Before I met my wife, she had already hiked the 2 day Boskloof Hiking Trail in Marloth Nature Reserve. When she looking down on the Swellendam valley, she declared to the group that the view was so beautiful that she would like to get married in Swellendam one day. Soon after, we met and got married. Which should give you an idea how beautiful the view is from up there.
Since my wife told me the story of how she fell in love with Swellendam during this hike, I have wanted to hike the route, but for some reason never got the time. When the route was re-opened recently (after a 5 year hiatus) we decided to make the time. My wife and I are not experienced hikers so we invited friends to come along. Coincidently these friends have lots of hiking experience and great gear.
The 2 day and 5 day hiking trails in Marloth Nature Reserve were closed because the Boskloof hut burned down in a tragic wild fire in 2012. The 5 day hiking trail is rated as one of the best in the world.
Day 1 on the 2 day & 5 day hiking trails use the same route and hut to sleep in - Boskloof hut. This is the toughest day of the 5 day and 2 day hikes. On day 2 of the 2 day hike you return to Swellendam using a route that passes over the back of Tienuurkop.
Day 1: Marloth Office to Boskloof Hut
Distance: 11.6km with 1200m climb, 400m descent
Started hiking: 9:40
Reached Boskloof Hut: 17:25
Total time hiked: Just under 8hours
We met our friends at the Marloth Office where we picked up our permits for which we applied two weeks earlier. Everyone got into one vehicle and drove to the parking area at Duiwelsbos where we started hiking and parked the vehicle overnight. You could also consider the secure parking at the Marloth Office. You will have to synchronise the timing of your return to ensure that the office is not closed when you return, so check the office hours. This should not be a problem if you arrange with the reserve manager beforehand.
At the start of the hike the slopes were covered with thousands of proteas in bloom, but the steep incline of the start limited my ability to admire and enjoy this. I guess it should be assumed that when hiking in a mountain you will be “going up”. Hiking in the mountain is a lot more breath-taking (literally and figuratively) than looking at mountains on Instagram. You will be doing a third of the day’s climbing within the first 2.5km. So brace yourself and stop to enjoy the view. From 2.5-4.5km the route takes you closer to Buffeljags dam (East) with little to no climbing. The views you will enjoy are truly awe-inspiring. Depending on the season you will be able to fill your water bottle at one or two spots, but I would encourage you to take all the water you need for day 1 with you. Assumption is the mother of most regrets. Take at least 2 liters of water.
The treasure of flowers, proteas and fynbos you see along the route are hard to do justice with words or event Henk Venter’s remarkable photos. The vegetation change with the season, each providing a different highlight.
From 4.5-8km you will start ascending again. At the top you have a great view of the Buffeljags dam and start your descent into Boskloof. There are two big gorges providing the Buffeljags dam with water – Grootkloof and Boskloof. At this point you will lose sight of civilization - just you, the rest of the group and the mountain. Right before you cross a gorge on a wooden bridge at 10km, you might notice a route going uphill to your left. You will be using that route the next day to get back home. The last 1.5km of day one will be repeated the next day in reverse. If you see a sign reading “Goedgeloof”, keep to the left – that’s the hut the 5 day hiking trail uses at the end of their second day of hiking.
We hiked at a very relaxed pace, which was great, but it almost resulted in us not reaching the hut before dark. In total we hiked almost 8 hours, so be conscious of when the sun will set. We had two long breaks making coffee, some soup and just relaxing. At points like this it is recommended to have a light jacket in the top of your bag that you can put on to keep warm while resting. You will have cell phone reception for almost the whole route.
The original wooden cabin with asbestos roof that served as the first night’s sleep burned down in 2012. This has now been replaced with a fire proof 5mx4m shipping container version. One of the best qualities of this hut is its location. You are totally cut off from the outside world, embraced in the folds of the Boskloof valley and Langeberg Mountains. This ensures a "wilderness" feel – in a good way. No roads, no cell phone towers in sight, no towns close by. This is also one of the reasons why this hut took so long to replace or repair after the forest fire.
I like the new hut a lot. It is basically a green shipping container with window, door and wooden floor. If you are a experienced hiker (like our companions) you might not like the iron box comparing it to wooden huts, which I can understand. But to me the location and simplicity was just out of this world. One of the main reasons for choosing the iron container, instead of a wooden cabin, was to withstand the next forest fire. Otherwise the whole exercise would have to be repeated and the route be closed another 5 years. The hut can accommodate 8 people. Note: you need to bring along a mattress to sleep on. This is something that will hopefully change in future - especially because the other huts on the 5 day hiking trail have beds. There is a stream passing by the hut. This is one of my top 10 spots in the world.
Because of the remote location they had to use a helicopter to convey building material for the new hut. The high altitude also requires a specialized helicopter pilot.
The eco-loo... The word sounds nice and nature friendly, but do you know how it works? Me neither. By the time you are sitting and realize you don’t know how it works, well… you are sort of stuck. I saw a plastic thing that resembles a vuvuzela in the corner which I picked up to swot any spider if it attacked me in this compromising position. When I got back at the hut I wanted to ask someone what the vuvuzela was for, but I was uncertain if sanitary talk was appropriate. Only after the next visit did I muster up the courage to ask. Apparently there is supposed to be saw dust that you deposit after the first deposit and then you use the vuvuzela ..... something like that. On our return to the Marloth office we asked the reserve manager to put up instructions on the inside of the eco-loo. I might have to watch something on YouTube before my next visit.
At the hut itself you have no cell phone reception, but about 400m away you will pick up a bar or two on Vodacom. There is no electricity at the hut and no camp fire allowed. There are no designated cooking or washing up area nor any other furniture. There is a “leave no trace and take only photos” policy, so you are expected to leave no rubbish behind.
Day 2: Boskloof Hut to Marloth Office Distance: 6.7km with 330m climb, 1130m descent Started hiking: 12:00 Back where we started day 1: 16:20 Total time hiked: 4hours 20minutes
We woke up the next morning with light rain tapping on the roof of our “box”. The valley was engulfed in mist and cloud – beautiful. Excited for the day’s hiking, I got dressed and went outside to see exactly how hard it was raining. It registered a “medium” on my rain-o-meter (my gut feeling), so I expected us to have a quick breakfast, strong coffee and be on our way. But when I got back to our box everyone was moving in slow motion and the one friend that I expected to be hike-ready first (having done the Otter Trail ten times) was still lying in his sleeping bag with only his eyes sticking out. When I asked my sleeping bag friend why he is not getting up, he explained that no-one should be hiking in these conditions (wind, rain, cold). When he proposed that we wait until the rain stopped – which according to the weather report would be around 12 o’clock – I started getting box-fever. The hike back to Swellendam was supposed to be a hop, skip and a jump and mostly downhill. And I am not very skilled at sitting around. But when another friend proposed that the downhill on the return route was too steep in the current wet conditions and that we should hike the previous day’s route in reverse (which is almost double in distance) – I sided with the lesser of the two evils – the quickest option.
The wait in the box ended up being a great morning of coffee, rusks other snacks and talking nonsense - everybody relaxing in their sleeping bags. It also gave me ample time to plan what I was going to wear to keep the rain and cold outside. Plan: cover myself in plastic bags. Great idea. Proven to be a bad idea when I tried it out later.
We started our hike just after 12:00. The first 1.5km you trace back your steps of the previous day. Then you start going uphill for the next 1.5hours towards the back of Tienuurkop. When we reached the top (which is the back of Tienuurkop) we could only catch a small glimpse of Swellendam far down below because of the thick cloud. The downhill was quite challenging due to tired legs and wet conditions. It would seem that the 12 o’clock start was the right decision. Sleeping bag friend’s wife over stocked his hiking bag with sweets, biltong and other snacks. We gladly helped to lighten his load which lightened our group’s spirit.
The uphill took about 1.5hours and the downhill 2.5hours to reach our starting point at the Duiwelsbos Parking area. This hike should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is not an easy hike but very do-able with moderate fitness. Don’t use new shoes and take along someone with a bit of hiking experience. I would encourage anyone to do a hike of at least 2-3hours before attempting this one.
And who knows – you might be getting married in Swellendam.
Number for bookings: +27 (0)21 483 0190
Emergency number: +27 (0)82 496 2450
Marloth Nature Reserve: link
Tips: 1) Pack a light jacket at the top of your bag, to keep you warm when you rest along the route. 2) Pack a jacket that is rain proof or at least rain resistant. 3) Make sure you have a rain cover for your hiking bag. 4) Remember no fire allowed at Boskloof. 5) Remember toilet paper. 6) No beds or mattresses at Boskloof Hut. 7) There is a stream next to the hut. 8) The cable car at Table Mountain gains 600m in height. You will be doing double that on day 1, so do not over-estimate your level of fitness. 9) Wear a hat and apply sunscreen. This is no time to catch a tan. 10) On day one: take at least 2 liters of water with you. 11) Respect nature and keep to the marked trails. 12) Make sure you have the Nature Reserves emergency number. 13) Leave the hut at least as clean as you found it. 14) Do not hike this route alone or without a permit. 15) Check the weather forecast and when the sun sets.