Bloupunt Hiking Trail – Montagu Mountain Reserve

Bloupunt Hiking Trail – Montagu Mountain Reserve

 

 

All Day Hike

 

I participated in a camping and hiking weekend with the SAPSTAP Hiking Club from 13 – 15 July 2018. We used the Swellendam Caravan Park as our base camp for day hikes in the Marloth Nature Reserve. We had planned to do an all day hike on Sunday the 15th of July 2018 in Swellendam, but were disappointed when we were told that, that particular trail had been closed to the public.

After a few suggestions were offered, it was decided that we would stop at Montagu on the way home to Cape Town and attempt the Bloupunt Hiking Trail. I had never heard of the Bloupunt trail before so I had no hard and fast expectations before doing the hike.

The night before we did the hike, I went online to see what sort of experiences other hikers had recounted of the trail. Most of the posts were a little short on detail, but the details that seemed to be echoed over and over again was that the hike was around 17 km and took between 5 and 9 hours to complete. To me, that sounded like quite a long time to hike 17 km. I roughly estimated that our relatively fit hiking group would cover the distance in around 5 or 6 hours. To my surprise, that didn’t happen and it took us almost 9 hours to complete this hike.

 

How to get there

The Bloupunt Hiking Trail starts and ends in the Montagu Mountain Reserve which can be accessed through Tanner Street in Montagu. To get to Montagu from Cape town, you need to take the N1 highway to Paarl, through the Huguenot tunnel and on to Worcester where you will pass what remains of the Shell Ultra City on your left hand side. You will get to a set of traffic lights on the N1. Drive straight across these traffic lights to a second set where you need to turn right into Worcester. Follow this road, over a railway bridge, all the way down to High Street where you need to left into High Street. Carry on for about 1 km and be on the lookout for signs directing you to the right on to the R60 towards Robertson, Ashton and eventually Montagu.

Stay on the R60 all the way, and once through Ashton, it changes to the R62 which takes you through the Cogman’s Kloof to Montagu. As you enter the village of Montagu, you are now in Long Street. Travel along Long Street and take the second left into Barry Street. Follow Barry Street and then take a left into Graaff Street.  Take the first right into Tanner Street and follow it all the way to the entrance to the Montagu Mountain Reserve.

 

Opening Times and contact information

The opening times of the Montagu Mountain Reserve are:

Monday to Sunday:   08h00 – 16h30

However the sign at the entrance to the Montagu Mountain Reserve stipulates the opening times as 08h00 – 20h00.

The office contact number is:  023 614 2471

 

The cost of the Bloupunt Hiking trail for adults is advertised as R52 and for children under the age of 18 it is R40. (prices as of 15 July 2018)

 

The Speedy Review

The Bloupunt Hiking Trail is a relatively challenging hiking trail which will most probably take you the whole day to complete. There are a number of relatively short detours off the main route on the return journey which are all well worth a visit.

Due to the distance and time that it takes to complete the hike, it is recommended that you should be relatively fit to get the maximum enjoyment out of the experience. During the winter months, be prepared for cold conditions near the summit and carry enough water, especially if the conditions are on the warm side. Try and start early so that you are not pushed for time towards the end of the day. Our group did not find the second half more challenging than the first, like some other reviews have stated. This was a thoroughly enjoyable hike that should be included in any serious hiker’s bucket list.

 

 

Trail Ninometer

 

 

 

Nina rated this trail 0/5 paw prints, because there are no dogs allowed in the Montagu Mountain Reserve and she felt quite left out.

 

 

The Nitty Gritty

We had not specifically prepared for the hike so most of our preparations were of the ‘fly by the seat of our pants’ variety. We arrived at the Montagu Mountain Reserve at around 07h30 to find the gates locked with a sign saying that the reserve would only be open from 08h00. It was a bitterly cold morning so the option of a quick trip down to the local Spar for a hot cup of coffee and a snack did not even require a vote. We are talking 2 or 3 degrees Celsius which, for Capetonians, is very very cold. After gulping down the warm delicious liquid and enjoying a sweet treat, we were back at the gates eager to get going so that we could warm up properly.

 

 

At around 08h05, no one had arrived to open up the gate, so we parked the cars a little further down from the gate and entered the reserve through the open pedestrian gate on the right.  We walked up the cement road and crossed over a stream and followed the road as it curved to the left. We stopped at a white building on our right hand side which had a sign identifying it as the office. There were no signs of life inside so we waited. There was a sign opposite the office pointing us in the right direction for the hiking trails. We waited around until about 08h20 and still no one showed. We decided that we couldn’t wait any longer as we had a long day’s hiking ahead of us and that we would just pay our permit fees when we arrived back at office later in the day. In our estimation, the hike wasn’t going to take us more than about 6 hours.

 

Just before we started, three of us stood at the steps of the office and started our Strava Apps at the same time. I also started a track on my Garmin GPS device. This was only the second day that I had been using Strava and I was still not convinced that it was accurately recording the distances we were hiking. I would soon come to love the app and I am still using it together with an amazing app called Relive.

We started at 08h20 from the office and walked up the gravel road toward the old Mill House. We crossed over a cement causeway before arriving at the Mill House. There was signage there that indicated that there were two hiking trails to choose from. One was Bloupunt (15.6 km) and the other was Cogman’s Kloof (12.1 km). There were 7 of us in the hiking party and we were all raring to go. Each of us was dressed warmly, but eagerly looking forward to the temperatures rising somewhat during the day.

 

After passing the Mill House on our right hand side, the gravel track turned to the left and we headed toward a blue gum forest. Be particularly careful when you walk through the blue gum forest. We could see that several of the thick branches above us had broken off the main trees and were dangling precariously on the other branches. Some of the trees had fallen over and were leaning up against other trees. If some of those loose branches had to dislodge due to a strong gust of wind, they would drop down on unsuspecting hikers below and cause some serious injuries.

The jeep track continued to trace its way along the right hand side of a stream. The trail markings at that stage were yellow footprints. As we continued through the blue gum forest, we spotted a lone dassie checking us out from a ledge high up on our right hand side.

 

 

At 08h40, we arrived at the Klipspringer overnight hut. The distance to the hut was about 1.5 km (Strava) with an elevation of 283 m. It is a dormitory type sleeping quarters for 12 hikers in total, 6 in each room.  Wood-fired stoves, braai facilities, hot water and ablution facilities are on offer in and around the hut. Immediately after passing by the overnight hut, the trail crossed the stream and the path became quite rocky. From then on out, the trail crisscrossed the river at regular intervals. The terrain still showed scars from a recent fire that had gone through the reserve leaving behind a lot less vegetation.

It soon became clear that the trail marker for the Cogman’s Trail was the yellow painted footprint while the trail marker for the Bloupunt Trail was a white painted footprint.

 

 

At about 09h05, we reached two hand written signs. One sign indicated that the Bloupunt Trail went up and to the left while the other indicated that the trail to the ‘watervalle’ (waterfalls) went off to the right. The distance to that point was 2.7 km (Strava) and it had taken us about 45 minutes to get there. The elevation was 336 m. From that point on, the trail climbed the side of the mountain along a steep zigzag pattern. The route hugged the cliff edge and the path comprised of loose shale. If you struggle with heights, that section of the trail might cause you a few problems.

At 09h22, we reached a type of viewing point where we took a short break to catch our breath, admire our surroundings and to take some photos. The distance covered to that point was 3.3 km (Strava) with an elevation of 461 m. It had taken us just over an hour to reach that spot. While we were enjoying the view we could here Church bells ringing below us in Montagu.

 

 

At about 09h30, we left the viewing spot and only had to walk a short distance before we started heading downhill. After reaching the bottom on the other side, we crossed the stream and ascended again on a relatively steep zigzag path.

At 09h45, we started to ascend through a lush ravine where we crisscrossed the stream a number of times. The path through the ravine was quite slanted and slippery which made the going quite difficult. I was glad that I had brought my trekking pole with me because without it, I probably would have lost my footing a few times.

At about 09h50, we came upon a wooden ladder. We were still climbing inside the ravine at that time. The GPS distance to that point was about 4.80 km with an elevation of 522 m . According to Strava we had hiked a distance of 4.4 km.

At 09h55, we arrived at second ladder with a sign that warned us that it was the last water source. We were not sure if it was the last water source for the entire hike or just for the ascent. We would later learn that it was the last water source for the ascent as we encountered a few streams and waterfalls after reaching the summit.

 

 

After climbing up the second ladder, we ended up on a ridge and were greeted by an icy cold mountain breeze that seemed to effortlessly pass through all the layers of our clothing. It was like someone had snuck up behind each one of us and had placed an icy cold hand on the middle of our warm backs.

At 10h15, we reached the Saddle, after hiking a distance of 5.8 km (GPS) with an elevation of 726 m. Strava had recorded the distance slightly less at 5.4 km with a total hiking time of about 2 hours. We chose to take a quick snack break there, after finding some shelter behind some large boulders on the left hand side of the trail. The wind was gusting quite strongly and seemed to be getting colder. We all added another layer to our attire while at the same time tucking into some delicious snacks. In terms of the total elevation gain for the hike of around 1000 m, by reaching the Saddle, we had ascended about half of the way to the top. At about 10h35, we headed off again. Some of the blogs I had read the night before sounded a warning that the second half of the trail was tougher than the first. We were about to find out if that would be the case for our group as well.

At 11h05, the trail took us around the ridge where we then had the mountain on our right hand side. What was nice about that section of the trail was that we were now sheltered from the wind which made things so much more pleasant. The elevation at that point was 950 m with a total hiking distance of between 6.6 km (Strava) and 7.1 km (GPS) . The path was also relatively level which was a welcome break from the steady climb we had been used to. It didn’t last long though as the trail began to become increasingly more steep the further we went along the route. We soon reached a random new looking sign that said ‘path’ and pointed up. After that sign, the trail began to climb steeply in a zigzag pattern towards the summit.

At about 11h35, the path became quite indistinct and difficult to follow. That was the first and only time that we had trouble finding the path on the entire route. We followed what looked like the path which took us straight up the mountain.

At about 11h45, we encountered patches of frost or snow along the path. I am certainly no expert in being able to  distinguish between the two, after growing up in rather temperature climates. It didn’t matter whether it was snow or frost, because it did explain why we were so cold. Belinda wasn’t with us on the hike so I was curious to know how well she would have coped in the cold conditions. I sent Belinda a WhatsApp photo of the frost / snow on the ground and her immediate reply was that she would not have coped. I could actually see her shivering on the other side of the phone as she typed her reply.

 

 

At about 12h05, we summited Bloupunt and put ourselves straight back into the path of the icy cold mountain wind. It had taken us almost 4 hours to summit Bloupunt. Strava calculated the ascent at 8.0 km. The hiking stats for the ascent, according to the Garmin eTrex GPS, were as follows:

 

Trip Odometer 8.61 km
Total Time 03h45
Moving Time 01h33
Moving Average 5.5 km/h
Overall Average 2.2 km/h
Max Speed 7.9 km/h
Elevation 225 m – 1226 m

 

We had a good look around at the top and found the sundial hidden away to the right of the trig beacon. Unfortunately, the summit book had been left out on a rock and was soaking wet. One of our hiking party did his best to make a note of our successful summit and returned the book to where it belonged, on a shelf under the sundial. We took a few photos of the view and then at about 12h15, we descended a short distance and had our lunch break behind some boulders and out of the bitterly cold wind. We could see several towns from the top including, Montagu, Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor and Robertson, although I am not entirely sure which was which.

 

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At about 12h50, we headed off again and descended the other side of the mountain. By that stage, I had scratched in my backpack and had pulled out my black woollen gloves. Having woollen gloves on for the first part of the descent really helped to keep me nice and warm. When I get cold, and I am pretty sure I am not alone in this, I cannot think of anything else, but how cold I am. The views that greeted us while we were descending, in a now familiar zigzag pattern, were spectacular.

 

 

At about 13h15, we reached a section of the mountain where we were again protected from the wind which allowed me to take off the gloves and to strip off a layer of clothing. The sun began to make its presence felt and we stopped for a bit to allow our bodies to soak up the much needed warmth.

At about 14h40, while still descending, we spotted what looked like a pair of black eagles circling high above us. The elevation at that point was about 515 m with a total hiking distance of 12.27 km (GPS). They were small dots in the sky, but had the general outline of large birds of prey.

At about 14h45, we arrived at the turn off to the Silver stream waterfall. I was actually quite surprised that the first waterfall was so far from the summit. The distance from the summit to Silver stream was about 4 km. The elevation at the Silver stream sign was about 467 m, approximately 800 m below the summit. The path to the waterfall was about 50 m in each direction, which included a short ladder climb. It was well worth the slight detour off the main path to see this waterfall. There is just something special about spending time at a waterfall deep in the mountains.

 

 

After visiting the Silver stream waterfall, we continued along the trail and arrived at a sign pointing off to the right to another waterfall and a bat cave. Before we started the hike, we had all agreed that no matter how long the hike took us, we were going to make time to visit the bat cave. The total distance to that point was between 13.1 km (Strava) and 13.4 km (GPS). The total hiking time was around 7 hours. We turned right at the sign and followed the path alongside a stream. The going was quite tough along the muddy banks of the stream and over some very slippery rocks. There were two ropes placed on top of two particularly large and slippery rocks that helped us to scale them without falling. We went as far as we could, but only managed to get to see the entrance to the bat cave. We also didn’t get to see any bats, which was a little disappointing. If you want to explore the actual cave you would probably need to swim through the rock pool below the waterfall and climb in to the cave that way. We decided not to do that due to the short amount of daylight time remaining and the freezing cold water! The detour from the main path to the bat cave and back was about 350 m. Really worth the time and effort to get there, even without getting to see any bats.

 

 

We returned to the main path at about 15h40 and continued along the trail. At 15h45, we crossed a stream using several metal staples fixed into the rock. Some of the group chose to hang from the staples over the stream. The photo of the stapled rocks doesn’t really do it justice.

 

 

At about 15h55, we continued to descend along the stream and reached a sign that said ‘Riet-kuil’. The total hiking distance to that point was 14.2 km (Strava) / 14.35 km (GPS) with an elevation of 338 m. The total hiking time was just over 7 and a half hours. The sign actually indicated the detour to the third and last waterfall. I turned right there and walked about 30 m to the waterfall with a large rock pool that looked perfect for a swim on a warm Summer’s day. It was the best rock pool to swim in that I had seen on the entire Bloupunt Trail. It was neither warm nor a Summer’s day, so I turned around again and rejoined the group who were waiting on the main path.

 

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At 16h05, we had completed a full circle and had arrived back at the Bloupunt / watervalle signs where we had first started our ascent, earlier that morning. The total hiking distance was 14.66 km (GPS) with an elevation of 336 m. The remainder of the trail followed the same route we had hiked earlier from the start to that point.

At 16h32, we reached the blue gum forest again after hiking a total distance of  around 16km with an elevation of 255 m. The total hiking time was just under 8 and a half hours.

At 17h00, we completed the hike. It had taken us around 08h40m to complete the hike which was nearly 3 hours longer than we had originally anticipated. That being said, the group did not find the hike to be too difficult, but by stopping at all the viewing sights and visiting all 3 of the waterfalls and the bat cave, we had added a considerable amount of time to the overall hike. All these detours were well worth the added time and effort, but if we ever had to do this hike again, we would start earlier in the morning so that we don’t end so late in the afternoon.

 

 

Trail & Distance Markings 

The trail markings for this particular hike were a combination of white painted footprints and white painted shoe prints.  The trail also has sign posts at particular locations along the route.  There were no distance markers on the trail except for the start at the old Mill House.

It seemed that at the conclusion of the hike, the Garmin GPS device and Strava calculated similar total hiking distances. One of the other guys’ Strava actually stopped working during the hike and the second guy did a little more exploring than I did so ended up with a larger total hiking distance than mine. Overall I was happy that Strava did a good job in recording the total hiking distance and it synced well with the Relive App to create a superb video to show the entire route that we had taken nearly 9 hours to complete.

 

The Stats

The hiking stats for the entire route were as follows:

 

Trip Odometer 17.39 km
Total Time 08h40
Moving Time 03h22
Moving Average 5.2 km/h
Overall Average 2.0 km/h
Max Speed 7.9 km/h
Elevation 225 m – 1226 m

 

Watch the Relive video below to get a good idea of the route and the elevation profile of this hike.

 

 

 



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