Oorlogskloof: A tough reminder of why we love hiking!
Oorlogskloof Rock Pigeon Route, Niewoudtville. Northern Cape. South Africa. Oct 2023
Written by Mel Clews
4 nights / 5 days. 52 km
What struck me about the Oorlogskloof Hike was the magnificent beauty of small things. At every step, you encounter resilient plant life, seeking shelter in rocky overhangs or clinging tenaciously to life within craggy crevices. I marvelled at the glistening red Sundews, vibrant green ferns, and dainty flowering bulbs in colours ranging from sunny yellow to vivid orange and pure white. Succulents painted the landscape in hues of pink. The delightful diversity of flowers and plants kept my spirits high as I waited to uncover new beauty with every step up the escarpment or scrambling over and under giant tetris-like boulder fields.
The route playfully meanders through tunnels and winding pathways that never go around an obstacle, always over and then suddenly arrives at a cave or a shady glade. The views as you pop up onto the escarpment for the first (and second and third and fourth..) time are sweeping and vast.
Oorlogskloof is a tough hike that had me enchanted and reminded me of why we love to do these kinds of adventures.
Day 1: There is no need to overnight at Grootwater as you can arrive by 2pm and continue to Brakwater (the first overnight hut) with time for a swim in the river. Each hut is equipped with solar power and has a plug for charging devices (don't forget to bring a 2-prong adapter). Just keep an eye out for the mice!
Day 2: The first sweet clear water, in a dammed seep, is just a little further ahead than the cliff base at the top. You can go through the narrow opening behind the cave no matter how strongly the waterfall is flowing! Trust Leonie when she says it will take you 9 hours….
Day 3: Oh that chimney! Those arches and caves and tunnels! Although you’ll walk less than 10 km, there are 2 river crossings where the bridges have been swept away, so you can expect to still spend the better part of the day and the long hot afternoon walking..
Day 4: The 17.6 km includes the detour to Ari’s Point - so without doing that it is 15km with much of the same scrambling and mountaineering. It’s a long day with spectacular vistas. At Pramkoppie hut, the stream and Lady Anne Barnard-esque swimming bath are tucked away up behind the outhouse and past the braai area. Highly recommended for your last swim in the Oorlogskloof River
Did I say tough? I’d advise against making this hike one of your first if you’re not fit and prepared to do long physically challenging days. Your backpack should be as light as possible, preferably under 10 kg. We used Forever Fresh meals for the second time on this hike (we tried them during the Fish River hike in June). They’re delicious and easy to prepare at the end of a strenuous day. At just 120g per pack, they’re exactly what you need. Our favourite was the Wild Mushroom Risotto. The Beef Lasagne in a bag also piqued the curiosity for hikers in our group who were new to the Forever Fresh Range and its rich, hearty flavours didn’t disappoint.
The trail is managed by the Department of Agriculture and Land Reform and they’ve recently been doing work to maintain the paths which are now in good condition. You should email Leonie at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve for your party of up to 12. Your group won’t need to share the huts as they only allow one group per day.