If you are travelling to Franschhoek, South Africa, a truly must-see destination close to Cape Town. Try out the Uitkyk hike at Mont Rochelle.
I first want to wax lyrical about the excellent condition this reserve is in, the reserve paths are an absolute pleasure to hike on. Upon arrival, you can go through the walk-in gate and if the reserve office is not yet open – you can pay them their permit fee on the way out. Be sure that you have this in cash as they do not have card facilities.
Mont Rochelle has a few hiking trails to select, and if you opt for Du Toit's Kop (1407m) or Paardekop (1575m) trails, you will even be able to look over at the iconic Table Mountain (1083m) on a clear day – which means you are higher than the Table.
We had a mixed group of hikers setting off and specifically wanted to check out the Uitkyk (1093m) trail. This trail is a moderate/easy hike (remember you have driven most of the height, and you could undoubtedly take young children with you even if only to breakfast rock.
The full hike is approximately 6km's from the gate to Uitkyk and back. A fit hiker should complete the trail under 3 hrs – although you may get distracted by the magnificent scenery along the way so have a camera handy and take some time to soak up the sights and sounds of a pristine reserve.
Head along the well-marked trail and about mid-way you will get to breakfast rock. A great place to stop and look down the valley. I would, however, recommend you have your pit stop further along this trail where the path crosses a stream. This is a lovely place to sit, listen to the gurgling stream and stretch out like a lizard on the large rock plate while you have some coffee and a snack.
Apart from the water and snacks, there are a few things that I always carry with me on a hike. One never knows what can happen and being prepared is still best;
- Umbrella – Not for the rain actually but for sweltering hot summer days. The Western Cape does not have a lot of shade trees on a hike, and you would be amazed how cool you feel under a grand old umbrella. I have a cheap collapsible one. Also fantastic as a prop when photographing flowers in the full sun!
- Pressure Bandage – This has to be for me the most crucial article in my 1st Aid pouch. Use it for sprains or heaven forbid a snake bite. Make sure you first check out how to https://resus.org.au/glossary/pressure-bandage-guideline-9-4-8/
- Ankle & Knee Guards – Just a one size fits all that does not have to be a high cost but very handy for yourself or anyone else struggling on the trail, especially on steep descents.
- Insect Repellant – Because "muggies" buzzing around your face on a hot day can be somewhat traumatizing when you are trying to de-stress...
- Duct Tape – Duct tape is sturdy and durable. I once had my sole separate from a leather boot and still had a treacherous descent. On that occasion, I had to do so with a shoe-lace holding my hiking boot together until another hiker saw me, took pity and duct-taped my boot. Since then I have duct tape at hand all the time. It has many handy uses.
After you have refreshed at either breakfast rock or stream, you continue upwards to Uitkyk. The path is steep though not sheer, and if you consider that you elevate just a bit over 300m but spanning 3km, then it is most definitely not a leg numbing, lung-bursting experience. The landscape is peppered with wildflowers. The valley was full of yellow on the day we were there, the deepest brightest yellow that just made everything pop dramatically.
You can spend a lot of time soaking in the sun up here and merely listening to the wind blowing through the Restios. I must say – I have only ever had my breath taken away like this on summiting in the Drakensberg – it really feels like you are part of the mountain up here!
Head back to the car park the way you came or go back via Du Toit's Kop. If you go via Du Toit's Kop, remember it is a further 7km's and additional 314m elevation. We drove down the pass on our way home via Villiersdorp, and there are many spots you can safely pull off from the road and take gorgeous photos. If you are heading to the town of Franschhoek, there are plenty of restaurants to go to for a tasty lunch.
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