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Submitted by Katharien de Villiers

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"For this New Years hike we decided on doing the Groot Winterhoek loop. We wanted to do a hike with my partner's mom, a veteran mountain clubber but over 50. Earlier last year we did the walk to Die Hell and back, but kept feeling we wanted to see more of this incredible World Heritage site. The first day takes you from the parking lot to a path winding its way along a beautiful river full of rock pools and epic swimming spots. No incline or decent worth mentioning. After 13km we reached our first goal- our little hut at De Tronk (one can also camp here).

The next morning we walked the 4km to De Hell for a fresh start in one of the most beautiful pools I've ever seen. With a thundering waterfall and flanked by massive bat caves this place will blow your mind. On the way one can also take a small detour to beautiful rock paintings.

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From here we retraced our steps and made our way to our next destination- Groot Kliphuis (11km). This day includes more incline, as one wanders over two small passes, following the Klein Kliphuis river. Massive boulders, a few beautiful rock pools and the Winterhoek mountains makes this day something to remember. One could extend this hike by continuing to Perdevlei and going to Groot Kliphuis from there, but having only 2 nights at our disposal we decided not to. We spent our New Years eve under a massive oak tree, watching the sunset from the beautiful rock formations behind the campsite. Fresh water is available in a clear stream about 100m from the oak trees.

The next morning we started our last stretch through the endless alleys of beautifully carved sandstone. It is a very easy 14km day through pristine fynbos with many small streams. We even saw Disa flowers on the way. Toward the very end of the hike there is a small detour loop one can take to Disa Pool. It is absolutely worthwhile to freshen up one last time before you head home.

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MicroAdventure time in total, out and back:
2.5 days!

Getting to the start:
The start is simple to get to and no 4x4 is required. From Cape Town one can take either the N7 or R44 to Porterville. From there it is a couple of km on a dirt road, a hop up the Dasklip pass that gets you onto the ridge of the mountain which you follow to the Cape Nature offices, again on a dirt road.

Best time to go:
Definitely summer. The swimming spots are too good to not enjoy fully!

Cost (per person):
Free!

Special permissions / permits:
Yes!
You do need to book in advance by mailing Cape Nature.
One signs in on arrival, receive a physical map of the route and they set you on your way.

www.capenature.co.za/reserves/groot-winterhoek-wilderness-area

A quick note about safety:
It is a very safe, well marked hike through simple terrain. An adventure I would recommend to everyone.

Pro tips:
Swim every opportunity you get, keep an eye out for Cape Leopard markings and scan the riverbanks for Disas in season!

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