The trail is fantastic! The overnight places were fantastic, especially the swimming tanks. The trommels were moved quickly and quietly. The staff are very nice.
The maps and our Garmins had different distances, with out Garmin’s saying each day was longer. The toughness of the trail should be noted by hikers, this is not for everyone.
When we walked there was definitely no water on the trail, so be prepared to carry 2 to 3 liters each day.
Headlights are a great idea for night time, as even with the solar lights in the tents at the camps it is dark.
It is a moderate hike with some tough moments. Strong ascents and descents. Various underfoot conditions – from hard flat surface, to riverbeds with typical round river rocks and pebbles. Some ascents/descents are softsoil others are loose stones. Wear good boots with tread, slicks may be a problem. Very fit hikers will find this hike quite easy and less fit hikers will find the tough spots a bit challenging. Beware of walking too fast on the easy bits and looking down at the trail all the time. You will be missing out on the magnificent views. Plenty of spoor to be seen. Also on the steep sections, stop, look around, there is plenty of time to complete each section. We left each campsite at 08h00 and completed each day well before sunset. Which included the various detours which are well worth doing.
Thank you for such a well organised hike. The staff were amazing and everything was perfectly set out – from the boxes to the kitchen, the campfire and the neat tent spots at each site. I loved the showers, which were most welcome at the end of each day. The water at each campsite was so sweet and refreshing (no problems with my tummy and certainly didn’t need tablets). I also drank water straight from the stream on the second day. The loos were clean and the mirror above the basin most welcome to sort out our disheveled hair.
The scenery was so beautiful – expansive and extensive! I loved that we were camping! I have just been given a MSR one person tent so it was great fun to be able to use it. Sadly we had heavy rain on the second last day, that included some thunder and lightening! The kitchen tent held out until the morning when the weight of the water caused some seepage.
I am not a strong walker, but each year take to the hills and valleys somewhere in South Africa. I have walked the Whale Trail a number of times, the Fish River and Oorlogskloof once and some other shorter local hikes. The Leopard Trail was a real treat, but I have to say it was a lot tougher than I had expected – the second day in particular – with a lot of up and down and up and down the hills and saddles. I focused mainly on my feet so missed a lot of what was around me! What was suggested as a 4 – 6 hour day took those of us at the back a good 8 hours. It would have been lovely if the detours, which were indicated as water and swimming spots, were included in the hike as part of the main trail. I kept hoping to find a rest spot, a pool or some sort of a shady reprieve every so often. I also would have liked to have been taken past Koi–San paintings (I understand there are some in the area), a cave or some other geographic feature.
I also loved your map and guide book, and of course the quirky signage! Very philosophical and a great touch. I am a bit worried though that your signs attached to rocks will not stand the test of time or souvenir collecting travellers. Perhaps you could paint your paws on rocks sometime in the future. Also how about adding some ‘milestones’, like one each kilometre, a rest spot, a lunch spot. Knowing that you are nearly there, or at least how far you still have to go at various points would have been helpful.
The history boards at the info centre were very interesting. Maybe include that info about in the booklet at some stage or on your website.
Thank you again for a fabulous four days. Unfortunately due to the rain we didn’t do the Cedar Falls walk – perhaps next time if I am lucky enough to return and try out the cottage stay.
All the best and good luck with the building!
PS I bought some jam from the shop, which I am looking forward to sharing with family and friends and I will upload some photos to your Facebook page.
PPS The boxes were large and encouraged me to bring much more than I needed to. I worry that the porterage is open to abuse and that the guys might be unnecessarily exploited – the option to bring cooler boxes encourages excessive meat and alcohol! I know that the Whale Trail had big issues with this and now limits the number of boxes per group and will not carry anything that is not secured inside the box. Just saying! Not everyone is nice and the porters are open to being taken advantage of.
WE loved the weekend. The hike is magnificent. The hike is challenging. Great memories. We will give you more feedback when we can walk again(joke).
CONGRATULATIONS ON AN AMAZING HIKE. We know it will be a TOP hike in SA soon and are proud to have done it during its trial period.
Thank you for all your assistance in organising this hike for us.
We found it a tough trail with lots of ups and downs and up again but thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the magnificent views from the top and the valley walks and surviving a walk in a thunder and lightning storm.
The camp sites are beautiful and so well equipped. We were very thankful for the kitchen tent at the end of day 3 when we were all drenched. The rain did abate to get our tents up and we slept well.
The extra day that we were going to stay broke to rain and we were all a bit concerned about getting out of the Cedar Falls valley as none of us have 4x4s, so we left early on Easter Sunday. I did explain this to Willem. The staff were very helpful and we were very glad to have our kit portered and the generous box space.
The Hiker’s house was perfect for our needs.
Although we were stiff and sore at the end we all agree we would like to come again.
A big thanks to you and your team for the creation of the trail – I thoroughly enjoyed it! Positives for me were:
- The pristine surroundings and clean camp sites. The layout at Camp 1 is great with wonderful views of the surrounding hills
- Great showers
- The pool at Camp 3
- Fully equipped kitchen tents – we did not need for anything
- The boxes arrived on time
- The trail team were friendly and efficient
- Base camp is a wonderful mix of traditional and “new age”
- And the labyrinth adds that extra dimension
I will certainly recommend this trail to fellow hikers.
Thanks to you and The Another Way team. We had a truly memorable hike and loved every minute of the Leopard Trail. We were quite an age-diverse group from Gauteng, Cape Town and the Eastern Cape – a group that is a very loose collective of hiking friends. We had an immense amount of fun, talking, debating, reminiscing, following histories, trying to make sense of our world, identifying plants and birds….. We saw a pair of beautiful black eagles.
The mountains were splendid and magnificent, and delivered generously in every respect. I loved the camping sites each evening. Day One was delightful. We were most appreciative of the big tent as it got quite chilly but we all cosied up inside for supper and thoroughly loved it. The Day Two camp was chilly again but the tent again provided respite from the cold. The sites were a little small for the three and four person tents with guy ropes but did not in any way hamper us. Day Three trail was just my best. I loved the three saddles and their vegetation. The proteas were in blooming beautifully. Day Three camp site was quite the most exquisite. We all loved walking Casey’s Kloof to reach our overnight spot and found loads of leopard spoor. We swam in the reservoir and enjoyed the sun. I loved Fond Farewell best of all. It provided some good exercise and exquisite views along the way and at the top.
The weather was fine, a little cold at night but nothing we found uncomfortable. We had some rain and mostly it was cool until the last day when it was quite a scorcher.
I wish I had known about the Waterfall Hike because I think I would have stayed an extra day to explore this trail. I found that four days was probably just a day too short and would love to have had the extra day of hiking. I have just bought the Getaway magazine for its story of the trail. Sonya Schoeman wrote so well. It must have been scorchingly hot because she seemed to have suffered the distances. None of us found the trail tough.
The only thing I personally wasn’t wild about was the motivational / meditation signs. I prefer my own revery and meditation. There were many jokes about “we’re not talking about the hike”. But that was minor.
Your kitchens were excellent and were well received by all. Thanks especially for the Victorinox knives. They are quite the best knives. We have a fantastic tradition that includes exceptional cuisine on our hikes. We ate the most exquisite foods prepared each evening by different groups amongst us. We had black rice salad inspired by the Cape Town restauranteur Karen Dudley, a winter-slaw inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi, mango salads, delicious dahl curries, a green Thai vegetable curry amongst a range of other delights.
Many, many thanks for a splendid time in those magnificent mountains. We feel so privileged to have had the leopard trail experience.
We had a great time. We saw a cape cobra and another unidentified nocturnal snake. All very exciting and beautiful. I am grateful we did it now because the weather was great. I can however imagine that during summer it must be very hard. Especially the last day when there is no water on the way. And very little shade. I would also suggest you go ahead and build huts because it was very cold in the tents at night and its not even winter yet. Cutting the 3rd day a bit shorter might also be a good idea. Walking 16km (especially the last 2 hills when you can actually see the jeep track would be easier) one day followed by 18 the next day takes some doing. But all in all very lovely and Willem and Martha and Ricardo were most helpful.
We enjoyed the hike very much. But more importantly I felt looked after by your staff and they seemed diligent and professional. Nothing was too much trouble. We also were glad we decided to sleep over in cedar cottage the night before hiking. Would recommend that to anyone. It was nice to just leave phones, cameras, laptops etc. and just soak it all up for myself. Nice clean enviro loos. Nice BIG mugs. All good.
Day 1: (9,2 km’s)
8 women between the ages of 41 and 65 stayed at Cob Cottage and Hiker’s Hut the night before the hike would start. (Chicken curry)
We got up at 06h00 on day 1 and was on the trail by 07h30. Willem had to show us where to start. The first hill starts only a few hundred meters into the walk and is a very steep jeep track. It plateaus out in the middle, where there is a watering hole with many animal spoor. I suspect that if one had to walk up to here quietly before sunrise, you would have ample game viewing. At this point a few mountain reebok crossed our path and ran away to the ridge on the right. The hill continues up until you reach an almost prairie like plain. From here on there are no more inclines for the day and the walk is very easy and fast. It is approximately 4,5km’s to Gabriel’s Pools which is clearly sign posted. This 500 meter detour takes about 10 minutes to walk, and takes you past the old remains of a building and a commemorative stone to Gabriel van Jaarsveld, after whom the pools are named. You pass a spectacular tree on your left. Gabriel’s pools are situated in a narrow kloof with high side walls. The first pool is small, good enough to soak your feet or wet your gear. An easy scramble takes you up to the second pool, where you can see the place the waterfall will come down when there has been rain – the rock is ancient and worn smooth. The second pool is much bigger and you can swim in it. There are a wide range of frogs here, who are quite shy. We also observed a strange line in the water – as though the water on the right and the water on the left were moving in different directions. There were more ripples (from the wind) on the right, than on the left of the pool. We summised that the line was due to an underground water source like a spring, pumping water into the pool, or simply an effect of the wind cutting in through the right side of the kloof, whereas the left was more wind sheltered. It got quite cold in the kloof, so we left and walked on. The rest of this day’s walk went very quickly. We ended off by walking in and along a riverbed, inside a small kloof, with ample tress and forest vegetation. This would have been a good place to have a much longer stop, as, unbeknownst to us, Camp 1 was literally just around the corner. We had a shortish lunch stop and then walked on, with Camp 1 on our immediate left shortly afterwards – 12h00. Our crates were due at 15h00, but were already there when we arrived.
(Green pepper, lentil, chick pea and tuna hot salad)
Day 2: (15,9 km’s)
Started (07h30) by back-tracking along the same route as the end to Day 1. Again, easy, prairie like walk across open flood plain covered in savannah. At 5,5 km there was a detour to Cedar Views. 3 of us did the detour and the rest took a long break and then started climbing up the steep hill. After climbing up the path, the route swings to the right and you follow the contours of the next valley. The path is narrow and challenging, with spectacular views all round. When you walk down the hills at the end, there are two small pools which are not indicated on the map. We had a discussion about whether this might be Reflection Pools, so some of us stripped down, wet our feet and took a break. Then it was immediately up a long steady and steep climb. When you reach the top, you can clearly see Dragon’s Ridge stretch away in front of you – with the dragon’s spine stretching from bum to head, facing away from you. Once on the saddle it was a meandering and treacherous walk down to the bottom, where you have to take a left to get to Reflection Pools. This was a very worthwhile stop and we spent some time here. There is a small pool at the top, and then a bigger and waist deep pool further down. Half of us swam here and we enjoyed sitting on the ledge on the left, which offered ample shade and a cool breeze. Following this ledge you can view Gabriel’s Pools from the top. There is a sign indicating kloofing is not allowed, as the water in Gabriel’s Pool is too shallow. So unless you are a mountaineer with equipment, you would not be able to take a short cut straight down. Leaving the pools you start another steep ascent, quite tricky underfoot. Here you can’t see the top, as you get to where you think the top is, and there is a bit more to go. Once at the top, the mountain opens up into a saddle. Once down here, you enter a flat walking stretch with small cedar (?) trees on both sides. This section was very hot. It eventually becomes a jeep track, which takes you to the bottom of Labyrinth Hill. Here you can choose to either go over the two hills or follow the jeep track past the cottages and the entrance to Basecamp. Half of us followed each route. Following the jeep track, you pass the path to the waterfall, so walking to the waterfall is also an option, but day 2 had been long, and we headed straight for camp. You encounter the reservoir first and we spent some time here before walking the remaining 100 m’s or so to Camp 2. The hikers who took the hill jumped into the reservoir clothes and all, saying that the hill was very steep and hot. Camp 2 is situated against a slope, with the toilet some distance away up the hill and the shower some distance away down the hill. Needless to say we did more ‘knyp’ at this camp than any of the others as by now we were feeling weary. (Kassler, sweet potato, roasted onion & three bean salad)
Day 3: (17,5 km’s)
Having read the Getaway article and having had our friends complete the trail a few days before us, we were all terrified of the hike, but especially of day 3 – the longest day. We started (07h50) in riverbeds and the going was easy. We knew we had 3 big hills ahead of us, so we got going early and pushed through the first section at speed. The three hills, named Honeybush Hill; Inconvenient Truth and Not so Bad, were very similar. There is a turn in the path, you look up and see the saddle, you wind up a steep incline and then you reach the saddle. The first hill was the worst, as we had to get up out of the riverbed, so that first section was very steep and rocky. The hill walking bits were not as steep and had easy paths. Once you get close to the top of the saddle, the wind comes through and starts blowing around you. This is very welcome as you are very hot by then, but also because you know that you are close to the top. We stopped at the top of Honeybush Hill as there is a lovely flat section and some big rocks to sit on, but quickly moved over the saddle and out of the wind, where we had a longer break. From this flat section you could see Inconvenient Truth in front of you. The hill is very aptly named as you can hardly imagine doing another very steep hill after having just come up Honeybush. The descent down Honeybush Hill was steep and treacherous, but doesn’t take you back down to the same level as Camp 2, so the climb up Inconvenient Truth doesn’t include a very steep and rocky ascent in the first section. I found Ain’t so Bad was very similar to the other two, even though the profile map indicates that it is lower. The reason it isn’t as bad, is because you now know you have the hardest part of the day behind you. The rest of the day is either downhill or fairly flat. Once you come down the 3rd hill, you should reach Draaipunt, at the 10 km mark and the path veers at a 90 degree angle to your left. There should be a short detour to pools here, but it is not indicated. We scouted forwards and backwards for this, but couldn’t find it. We eventually stumbled across a small pool and stopped there for lunch. Now we had 7, 9 km’s left. The next part of the walk is the open section of a kloof or riverbed and there are many trees and a lot of shade, albeit not over the path itself. About 2 km’s down this track, the kloof closes in and you are in a narrow section between steep rock cliffs. This whole section was by far the most beautiful of the walk, with very impressive cliff faces, caves, small pools and a lot of undergrowth. The downside is that the latter part of it has you walking down a riverbed again and by now your feet are shouting at you because of the hard and unsteady rocks that have your feet braking and self-correcting at every step. We had a fairly unplanned and long stop about 3 km’s before the end. When you are in the kloof section you are in full shade. It is also late afternoon by now. There are beautiful trees and none of us felt like getting up and walking the rest of the way. Nearly at the end there is a reservoir and paths indicated with stones on either side, and we are unsure whether this is the camp or not. We decide to walk on and the camp is about 750 m’s further, on our left. This is by far our favourite camp. There are hooks for our bags, and we all hang them up immediately and fall upon our crates for some soap, clean clothes and refreshments. We are very relieved the loo is close by.
(Mexican beans, crème freche and lettuce in wraps)
Day 4: (11,9 km’s)
By now you are either fit or shattered. We start at 07h30 and follow an easy and beautiful flat path through savannah, exiting at the back of the camp site. At 3,5 km’s we start to ascend. Birdsong Valley is absolutely beautiful. There is a narrow kloof, many small ups as you start scrambling up the hill, and plenty of undergrowth. We were told that on Day 4, you go up and think you are at the top, just to realize you have another bit to go, and so on and on, until you have ‘summitted’ about 6 times. I had forgotten about this so tackled the first steep uphill, which zigzagged with loose soil, loose rocks and high steps, up, up and up. When I thought I was at the top (the first time), there was a scary rocky section. By now you are very high, and the drop-offs are sheer. The view across the plateau is breathtaking. The ledge in front of you is narrow and you keep on checking if you are going the right way. Once I had overcome my vertigo and traversed this section, I began to realize that there was quite a bit more to come. I loved the rock scrambling in this section as there is no soil and so your footing is secure. You are climbing more than walking, so you are not really out of breath, there is a stiff breeze, so you are not hot, and all around you the world unfolds. You can’t even see your fellow hikers, as they are hidden by the jutting rock ledges. Once past the rocky section, the path starts to zigzag a bit again and it is a flattish path with a decent ascent and you start to see the top of the hill. Head down and off you go. In the end I was quite disappointed that the path then turned to the left of the very last piece of hill, leaving 20 meters before the actual summit. Other hikers felt this hill was an unnecessary inclusion in the hike, but it was nonetheless probably the most awesome part of my hike. I waited for a long time on the path following the end of the ascent. When the others caught up, we started walking down and into the cauldron. There were some steep downhills here and then we followed the contours again, going down at the mouth of the intersecting valleys, and up the sides of the intersecting hills. At one point you start walking next to a fence with several ladders placed over the wires at points. We stopped for a longer break at the hand-built dry stone wall and took refuge from the wind which was howling on the other side of the hill. After this we knew were getting close to basecamp, so pressed on down the jeep track, then across the valley floor and onto the gravel road for another km or two before we reached basecamp.