To Hell dawdling alongside a donkey | iinfo TZANEEN

The saying goes that all roads lead to Rome. Well, not all roads lead to The Hell, but The Donkey Trail does, and it is slow-going. On this two-day, three-night hike over the Swartberg Mountains to Die Hel, hikers enjoy the help of donkeys as travel assistants on the first stretch.
 
The donkeys make the climb easier on the hikers by carrying their supplies and equipment up the mountain. The trail package includes comfortable accommodation at Living Waters Mountain Estate, Wye-nek Camp and The Hell. Clothes (not too much, but the right stuff for any weather), a camera and good walking shoes is just about all the hikers need to provide.
 
 Wholesome meals, guides, donkeys and return transport are provided. The first leg of the trail is about 11km (from Living Waters to Wye-nek Camp) with the stretch on day 2 covering 14 km (between Wye-nek Camp to The Hell). The Wye-nek Camp site is approximately 800m above Living Waters.
 
The itinerary is as follows: upon arrival (noon onwards on the first day) visitors get acquainted with the farm and its surroundings, bond with ‘their donkeys’ and stay in existing historic buildings at Living Waters overnight. Living Waters Mountain Estate is owned by Hans and Erika Calitz (whose surname happens to coincide with the town nearest to them.
 
When the sun rises over the Karoo landscape, hikers and donkeys ascend the Swartberg Mountain enjoying increasingly breath-taking views of the Klein (Small) Karoo. You know how donkeys are: it will be a leisurely walk allowing enough time to drink in the surroundings.
 
The next sleep-over is on the summit at Wye-nek Camp. The Camp consists of standard two-man dome tents, which are erected on arrival at the prepared camp sites. The maximum number of tent sites will be six for hikers and two for the guides.
 
The tents and equipment are stored in special 'trommels' (chests) that will remain on the mountain. A 'Bedouin type tent' is erected for shelter at the ‘boma’ (an enclosed area where an open fire is usually made, for the preparation of food, for togetherness and fellowship, safety or simply for warmth and atmosphere.)
 
Chairs and tables will be available for dining. A small ablution block for the two-legged walkers and a kraal for the donkeys will be built out of natural stone in a style similar to the existing 'murasies' (former buildings of yesteryear, often unused and sometimes in ruins, but a clearly visible and recognizable structure).
 
The sunset from the summit is a sight never to be forgotten. This marks the end of Day 1 on foot. A well-deserved rest awaits tested and tried bodies.
 
From here, the donkeys’ work is done as they return to Living Waters with their handlers. The hikers continue down into the Gamkakloof Valley for an overnight stay at Die Hel. Accommodation is available in historic cottages at The Hell. Meals for this overnight stay are provided as part of the Donkey Trail package.
 
While in this settlement, with its uninviting name, hikers have the chance to explore after which they travel back to Living Waters in the 'Donkey Bus' via the historic Swartberg Pass.
 
The Hell, or the remote and hidden Gamkakloof Valley, was first inhabited by farmers in 1830. It was accessible only by foot until 1963, when a road was built winding down the Swartberg Pass into the 20km long, 600m wide valley, deep in the heart of the mountain.
 
Before the road, a 'donkey trail' over the Swartberg Mountain from Calitzdorp to The Hell was the only commercial life line with the outside world. This historic 'donkey trail' starts at the Calitz’ family farm, Living Waters, near Calitzdorp.
 
The Kloof gets its name from the Khoisan word for Lion – Gamka, which is also the name of the river that enters the valley from the north. (This name suggests the obvious: that in days gone by, the Cape lion roamed here, before being hunted into extinction).
 
One of 153 resident bird species, the regal fish eagle makes its welcome presence known with that familiar, awe-inspiring call – one of the most beloved sounds of Africa. Wildlife that might be seen by the lucky ones include klipspringers, grey rhebuck, rooikat (lynx), porcupine and even leopard.
 
Has the above tweaked your interest?  Call Erika at +27 (0)83 628 9394 or on +27 (0)73 593 4007. Further enquiries: info@donkeytrail.com. The website address is www.donkeytrail.com
 
Distances: Between Oudtshoorn and Die Hel - 92Km, Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp – 50km, Calitzdorp and The Hell - 125km.
 

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