Magic in the MountainsI am embarrassed to say that it took me more than 9 years to go do a kloofing mission, 45km from my house. If you are driving from Cape Town it won't take you more than 1 & 1/2 hours to get there. Kloofing, also known as canyoning ('canyoneering in the U.S. / kloofing in South-Africa / torrentismo' in Italian), is travelling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling (rappelling) and swimming.
I did the Riviersonderend kloofing mission recently. The other well known and more extreme adventure is Suicide Gorge. Both hikes starts and ends at the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve. It is a long day out in the mountains, so you need to be fit and go prepared. Take warm clothes, food, sunscreen and a drybag with you. A phone and even a torch will be particularly useful, should someone get injured and you're stuck out there. Did I mention it is a LONG day out in the mountains?
When you get at the gate of the reserve you'll have to sign in (you have to book in advance). From there it is a short drive to the parking lot. Your hike starts from there with a single track that then joins the jeep track up the mountain. Don't be surprised when a truck filled with people come driving past you. It's the guys from the Cape Canopy Tours taking people to the start of the zipline experience (another story I need to tell you about). As you go over the top of the big hill, the road splits to the right, with well marked signs. Just follow the signs and before you know it, you'll descent into the kloof. We went on a warm day but even then you are in the shade and water a lot, so if you do have a lightweight wetsuit, "now" might be a good time to put it on. Watch the video!
It is a gentle start...jumps start off really small, it's almost disappointing. Then you float down the river with cliffs rising up on both sides - such a spectacular scene. You realize that it is just you and the mountains, and the noise and rush of everyday life just disappears. A drybag is great to keep your food and clothes dry but it also works perfectly as a buoyancy device. My Sea To Summit drybags always goes with me when I'm outdoors, to keep my camera gear etc. dry. Tucked away in my Osprey hydration/adventure racing pack, I feel like a sea turtle, cruising gently through the water. When the jumps do come, make sure that it is safe below. We always had one person double check after he jumped if there is any shallow rocks that might not be visible. All the biggest jumps are quite safe, into deep water. It is just good practice to make sure that all is ok. The highest jump on the Riviersonderend route is about 7m. Suicide Gorge is more for the adrenaline junkies, with jumps up to 18m.
4 hours down the river we met up with two guys that just came out of Suicide Gorge (the two valleys meet). There was an escape route from there and they recommended we take it. We insisted on rather sticking to the river and doing the marked route. Oh, how I regret that! The second part of the day was long, slow and tough. We kept on moving through the river, over big boulders and through bushes. The last part of the route wasn't marked well and we added another couple of kilometres to our route. NOT something I want to do again. All the exiting stuff happens before lunch, so rather have fun and then take the escape route.
Remember to make a booking by contacting Cape Nature. Have fun out there!