The Genadendal Hiking Trail winds through the Riviersonderend Conservation Area which lies between the towns of McGregor, Riviersonderend, Greyton and Villiersdorp in the south-western Cape. The area is approximately 69 500 ha and includes sections of proclaimed, privately-owned mountain catchment areas, state property, as well as private and municipal nature reserves. Riviersonderend Conservation Area is mountainous and rugged, with rivers, forested kloofs, gorges and high peaks, making it ideal for adventurous hikers.
The landscape is rugged and strikingly scenic, with sandstone and underlying shale formations.
Klipspringer, grysbok, grey rhebuck and springbok are common. Caracal (rooikat) occurs here but is rarely seen. Amphibians and reptiles are abundant, a highlight being the rare Robertson dwarf chameleon. Species lists are available at the reserve entrance and office.
Birds are well represented, with a total of 175 species including the jackal buzzard, African and pale chanting goshawk and the spectacular black and African fish eagle. The dams on the reserve also attract a variety of waterbirds.
Plants and animals
The area’s varied topography and Mediterranean climate support a rich variety of plants. Mountain fynbos is the predominant vegetation with several species of everlastings, ericas and proteas, including the giant protea, Protea cynaroides. Dense riverine vegetation occurs along the many water courses, featuring species such as the stream conebush and the wild almond. Mammals include grey duiker, grey rhebuck, klipspringer, baboon and dassie. Leopards occur in these mountains but are seldom seen. Hikers may see leopard tracks in the sand and scratch marks on the trunks of old waboom trees. The large tracts of sugarbush attract sugarbirds and brightly coloured orangebreasted sunbirds. Raptors, including black eagles, booted eagles, jackal buzzards and rock kestrels, are likely to be seen.
The trail is fairly strenuous, leading through private property and traversing the conservation area on both sides of the Riviersonderend mountain range. It offers panoramic views of the Overberg as well as the Worcester-Robertson Karoo. The trail is a circular route of 25.3 km and takes two days to complete. It begins and ends in Genadendal at the historic Moravian Mission Church which dates back to 1738. Overnight facilities are available at the church for hikers who prefer to overnight before starting the route. The first day’s stretch is 14.3 km (± 8 hours) and leads past two pools at Groot and Klein Koffiegat, ending at the farm Die Hoek on the north side of the mountain. Overnight accommodation, including braai facilities, is available here. The following day’s route is 11 km ( ± 7 hours), returning to Genadendal.
· Trail Distance: 25,3km
· Day 1: 14km (8 hours)
· Day 2: 11km (7 hours)
· Trail limit: Maximum of 24 hikers per day, with a maximum of 14 per group
· Hut Capacity: It is necessary to book separately for the trail and for overnight accommodation. Details may be obtained from the reservations office.
· Nearest Town: Between Genadendal and Robertson
· Nature Reserve: Riviersonderend Conservation Area
This is a two-day circular route of 25,3km. It begins and ends in Genadendal at the historic Moravian Mission Church which dates back to 1738. Overnight facilities are available at the church for hikers who prefer to stay the night before starting on the route.
Day 1 (14km, 5hrs):
With your back to the church, pass the slave bell and the other mission buildings heading north toward the mountain. You will see a deep kloof in the mountains, the Baviaanskloof, from which the river on your right flows. You will pass through a gate at the rear of the property, and just after you pass the trail head sign, go up the little path to the immediate left and head up the slope. Do not head up the jeep-track along the river bank as this heads straight into Baviaanskloof and is not your route!
The path up the hill climbs steadily and comfortably.
The first pool that you can swim in is Klein Koffiegat which is at the bottom of a small waterfall. We didn’t stop here as it was still a bit cold and wet, and too soon after our breakfast stop, but I am sure on a hot summer day it would be a godsend!
Stop for lucnh at the second, larger pool, Groot Koffiegat, which is visible to the right of the trail and accessible via a small 10m detour. This is at the 7.9km mark for the day: you are just more than half way for the day, with the second half even easier than the first. It is well worth aiming to arrive early enough to allow time for a leisurely lunch and a swim in this beautiful pool.
Heading back up to the main trail, and continue on your way, crossing the river a short while later. The bridge was destroyed in the fire, so we had to steep over the stream to the right of the path where there is a rock protruding from the opposite bank. From here the path climbs gently out of the valley up a set of lazy switch-backs.
As you reach the top of the hill, the De Hoek Far valley stretches out before you, with waterfalls tumbling down the steep left side. In the near distance you will see 3 dams with some farm buildings behind them. You still have a bit of a descent to the floor of the valley, and I must say that I was pleased to reach the level track at the bottom; at this stage we all agreed that the downhills were harder on the legs than the ups! We were treated to a beautiful display of Suikerbossies, which were quite a bit pinker than the ones I am used to seeing on the Peninsula.
(Day 2, 11 km 4hrs):
Leave the hut, crossing the stream and going around the koppie. The trail brings you to a jeep track which you will follow for 1.6km to a junction — take a right up the hill. At the 2.5km mark take a left onto the path.
When you reach the top of the ridge], head across the saddle through the pine thicket to the 5.5km mark where you will be at the highest point of the two days at 1053m before the trail drops steeply down into a ravine. This was a bit of a knee-jerker, and there was plenty of water streaming down the path which made it a bit slippery underfoot.
At the 8.3km mark the trail drops down onto a jeep track where you take a right. You now wind your way back to your car. We could not see an obvious route across the river to the trailhead, so we followed the road down to the bridge and walked along the tarred road. The Sunday evening church service was underway which added to the atmosphere of this quaint little village.
Hikers please note:
· You should be fit and well-equipped.
· In summer the area can be extremely hot and you are advised to carry water.
· Winters are cold and wet and you should adhere to weather warnings as the trail can be dangerous in extreme conditions.
· A maximum of 24 people per day is allowed, with a maximum of 14 to a group.
· The trail and overnight accommodation need to be booked separately.
· Extremely high temperatures may be experienced from November to March, and during this period hikers should set out early in the morning to avoid walking during the heat of the day. A sun hat is essential.
· Trails may be closed at certain times of the year depending on the weather conditions
· Moravian Mission Church
· Dormitories @ R50 pppn (own linen)
· R70.00 pppn (linen provided)
· 8 – 12 people per dormitory
· 6 x dormitories available
· 2 x Self-catering flats
o 6 x people per flat
o 3 x people per flat
· Max 9 people
· Oak Farm
· Max 21 people
· 6 rooms with 3 -4 bed per room
· Communal kitchen in the middle – 2 gas stoves, pots/pans
· 2 showers with hot water
· 3 flush toilets
· Wood is supplied
· Open braai area