About 5 years ago I saw photos on Facebook that took my breath away. Majestic mountains towering over hikers. Rock pools hidden in dense, green vegetation. Photos of Fynbos and Proteas. I decided to add this place on my bucket list, and started looking for clues on where it was taken. The photographer’s name was Bruce Flyinghorse which sounded foreign. One of the titles read “The Plaat” which was interesting because Marloth Nature Reserve in Swellendam also has a Plaat …… I then realized that the photos were taken in Swellendam.
Step1: Find the Plaat. When asked for info on hiking the Plaat, I was told it is in Marloth Nature Reserve. Which I already knew. When asked where in Marloth Nature Reserve, they pointed at the mountain. Which I already assumed. And when I asked the person providing the info if they had hiked the Plaat, the response was a not-very-excited “no”.
Step2: Find Bruce Flyinghorse. From the photos on Facebook I could see that Bruce was probably not a farmer and did not fit the average look in Swellendam. Long hair, beard and tattoos. It did not take me long to find him hanging out around Old Gaol coffee shop. I introduced myself and told him that I wanted to hike the Plaat. This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship with the Mountain Man.
Step3: I hiked the Plaat. It was AWESOME.
Step4: I took my wife to hike the Plaat. It was AWESOME.
Step5: I wanted to take my boys up there……. But I did not know if they were old enough. I could remember from Bruce’s photos that he took his oldest daughter up there when she was quite young. The Plaat is a bit more difficult than Duiwelsbos. My boys are used to hiking Duiwelsbos and with friends along they reach the top faster than two monkeys on sugar. So after consulting with the Mountain Man I decided to attempt it. Bruce did advise to take along a lot of sweets for motivation. For safety reasons (my own) I took their mom along as well.
At the time of the hike my boys were grade 1&2. We started early (7am at sunrise) to spend as little time as possible in the direct sun. The start of the hike is uphill, which is quite steep. This uphill keeps going for about 40 minutes of hiking. You should be willing to hike at a slow pace and stopping for a snack and sip of water every 10-15 minutes. What would qualify as a snack? Hand full of raisins, nuts, biltong, dried fruit, half a small packet of chips, apple, banana, etc. If the children or your wife start complaining: ignore it, hold out a sweet and start walking.
After about 40 minutes the steep gradient will reduce. Your first big break can be taken after about 1 hour of hiking when you descend into a stream tucked away in the shade. In reality this is just above the waterfall at the top of the Duiwelsbos hike. You will feel like you are in a lost paradise, completely hidden from the outside world and sunlight.
For the next hour you will be moving horizontally along the Plaat, dipping out of the Duiwelsbos stream and into the Koloniesbos stream and out again. After a total hiking time of about 2 hours you should take another proper pit stop before starting the big descent.
This downhill is very steep and it will take you about another 1.5 hours to reach your vehicle. Even though the children might be becoming hostile at this stage do not rush. Luckily there is only one way to get to the vehicle and that does not include turning back. Our boys did start to complain about being tired, but as soon as they reached the flatter section of the downhill, they could see where we were parked and started racing each other.
Needless to say this hike was AWESOME. Note: We did not hike the entire Plaat. We hiked Plaat East. For some reason I never hike the whole Plaat. I like going up on the side and down in the middel, hiking either Plaat East or Plaat West. Note: If it is only grownups hiking, your time will be closer to 2.5hours.
IMPORTANT: Take lots of sweets along to keep your kids (and wife) motivated.
Should Children wear shoes: Yes. My kids do no like wearing shoes and did hike sections bare feet, but there were sections that they had to put them back on. Rather do not take chances and make your kids wear shoes.
Started hiking at the Duiwelsbos Parking Area: 7:00am
Ended hiking at the Duiwelsbos Parking Area: 10:30am
Total hiking time: 3.5 hours More info on hiking Plaat East: link