Submitted by Ethan Lundy
This through-hike was on my friend Dyl and I's mind for quite some weeks, planning to see if we could link up the sheer Franschhoek Nature Reserve to Jonkershoek via some questionable footpaths we found on Alltrails, connecting the ranges by intersecting the Panorama Trail.
After inviting some friends who, although concerned for the viability of the thin, broken dotted lines we swore would link, shared our stoke for the project, we left our car in Stellenbosch and Ubered to the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve entrance. I decided to try leave as much technology behind as I could, so I took only my 35mm film camera to document the trip, shooting Kodak Gold.
The route involves well-trodden paths for the first couple of hours, passing Bushman's Teeth and Castle on your left, with various river crossings to cool off, passing generally to the right until the major elevation gain just before Guardian Peak. Here the path becomes vague, climbing dense vegetation (beware of puffies) for around 1.1km of elevation gain before popping out on the top of Guardian Peak and seeing the aforementioned Panorama Trail Head. Here you have your first glimpse at a 360-degree vantage point above both Franschhoek and Jonkershoek.
I had the most beautiful encounter with three Peregrine Falcons holding position perfectly on the ridgeline, and a giant Verreaux's Eagle that swooped in next to them. The wildlife high on the ridgeline above Jonkershoek amazed me, with sightings of baboon, dussies, and stunning birdlife. From here, it is a steep, loosely pathed decent into Jonkersoek with an awesome wooden platform and river to take rest at, and then good paths to the Jonkershoek entrance. Overall it was about 31km.
After attempting to hitchhike back into Stellenbosch and rather walking with our thumbs out for the morning, our dirty, dusty team took refuge at the petrol station where we replenished our caloric deficit in pies and KFC soft serve.
MicroAdventure time in total, out and back:
10 Hour Hiking Adventure!
You may decide to do the hike over 2 days, but there is no official spot to sleep.
Getting to the start:
You can type in "Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve" on Google and it is a simple drive there. Light dirt road that almost any car can handle.
Best time to go:
Spring is a great time, not too windy, not too cold.
Cost (per person):
R0 - R250
Special permissions / permits:
You can pay basic reserve fees at the entrance of both reserves. Mont Rochelle uses an honesty system online, details on the board at the entrance.
A quick note about safety:
To the confident hiker, I think it's very possible solo. But snacks are best shared.
A bird book would be good beta.