restaurant trade for many years, I am not a big fan of eating out. When I do, I normally settle for a Spur Burger or a pizza at Col ‘Cacchio.

Every-now-and-then I am a little less boring and venture forth to try something new. Sometimes it is a location that inspires me, sometimes it is rumours of an establishment that is truly exceptional.

In the case of île de païn, it was both.

Leanne and I bake fresh bread with store-bought dough each weekend (we plan to make our own dough soon). Nothing beats the unmistakable aroma of bread baking in the oven.

We had originally planned to go for breakfast, but arrived just as the kitchen stopped serving the breakfast menu, so waited about 10 minutes with delicious Café au Laits until the waitress returned to inform us that we could order from the lunch menu. Leanne had a delicious filled croissant, and I ordered an open sandwich topped with rare roast beef.

île de païn

île de païn

My IronMan South Africa 2014

Another epic IronMan South Africa experience in the bag.

My 2012 trip was quite rushed so this year we made a more relaxed road-trip to Port Elizabeth with an overnight stop in Knysna. The road-trip included a stop at Buffeljagsrivier for delicious roosterbrood.

On Thursday we had lunch at île de païn on Thesen Island: it was a fabulous experience and we will definitely be back for their delicious baked goods. We then did some last-minute gear shopping to get a bento box and some fresh CO2 bombs. There are no less than 3 bike shops in Knysna, and the 2 that I visited were super-friendly and helpful.

I had hoped for a cycle but it was raining on and off so we settled for a relaxing jog around Leisure Island in the early evening.

We left Knysna on Friday morning early enough to arrive in PE for the official swim session. I know that some go and swim a fair section of the course but for me it is more of a social thing where you get to soak up the vibe of the other athletes.

We stayed with friends in Port Elizabeth on the Friday night, but checked into the Town Lodge on Saturday night. The extra expense is well-worth it as you have no stress on race morning getting to the start.

On Saturday afternoon I prepped my bike and transition bags. I taped my GU’s to the top bar of my bike and numbered them. Checked bike into transition.

On Sunday morning I woke up at 04h30 for a breakfast of oats, toast, juice and coffee.

Put bottle of 32GI on my bike, pumped up tyres. I had put a new tyre on my rear wheel recently; it had lost loads of air overnight and I was worried I had a slow puncture. I got one of the bike technicians in transition to pump both my tyres up and hoped for the best.

I pulled myself into my wetsuit and applied a thick layer of petroleum jelly to my neck to ease any chafe (I discovered this as the best solution at this year’s Langebaan Lagoon Crossing). Then it was across the timing mat and down onto the beach to join the buzz of athletes on the sand.

Swim

Perfect weather conditions at the start with warm water, warm air temp and calm sea and the lightest north-west breeze. The pros started at 06h30, and I started in the second wave at 06h40 (there was a third wave at 07h00). I am fortunate to be one of the lucky few who actually look forward to the swim: most everyone I speak to are pretty nervous about it. I think as a result I don’t stress; I just swim a bit wide to stay clear of trouble, especially on the turn buoys.

The new one-lap course followed the same basic shape as the old two-lap course, with just the main leg extending further in the direction of the harbour. 2 additional yellow sighting buoys were place on each of the long sides which helped with sighting for the turn-buoys. I was comfortable all the way through the swim, and enjoyed knowing that it was only one lap.

I was 345 out of the water with a time of 01:06:48. I am pretty sure I have a sub-60 in me.

Transition was smoother and quicker than I remember it being in 2012. Wetsuit off, helmet, race number, socks shoes on, sunglasses in vest. Gels, sliced apples and anti-chafe in back pocket.

Bike

New bike course is killer. I will admit it is absolutely gorgeous – particularly the “outer loop”, but the hills are relentless, and the coastal section exposed to the wind.

I managed to totally stuff up with the Garmin: I did not put it in multi-sport mode after changing all the display options.

My bike performed beautifully. One of the bolts of my new bottle cage loosened itself. Road surface is rough.

5 GUs. GU Lemon / Lime. 2 bags GU Watermelon Chomps. In 2012 I hit the wall at the top of Mount Pleasant at the start of the second loop, so this time I started my nutrition aggressively.

I was stung by a bee on the inside of my right thigh. Man: had I forgotten how painful that can be!

The new course truly is beautiful, passing lakes and private game reserves, but it be warned: it is hilly and the coastal sections are exposed to the wind!

Coming into T1 after the second loop, it was helmet off, cycling shoes and socks off, dry socks and running shoes, peak on, apple slices and gels in back pocket. I made a liberal application of Wintergreen anti-chafe.

Run

Passing out of the changing tent I dumped my transition bag in the heap and crossed over to the sunblock team, asking the volunteer to “make me look like a snow-cone”. Unfortunately the damage was already done, and I ended up sporting some real “racing stripes” by bath-time.

Having had given it my all on the bike, the run simply never happened for me, and whilst I was in absolutely no discomfort whatsoever, there was nothing in the tank.

I mostly drank Coke and water, thankful that I did not have to stomach any more Lime / Lemon GU Brew. I had another packet of GU Chomps, 3 baby potatoes, and packet of cashews offered to me by a fellow athlete.

379 in Male 40-44 Category (total of 439 in 40-44 Category) 

3 ladies in the top 20, with Jodie Swallow clocking the 4th fastest swim time.

Name Country Category position Overall position Swim Leg Time T1 Cycle Leg Time T2 Run Leg Time Time Category
Nils FROMMHOLD Germany 1 1 00:48:16 00:02:18 04:37:11 00:02:21 02:55:58 08:26:06 Male PRO
Simone BRANDLI Switzerland 1 15 00:50:59 00:02:13 05:26:55 00:02:36 03:09:07 09:31:53 Female PRO
David FOX South Africa 278 1254 01:06:48 00:06:12 07:30:43 00:06:42 05:32:29 14:22:57 Male 40-44

This stunning video from BigShot Media:

Ironman South Africa 2014 from Bigshot Media on Vimeo.

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