Caroline’s Roadtrip – Part 2 – Gifberg continued
Guest blog and photos by Caroline Elston
The Gifberg Resort in situated on top of the Gifberg Mountain and is part of a huge rooibos tea farm. The Gifberg is so-called because it is the only place in the world where the highly poisonous ‘gifboom’- Hyaenanche globosa – is found. This is a large evergreen fynbos shrub or small tree endemic to this area. Its fruit is highly toxic and was used by the San on their arrowheads and by local farmers to kill hyena. The area is rich with rare plant species and has some of the most well-preserved rock art in the whole of the Western Cape.
There are several magnificent hiking trails on the property, including the Hamerkop trail which passes large rock pools, a waterfall and rock ledges where the Hamerkop breed. The Gifboom trail is one of the more strenuous ones that allows you to view some of these rare trees on route. We opted for the 2 km Pothole Hike which takes one along a scenic route with some added fun elements such as climbing over interesting rock features and crawling through rather narrow tunnels of rock and vegetation.
It took quite a bit of encouragement, pushing and pulling to get mother and me over some of these rocks – mother complained that her legs were too short and her knees needed oiling while my general state of terrible unfitness did not make matters easier!
The pools, waterfalls and potholes along the way are quite spectacular. The rock at Gifberg is made up of typical autumn shades and the miniature garden of lichen; dwarf succulents, moss and stonecrops between the rocks are quite extraordinary and beautiful. When a light rain began to fall, there was the scent of a warm, herby aroma in the air. Each plant and rock seemed to remind one of ancient times ……only the calls of birds and the roar of waterfalls break the silence of this wonderful place.
The next morning we visited the elusive Bushman cave mentioned previously.
With mother’s knees taking a bit of strain we were reluctant to go in search of the cave but as we did not want to miss out on anything we sent Carl on a recce down the cliff. After twenty minutes he emerged from ‘down under’ with much enthusiasm and the assurance that any and all discomfort would be more than worthwhile ….so off we set . Fortunately for mother and I the main cave is only a hundred metres from the top of the canyon so we managed, with a bit of help.
Carl was right. The paintings include healing scenes, figures walking in some kind of procession, eland, elephant and hands which I believe symbolise the laying of hands during a healing ritual. Surrounding some of the figures are paintings of equipment that include hunting bags, quivers, bows and bags. It was a real privilege to view this timeless art gallery.
Hours later we headed north towards Kamieskroon. We drove along the undulating sandy plateau of the Maskam. Spring is still visible and the ploughed fields resemble English meadows.
Vast tracks of land are being cultivated for rooibos tea production.
We stopped at a river running over a shelf of rock. It’s a lovely spot and we were tempted to plunge in but it was far too cold. A local told us that there are even nicer pools higher up, almost like natural spas. It is another world out here, far away from the stress of city life and the most strenuous thing we need to do is open a farm gate or two.
The vegetation started changing as we headed towards Ouberg pass – we saw kappokbos, restios, bright pink vygies, wild rosemary and all kinds of hardy leafed bushes.
Ouberg pass from Gifberg side is not a major climb but the descent is rather sudden and steep. There are a few wind swept rock structures at the top but the best is the view of the vlakte!
A little further down the road we looked to our left and there, gushing down the mountainside, was a spectacular 380 metre waterfall in the Troe-Troe river.
We didn’t have time to explore as Kamieskroon was still 200 km away and it was getting late but we were allowed a quick respite to ‘ooh and aah’ at a patch of lilac coloured lachenalia along the side of the road.
We said goodbye to the Maskam Mountains as we once again headed towards Van Rynsdorp. We had come full circle and now it was time to head north.