A quiet new year’s eve in Die Hel
by Minouw Coetzee
A year ago
2018 was an extremely busy year for us at Rolbos, we started dedicating even more time to our hobby and passion, Rolbos ZA, while at the same time both juggling our regular nine to five’s.
With this in mind, we decided to make our new year’s celebration a quiet one, away from the hustle and bustle of our urban lifestyle. After exploring a few locations we settled on “Die Hel” in the Gamkaskloof Nature Reserve. It’s an isolated valley located in the Swartberg and we recommend only making the journey with a 4x4.
We left from Hermanus at 4:30 in the morning on the 31st and buckled up for an 8-hour trip there, on the way we travelled through The Tradouw Pass making a quick stop in Barrydale on the famous Route 62. Barrydale has some amazing spots to check out, this includes the famous “Diesel and Creme” which has the best milkshakes around. Unfortunately, we passed through the town a bit too early to enjoy their treats.
We then travelled trough Ladismith and Calitzdorp, while driving we passed the Kruisrivier Gallery and met renowned photographer Roger Young, Roger and his partner, costume designer Phyllis Midlane, live and work from their home and studios in Kruisrivier near Calitzdorp, his photography is truly amazing, be sure to make the stop when driving through the area.
We eventually reached the bottom of the Swartberg Pass. Just before we headed up the pass we made a stop at "Kobus se gat", this seemed like a lovely place to grab a bite to eat, but it being the afternoon of the 31st they weren't open for dining, we grabbed some cold drinks from the fridge and hit the road.
The Journey up the pass is truly spectacular and we took a break once we reached the top to take in the breathtaking view. Most of the Swartberg Mountains are above 2000 m high, making them the tallest mountains in the Western Cape.
This pass also forms part of the Swartberg Nature Reserve. It has many hiking trails and we decided that when we pass through it again we would definitely make time to take a stroll.
The Nature Reserve was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004 and stretches 121 000 hectares between the Klein and Groot Karoo, bordering the Gamkapoort Nature Reserve to the north and the Towerkop Nature Reserve to the west.
After descending the pass we travelled on a dirt road and were pretty stoked when we finally reached the Gamkaskloof turn-off. This is where the real fun began!
We started travelling down Otto Du Plessis road, Otto du Plessis was a popular political figure and one time Minister of Health. The road was made to make Gamkaskloof more accessible but despite being well maintained it is still filled with lots of turns and switchbacks. At the entrance we were met with a sign, “Dangerous Road, use at own risk!” we had arrived and were ready for the challenge :) The journey from the Start of Otto du Plessis to the entrance of Gamkas Kloof takes 3 hours despite only being 37 km long, even though the sign says otherwise :) Die Hel is filled with extremely beautiful scenery left untouched by man.
Taking the road there wasn’t very difficult, but the drive out proved quite challenging as the road is a single lane. I took a turn at steering the wheel and below you can see the intense concentration on my face. I really didn’t feel like changing a tire in the sun as it was a scathing 49 degrees. “Die Hel" really lived up to its name.
There is a vast amount of plant as well as wildlife in the Gamkaskloof (Otherwise known as “Die Hel”) region. Wildlife includes - Klipspringers, Baboons, Grey Rhebuck, Rooikat, Porcupines and Leopard.
While driving we stopped at a river which runs down from the mountains, the water at the pool is crystal clear, we filled up our water bottles (We still have some water left which we have been enjoying on our camping trips) and relaxed with some fellow travellers who were taking a swim.
After driving through Otto Du Plessis drive it was a further 15km to our campsite, we stayed the night at Boplaas - Gamkaskloof.
The secluded campsite is an oasis amidst the dry summer landscape, covered in lush green grass. We had the entire campground to ourselves and after taking a quick swim, we drove back to our spot under the trees and made a fire in-between running around under the sprayer to cool ourselves in the sweltering heat.
I took over the braai for the evening as this is something I really love doing, cooking over an open fire, in general, is a passion of mine. We braaied some delicious Karoo lamb tops and ribs. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying our meal, gazing up at the stars.
The next morning we packed up our camping gear and headed back out the same way we drove in, what stuck with me after this trip was that the destination is important but the journey there is what truly makes the experience. Die Hel is an amazing place steeped in history, we suggest taking a trip there and when you do taking some time off at Boplaas. Have a look at the route we took below.