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On Sunday 6th January our group of 10 hikers set off in cars from Clive Gullifer’s house in Witsand to travel some 75 km to Jongensfontein higher up the coast, mostly over dirt road. At around midday we started the 5 day hike down the coast to Witsand after parking the cars just outside the local caravan park at Jongensfontein.
This marked the start of another annual Costal Hike that Robbie McDonald has planned and organised for the JHC. The ten hikers, all JHC members, were Robbie McDonald, Clive Gullifer, Elsa Wloschowsky, Hanneke Stouthamer, Penny Allen, Bruce Rodrigues, Loraine Handle, Steve Du Plessis, Zandree Lill and Allan Lill. Six of us have done a number of the previous annual coastal hikes with Robbie.
There is no hiking trail from Jongensfontein to Witsand, a distance of about 50 km along the coast, and it is not possible to walk on the beach all of the way. Nevertheless we often found footpaths when the beach ended. While sections of this hike have clearly been done by others it is believed that very few people have covered the whole distance as a hike because of the difficulties of finding places to stay overnight.
When planning the hike it was difficult for Robbie to identify places to stay at overnight. There are a number of isolated private homes along the coast, and two small settlements of private homes at Blomboschfontein and Puntjie, but no facilities for camping at these. Fortunately Clive lives down in that area and was able to do some local enquiries which greatly helped Robbie’s planning.
Due to accommodation not being available for most nights we carried tents and used them on 3 of the 4 overnight stops. Ensuring that there would at least be water available at the camping points was a challenge in planning the hike, but between Clive and Robbie they were able to make arrangements. The afternoon walk to the first overnight stop along the beach was about 5 km to a spot that Clive had found out about, on a private camping site that had water and even a flush toilet. We struggled a bit to find the spot as we had only a description and no GPS co-ordinates.
The 2nd day’s hike was striking as the path led past the important archaeological Blombos Cave which was only first excavated in 1991 and is still ongoing. This important site contains the remnants of tools and rock art dating back 70 000 to 100 000 years which puts it amongst the oldest in the world. Unfortunately but understandably the cave can’t be accessed.
This region is very rocky but there was a relatively clear route passing very intricate wind carved sandstone, and a large arch that we passed through.
While descending a tricky section, shown in one of the pictures, a large rock dislodged and crushed Clive’s left hand, causing severe lacerations and breaking bones in his palm. After his hand was cleaned and bandaged Clive bravely carried on, nursing a very painful hand.
On arriving at Blomboschfontein Robbie contacted Shaun, with whom it had been previously arranged would fetch us and take us to his property some 3,6 km from the coast where we camped, and also had the privilege of using his ablutions and taking a shower. This arrangement was as a result of one of Clive’s local investigations – the alternative would have been to camp on the beach with no facilities and hoping to get water from one of the few local private houses. The next morning we were taken back down to the coast and Shaun took Clive to Jongensfontein to get medical attention.
The 3rd day did not go as planned, and after walking about 6 km along the beach to Clive’s neighbour’s property in the area we later took a lift to Puntjie, due to time limitations and uncertainties about where we could overnight, and we camped on the bank of the Duivenhoksrivier near the river mouth without any facilities or water available (other than the river). Fortunately we had all filled up with water beforehand.
On the 4th day Clive re-joined us in the morning with his hand treated and re-bandaged, having managed to get a lift to where we were camping. We were met later in the day as arranged by a small ferry and taken up the river for about 15 km to a cottage on the bank of the river which had been pre-booked and where we stayed the night.
Next morning we set off early down the river again on the ferry to the river mouth at Puntjie. After a 15 km hike along the beach, and on higher land when it was not possible to walk on the beach for a number of km, we arrived back at Witsand around mid-afternoon and the comfort of Clive’s home.
On the 6th day we crossed the Breede River at Witsand on a “Rubber Duck” (thanks again to Clive’s contacts) and took a morning hike toward Cape Infanta and back before travelling in Clive’s vehicle in the afternoon to collect our cars at Jongensfontein. Everyone had enjoyed a great hiking adventure.
The group are grateful to Clive for making his home available to us as base before starting the hike and a welcome retreat at the end of the hike again, where we could shower and sleep over in comfort. We also thank Robbie for the many hours he spent planning and putting the whole successful adventure together.
Article By: Allan Lill