The Highmoor Experience

A great morning outing from Glen Ormond is going hiking in Highmoor Nature Reserve, which is only 52 km away. The drive to Highmoor is wonderful and takes you through the very scenic Kamberg Valley.  You’ll pass rows of oaks, acers and plain trees, laid out double rows on the boundaries of the farms and lining their long driveways.  Watch out for slow moving farm equipment and potholes.  As you near Highmoor, the vegetation and landscape changes.  The road ascends steeply past massive boulders that balance precariously on the side of the mountain. As the name suggests, Highmoor is relatively high and is located at an altitude of about 1980 m.  The reserve is 14,749 ha in extent and is part of the Mkhomazi Wilderness Area of the central region of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.

Giant’s Castle seen from Highmoor

The hikes are manageable, even if you are relatively unfit.  Take your time and rest often.  Keep your eye out for wildlife, including antelope, especially oribi, jackal, baboon, an astonishing array of raptors, and snakes such as puffadders and cobras.  Get going as early as you can to avoid hiking in the midday sun.

There are two hikes, both of which finish in caves.  There is a 4.0 km walk to Aasvoëlkrantz cave and a 3.5 km walk to Caracal cave.  So far, I have only done the Aasvoëlkrantz cave hike. I was struck by the massive expanse of sky.  The topography really enables you to experience vastness of the African sky.  Far above you, eagles twist on the thermals, tiny dark shapes that are almost invisible against the outstretched blue.

If you look around, instead of just pounding up the mountain, the variety of veld grasses and ferns is spellbinding.  It’s remarkable that such delicate flowers can survive in such a harsh environment.  The earlier you leave, the more wildlife you will encounter.  The animals move off as the temperature rises and people appear.

To get to the cave, you have to clamber down the steep side of a gorge.  Be careful and watch you footing.  It’s easy going down but coming back up is demanding.  Take a costume because there is an ice-cold rock pool at Aasvoëlkrantz cave that is startlingly refreshing and causes instant cool-down after the hot walk.  The cave itself a great place to have a snack and something to drink and then sit back and contemplate the universe, at least until you’re disturbed by other hikers.

Details

Entrance is R40 per person.  The gates open at 5:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m.  The office only opens at 8:00 a.m.  The Mountain Rescue Register must to be completed before you begin your hike and signed again when you return.  You should always be in a party of three hikers or more.

Directions

From Glen Ormond, go back to the tar road (R103) and turn right.  Travel 4 km down the road, passing the Rosetta Hotel.  Opposite to the Ugly Duckling, take the Kamberg Road to your right, which is the first tar road turn-off from Glen Ormond.  Travel 38 km and when the road forks, take the left fork to Glengarry and Cleopatra’s.  Keep going for 11 km.  A portion of the last bit of road is dirt, but in good condition.  Still, use a vehicle with reasonable ground clearance.  The road terminates in the parking area of Highmoor.

Scenes from Highmoor

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