As a hiking venue, Bokfontein packs an interesting mix of cool forests, fascinating rock formations, challenging climbs, history, wildlife, wild flowers and wild herbs as 20 hikers discovered on Easter Sunday.
The Club’s resident historian Alkis, hike leaders Betsie and Anthony, and our French-Canadian member Marielle.
The start of the hike, from a youth camp close to Hartebeespoort Dam, was gentle, courtesy of a level green forest but the trail soon entered difficult terrain. The elevation to the escarpment required clamouring over rocks, loose stones and sandy terrain as we navigated upwards through scrawny vegetation eking out an existence between the rocks. Fascinating rock formations are a key feature of Bokfontein and we had the opportunity to see a lot of them. Many are mushroom-shaped while others consist of layers that resemble books piled on top of each other.
As we hiked (and sweated) up the difficult trail, hike leader Betsie and the Club’s resident historian Alkis reminded us how gruelling it must have been for General de Wet, his army and their horses and wagons as they followed the same route at night more than 100 years ago during a manoeuvre known as The Big Escape during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).
Originally a fruit farm owned by the Ras family in the 1880s, they later established a smithy on site for making and repairing wagons and for building handcrafted cannons for the Boers. The smithy was expanded by a subsequent owner and during World War II a mortar bomb was manufactured on Bokfontein.
Our lunch break overlooking Hartebeespoort Dam. Betsie, Monique and Norman at the back. Front: Hermina, Kevin, Angelique.
We followed the demarcated trail and also enjoyed some off-trail, bundu bashing facilitated by Betsie’s extensive knowledge of the area and her “intuitive GPS”! A circular path meant that at one stage we found ourselves overlooking the Magliesberg before re-routing once again in the direction of Hartebeespoort . On the last stretch to the escarpment we traversed scores of wild rosemary bushes and bursts of yellow daisies and on arrival were delighted to see and use the natural “garden furniture” , flat rock surfaces for sitting on, looking out over Hartebeespoort Dam, that were perfect for our lunch break. While munching our sandwiches we were treated to an aerial display by more than 40 vultures circling what is known as Vulture Kopie.
The interesting rock formations and the history of the area are key features of the hike.
Our descent followed the same trail as our ascent, the only difference being that the whistling sounds of the bokmakieries that had accompanied us in the morning were no longer audible. The birds had flown away. We did spot some antelope but they were too far away from us for identification. Most of the rivers and streams we encountered during the hike were dry although we did come across a section between a cluster of rocks that included a pool large enough for a dip and a trickling stream that provided drinking water for those who needed a refill.
Bokfontein is just over an hour in driving time from Pineslopes. Depending on your hike level, you can expect to cover between seven and nine kilometres during the five- and- a- half hour hike, an indication of the demanding elevation and Bokfontein’s rating as a “difficult” hike. It certainly merits the tag.
I, for one, would not like to tackle it in mid-summer heat but there are more intrepid hikers who do. If you’re a history buff, add it to your must-do hike list, and even if you’re not, the combination of its elements warrant it worthy of consideration. Go on!
GPS Co-ordinates: 25⁰ 37‘ 0 S 26⁰ 51‘ 0 E
If you would like to receive a summary of the history of Bokfontein, please email Alkis on: firstname.lastname@example.org.