GRYSBOK CIRCLE HIKING TRAIL
This hike is one of two beautiful hikes in the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve
The Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve is just outside Barrydale in the Western Cape, located approximately 266km (03h20) from Cape Town.
Last weekend, were invited by a friend to join a camping and hiking weekend away, organised by the Klein Karoo Hiking Club. Unfortunately, Nina could not join us as dogs are not allowed in the nature reserve. Grootvadersbosch is run by the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board known as CapeNature. It is a governmental organisation responsible for maintaining wilderness areas and public nature reserves in Western Cape Province.
The Speedy Review (tl;dr)
This is the perfect weekend getaway! The campsite is extremely well equipped, with individually partitioned stands, top class ablution facilities, electricity and a communal lapa with a fridge. The views from the campsite are beautiful. The two walking trails in Grootvadersbosch are completely different to one another, so there are options for those just wanting an easy walk and those wanting something a little more challenging. If you enjoy bird-watching, pack a picnic and take a stroll to one of the bird hides where you can enjoy the local bird life.
Nina rated this trail 0/5 paw prints, because there are no dogs allowed at Grootvadersbosch and she was sad to be left at home while we had all the fun.
The Nitty Gritty
We started the hike from the camp site and walked down the cement block shaped road and continued along the dirt road passed a no entry sign. Just to the left of the no entry sign was a trail signboard indicating that we were on the right track for the Grysbok Circle hiking trail. The dirt road morphed into a cement block patterned track and we began to hike uphill. We hiked a distance of 760 m before I was informed that the trail had started in the vicinity of the no entry sign we had walked passed earlier. I had already started the track log on the GPS at the camp site, but I only started the Map My Hike GPS Hiking App on my phone at the 760 m mark. It took us about 12 minutes to reach that point from the camp site.
At 08h41, we reached a 4 way intersection on the trail and walked straight across the intersection. The distance covered to that point was 1.64 km with a moving time of 24 minutes. All of the distances and times in this hiking review were calculated from the camp site. The elevation at that point was 446 m. This was where I started the Map My Hike GPS Hiking App on my phone.
We continued walking along the jeep track and passed two reservoirs on the left hand side. These reservoirs apparently supply water to the camp site. The jeep track continued to ascend fairly steeply.
At 09h17, we crossed a mountain stream that traversed the jeep track. The distance covered to that point was 3.54 km with a moving time of 49 minutes. The elevation at that point was 475 m. The trail crossed another mountain stream before it reached a section where the jeep track split into a left and right fork. We followed the jeep track to the right which quickly ascended the hill again. There was a Grysbok Trail signboard on the right of the jeep track pointing uphill. The flowers were trying their level best to outshine each other which made for very pretty scenery.
The trail then turned to the right and we walked along a type of contour path back in the direction of the campsite.
At 09h48, we stopped on the trail and took a snack break in the long grass. The distance covered to that point was 4.29 km with a moving time of 01h02. The elevation at that spot was 537 m. At 09h55, we gathered our backpacks and headed off again. The next section of the trail was significantly waterlogged and there was plenty of surface water on the path. Those of us that were wearing trail running shoes, rather than leather hiking boots, tried as far as possible not to get our shoes and socks wet. We must have looked a bit like high school hopscotch players during school break time.
It was also on this stretch of the trail that I noticed some movement near one of my mud clad Salomons. I bent down and saw that it was a little dark coloured frog. That little guy had the experts scratching their heads, but he or she was later identified by Johan Huisamen of CapeNature as a Tradouw Mountain Toadlet (Capensibufo traouwi). That was approximately 5 km into the hike. Johan was also one of the weekends hiking party.
At 10h35, we came to a fork in the trail with a jeep track going left and right of an island of fynbos. The distance covered to that point was 6.37 km with a moving time of 01h35. The elevation was 536 m.
Shortly after, we turned left off the jeep track and onto a narrow path that contained large open blue plastic pipes that had been buried in the ground. The idea, it seemed, was to hike up to the view point indicated on the map supplied to us by CapeNature. We realized at that point that we had missed the view point trail turn off to the left just before the fork in the jeep track. We used the blue pipe track to reconnect with the view point trail higher up the hill.
Perhaps this is opportune time to touch on the CapeNature trail map and the signage placed along the Grysbok Circle Hiking Trail. The map and the trail signage do not correlate. There are far more trail options on the actual trail than are depicted on the map. The trail signage itself is confusing because there are no arrows to tell you if you must do the circular route in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Some of the signage indicated that we were hiking in the correct direction, while other signage on the trail pointed us back in the direction we had come.
At 10h42, we turned right on to the main view point path and continued to ascend up a very steep path. The distance covered to that point was 6.52 km. After approx 150m, we turned right again. The elevation at that point was 574 m. After another 100m or so, we turned right on to a wide grass jeep track that headed toward the view point. The elevation was 591 m. There was a sign there that indicated that the view point was directly ahead of us.
When I reached the view point, I climbed on to a large boulder. It appeared as though that was the highest point of the hike measuring an altitude of 604 m. The viewpoint is just short of 7km into the trail. From the view point, you can either walk back along the path, turn left and follow another jeep track below the view point or you could just continue along the jeep track in front of the view point. Our hiking group chose to backtrack the short distance needed to take the lower jeep track around to where it rejoined the main track.
At 11h05, the jeep track we were on joined up with the main jeep track coming in from our left hand side. We turned right there and followed the main jeep track as it descended the hill. The distance covered to that point was 7.49 km with a moving time of 01h53. The elevation was recorded as 557 m. Shortly thereafter the jeep track split into two. We followed the left fork.
At 11h23, we turned left off the jeep track. The jeep track continued on to the right. A trail signboard indicated that the jeep track led to the office and the camp site. By now we had walked for just over 2 hours and covered 8.35 km, with an elevation of 484m.
At 11h29, we came to a t-junction and turned left and headed downhill. The distance covered to that point was 8.66 km with a moving time of 02h10. The elevation was 459 m.
At 11h43, we descended along the jeep track with magnificent views of the mountains on our left hand side. We turned left off the track at a sign saying Boosmansbos Wilderness Area and Saagkuilskloof. The distance covered to that point was 9.31 km with an elevation of 422 m. This was to find a spot to have our lunch.
At 11h48, we stopped on a rock outcrop and had our lunch while admiring the views of the Langeberg mountains. At 12h11, we continued on our way again and rejoined the jeep track.
At 12h36, the jeep track we were on was joined from our right hand side by another jeep track. There was a signboard pointing back the way we had come saying Saagkuilskloof. We continued walking along the now merged jeep track. The distance covered to that point was 10.9 km with a moving time of 02h41. The elevation was 438 m.
At few minutes later, we crossed a mountain stream and had an opportunity to fill up water bottles. The distance covered to that point was 11.0 km with an elevation of 429 m. After crossing the stream, the jeep track turned to the left and the trail ascended the hill again.
At 12h44, we arrived at the intersection where I had started the Map My Hike GPS Hiking app on my phone to track the hike. The distance covered to that point was 11.4 km with a moving time of 02h48. The total hiking time to that point was 04h39 with an elevation of 447 m. I continued tracking the route until we reached the finish at the camp site at 12h55. The total hiking distance was 12.1 km with a moving time 02h57.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS OF THE HIKE
The mountain scenery and colourful flora made this a very pretty hike. You are consistently walking amongst different varieties of fynbos displaying vibrant colours and delicate shapes. The wet conditions underfoot along some sections of the trail did make things a little tricky, but it did not detract from the beautiful surroundings we found ourselves in. The weather was not great and often the views were shrouded in thick mist.
Sadly, what did take away from the enjoyment of the hike was the poor trail signage and the confusion caused by the map supplied by CapeNature. I can’t remember another hike where we had to stop as many times to consult the map because we were unsure of where we were or where we should go next. It is recommended that CapeNature should look into improving the number of signboards on the trail and make them more user friendly. The trail map should definitely be revisited by someone who is actually familiar with the trail. By that I mean by someone who has actually walked it a few times. It might also be a good idea to include directional arrows on the map so that hikers know in which direction to do the circular route, either clockwise or anti-clockwise. Obviously the actual trail signage must correlate with what is depicted on the map
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable hiking trail that I would recommend you do if you are ever in or near Barrydale in the Western Cape. We found the facilities at the camp site to be of a high standard. The ablution facilities were beautifully styled and clean. The lapa even included a communal fridge which came in handy for storing perishables like meat and milk.