Posted on June 24th, 2020
Lock down regulations in South Africa are slowly lifting as we begin our gradual return to normal. While it feels like there is still a lot we can’t do, there are many things we can do! Being a firm optimist and a glass half-full kinda gal I have chosen to focus on these CANs rather than the CAN’Ts. And at the moment the biggest CAN seems to be hiking. I have spent the past 3 weeks of level 3 enjoying many walks along the green belts, coastal walks and a few entry level hikes. With my walking fitness coming back and my desire for adventure building I’m keen to start with some longer, more intense hikes. I know many of you share these sentiments with me and so I thought I’d take this opportunity to write about and share tips and advice for some of the bigger hikes I’ve done over the years and more recently. I’ll also continue posting about the new hikes that I do once I’ve conquered them. First up: Panorama hike in Jonkershoek Nature Reserve!
Panorama Hike, Jonkershoek
Location: Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, just outside of Stellenbosch. It is about an hour drive from Cape Town centre.
Duration: +/- 7 hrs
Difficulty: This is a long and tough hike with many steep sections. The path can be tricky at times and should only be attempted by someone with a good level of fitness and hiking experience.
Conservation fee: R50 per adult, R30 per child, free for wild card holders. You can pay this fee upon arrival at the little hut on the left of the entrance gate.
Follow this link to download the map and brochure for Jonkershoek.
After driving to the entrance gate for Jonkershoek Nature Reserve and paying your conservation fee you can drive to the start of the Panorama hike trail. Once in the reserve you will follow the dirt road on the right all the way to the very last parking lot (characterised by a concrete bridge crossing the river and hairpin bend in the road) and park your car here.
The Panorama hike follows a circular route (starting and ending at this parking lot) and so you can start on either side of the trail. We decided to start on the right hand side following the Tweede Waterval trail.
The beginning section is fairly flat as you walk along the Eerste Rivier. The trail is lined with suikerbossies (Protea repens) and you’ll pass beautiful streams. There is the option to turn right and walk up to the Eerste Waterval to enjoy a splash in the water. But you’ve got a long hike ahead of you still and may want to keep on going.
Next you’ll continue along the trail as it starts going up towards Tweede Waterval (if you took the detour to the first waterfall you’ll need to come back to the main path). To be honest we lost the path a bit here a had to do some seriously sketchy bundubashing on some wet and loose rocky sections. So don’t be like us and keep trying to go towards Tweede Waterval. You’re actually supposed to turn off to the left before you get to Tweede Waterval and head up to Kurktrekkernek.
Kurktrekkernek is a very steep section with loose rocks so be careful with your footing here. Your legs and glutes will be screaming at you by the end of it, but I promise the views are so worth it! To give you perspective, you should be hiking to the very top of the mountain in front of you. So keep that in mind if you lose the path at any point.
When you’re about halfway up to the top you’ll see a little path to the left which you can go along for a nice viewing point and pit stop spot. When you turn left you’ll be going towards this rocky outcrop (pictured below) and can climb to the top of it for some spectacular views over the Jonkershoek Valley (the second picture is what you should be viewing).
After enjoying a snack, drink of water and break you should be ready to carry on up Kurktrekkernek.
Once you’ve reached the top of the steep climb you’ll see a sign indicating the directions of the different trails. You’ll need to turn left and follow the sign for the Panorama Circuit. You keep going up and up, getting an even better vantage point with each step you take. There is a marshy section where you go around the back side of the mountain before popping out the other side and being treated to the most incredible views of the Jonkershoek Valley.
After you’ve stopped for your lunch break, breathed in the gorgeous panoramic views, and taken lots of photos you’ll be ready to begin the gradual descent. There is a mostly flat section for a while before you go down a stepper section filled with streams, rocky terrain and beautiful ericas. The gorgeous Erica nudiflora is pictured below.
You’ll then reach the steeper descent down Bergriviernek. After a taxing section for your knees you will be treated with the most glorious view of the winding river through Assegaaiboskloof on your right hand side. If you have done the trail this way round you may have the sun glaring straight at you at this point making it tricky to capture it in photos.
After enjoying that dramatic view you can prepare yourself for a long descent down towards the car park. There are some steep sections initially but then it evens out and is fairly easy going. You’ll be able to view the whole valley as you walk down here.
The Panorama hike in Jonkershoek is a really tough hike and your legs will definitely be very sore for a few days afterwards. But it is filled with some of the most breath-taking views and vistas, the trail is lined with gorgeous fynbos and is a must-do for any experienced hiker. If it’s adventure your heart is craving then this hike is sure to hit the spot!
For more information on hikes check out my Top 10 Hikes in Cape Town blog post.
Stay tuned for some more blogs on adventurous hikes in and around Cape Town soon!