After the success of our Beervlei to Karatara Hike, we immediately set about planning to walk the next section of the Outeniqua Hiking Trail. We were absolutely blown away by Windmeulnek Hut, so decided to take an easy first day up from Karatara so that we could spend some time enjoying it.
Getting there: this is a two-car outing: take the N2 out of Knysna in the George direction, cross the lagoon and continue up the hill. Take the Rheenendal turn-off to the right, continuing along this road for 12.5 km until you reach the Bibby’s Hoek / Goudveld / Millwood turn-off to the right just past Rheenendal. Follow the dirt road for 4 km until you reach the access gate and pay point; leave a car at Millwood; return to the Rheenendal road, take a left and then drive through the Homtini Pass; take the first right into Karatara and drive 2km straight up the road with Karatara on your left until you reach the forestry station gates where you leave a car
GPS Coordinates: -33.905854, 22.834566
Distance: 7 + 16 + 15
Permits: SANParks Knysna Regional Office (Thesen’s Island). R45 per person per night (minimum of two and maximum of 24 hikers allowed on trail)
At a glance
This was the second installment of our mission to hike the Outeniqua Hiking Trail in sections. Various connecting paths and escape routes make it possible to do sections of the trail; in fact some of these trails are worthwhile routes in their own right and create shorter options in the area.
You could simply do the first three days of the Outeniqua Hiking Trail by starting at Beervlei as per normal and completing the first day of the route. The Beervlei to Windmeulnek section is however quite a lot longer than the route up to the hut from Karatara, so we chose to do it this way so as to be able to really enjoy the magnificence of the Windmeulnek Hut, complete with steak and red wine!
Day 1: Karatara to Windmeulnek
Day 2: Windmeulnek to Platbos
Pick up the trail, signposted “Platbos Hut”, behind the lapa as it heads up the hill (do not take the trail that leaves from the back of the Hut; this is the exit to Karatara).
After 400m gentle incline there is an intersection. Take the right-hand fork and follow the trail down the ridge into the valley of the Karatara River.
At 3.36km you will cross the Karatara River. This crossing is impassable after rains. This is followed by the exertion of climbing back out of the river valley.
At 4.66km there is a trail off to the left signposted with a yellow footprint; please remember that the yellow footprint signifies an exit route. Continue straight on up the slope.
5km there is a stream of water down a rock face on the left of the trail.
The climb tops out at 5.75km. Take a moment to look back at Windmeulnek Hut, down at the Karatara River, and on to Barrington and the surrounding farmlands.
8.4km there is a river crossing offering a shaded swimming spot. This is impassable after rains, and please note that immediately on the downstream-side of the trail there is a high cliff.
9.4km the trail crosses a stream with crystal clear, drinkable water.
At 9.9km there is an intersection with signage at ground level indicating an exit to the right going down to Karatara.
10.8km a stream with drinking water.
14.3km the single track intersects with plantation road. Head straight along the road still following the white footprints. Signage for the green and yellow Farleigh MTB routes is now also evident.
The Platbos Hut has a large fireplace in the main room which was more than welcome as we were pretty cold. The main room also has a kitchen sink with running water. There are plenty of handy coat hooks for hanging gear.
There is a large lapa with a firepit, an axe, and plenty of wood.
The ablutions are flush toilets with running water. The showers are plumbed for hot and cold water, the gas lines are in place — but alas the gas water heater and gas bottles have not been installed.
There is an escape route to Farleigh Forest Station.
Day 3: Platbos to Millwood
Head across the lawn and back up the road you arrived on the previous day. At 450m the trail goes down the hill into the forest to the right.
You will pass through Jubilee Creek. We stopped at the grassy picnic area for a leisurely lunch and were sorely tempted to stay on for a quiet afternoon nap! The old gold mining adits are still visible as you head up the trail which follows the river bank and crosses the river on occasion.
The Millwood Hut [-33.889929, 22.997017] is more of a rambling old farmhouse than a hut. It consists of a warren of rooms and even some rooms in the attic. There is a room with a kitchen sink and running water, and also a room with a fireplace.