The crisper, cooler weather of Autumn is the ideal time to tackle our many and varied hiking trails. Over the next few weeks Knysna & Partners will be showcasing several trails off the beaten track: from the mountains to the sea, and several spots in between.
Before you even get a chance to embark on the Bushpig Trail, which is just one trail option in the Goukamma Nature Reserve, hikers need to first navigate the width of the cola-coloured Goukamma River. This involves winching yourself over in a little boat and makes for an adventurous start to this really awesome trail. After reaching the other side, the start of the trail veers immediately right and if the mouth of the river system is closed, the water levels are often quite high, so you may need to walk through a little bit of water before reaching the slightly higher part of the trail. Rest assured, it will be well worth it because this trail is picture postcard pretty in every way.
Not too long after the start of the trail, after a fairly easy ascent, hikers are afforded magnificent views of the Goukamma River Valley below, the indigo Indian Ocean to the south and the distant Outeniqua Mountains to the north. The 6,5km circular route takes two to three hours depending on your pace and how often you stop to stare at the nature’s eye candy.
The trail traverses one of South Africa’s highest and most extensive dune fields, where a large variety of both fynbos and forest species prosper. In the beginning the landscape is dominated by particularly large white bristle bushes (Metalasia muricata), also known as Blombos, which are crowned with sprays of white flowers that infuse the air with their honey scent. This particular shrub is an important component of the coastal and mountain fynbos regions of the Western Cape.
Another common fynbos species seen here is the dune crow-berry (Rhus crenata), a multi-branched evergreen shrub or small tree with delicate flowers that are produced in autumn, followed by dark blue fruit which is loved by the reserve’s birdlife, seen flitting from one flowering fynbos species to another. The diversity here is rich.
The trail ascends further upward and extends westward along the fynbos covered ridge for some time. But when the trail turns and starts making its way south again, the vegetation suddenly shifts. It veers into the cooler, verdant tracts of dune forest where our national tree, the Milkwood, is rooted in abundance, along with many other coastal forest species such as candlewood and yellowwoods.
Almost at the end of the trail, there is an option to veer right toward the beach, were you can stop and relax and enjoy the uninterrupted coastline of this unspoilt reserve, which boasts a Marine Protected Area which extends for 14km in length and one nautical mile offshore. Then it is just a short walk back to the river, where you need to pull yourself once again back to the other side where you can enjoy a picnic at one of many of the tables dotted along the river bank. and take a refreshing swim in the river!
Important to note:
• No camping or caravanning/no bait collection/no spear fishing/no fires on the beach/no motorbikes.
• Permits may be purchased for R40 per adult and R20 per child at the reserve office or through Cape Nature Central Reservations.
• Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat.
• Do not hike alone.
• Carry enough food and water with you.
• Make sure you know what the weather conditions are before you depart.
• Take a warm jacket/raincoat in winter.
• Make sure you have a relevant map of the area.
• Take a field medical kit with you for emergencies.
• Obey all signage.
• Stay in a group and on the trails.
And last but not least, help protect nature, leave only footprints and take only memories with you!