The Jonkershoek Mountains, part of the Boland Range, in the Cape Winelands, offer an impressively picturesque space to disappear into for a few hours.
I did the seven-kilometre-long Sosyskloof trail recently and found it to be a moderate hike, with gorgeous views, that can be enjoyed without needing to be spectacularly fit. The trailhead is clearly signposted and begins opposite the dirt parking area, which is about a five-kilometre drive from the entrance gate to Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, in Stellenbosch.
We passed a shy agama almost immediately after setting out, which scuttled under the cover of some rocks beneath a protea in this fynbos-rich area. Our guide Tayne Ruddock, from the Adventure Shop, is passionate about indigenous flora. He stopped to tell us a little more about the richly biodiverse, endemic floral kingdom – one of the world’s six and the only floral kingdom to fall squarely within the borders of a single country.
A little later, we spotted a jackal buzzard silhouetted against the blue sky. As we climbed out of the valley it simultaneously circled higher on invisible thermals that lifted it closer to the sun. After zig-zagging our way up the first and only real climb of the day, we stopped at a small green building for a few sips of water and to take some photos, before continuing on. From this point we hit the contour path, so the walking was easy going and it wasn’t long before we encountered the first waterfall in a shady, forested section of the route.
Tayne explained that the Cape red disa flowers at this time of year and surprisingly, a few moments later, he spotted two of them clinging to the rocks high above us beside the waterfall.
The path continued to hug the slopes of the mountains and we were almost completely surrounded by peaks jutting up sharply like crocodile teeth. We passed an exit path which, if taken, would cut the route down to five kilometres and soon came to the second waterfall and stream in a forested recess.
We enjoyed some snacks in the shade before setting off on the final stretch. This led to a slightly rocky descent next to a tributary of the Eerste River, where the sound of rushing water helped me feel cool despite the summer heat.
This trail took about 2.5 hours, however, if you want to work up considerably more of a sweat, you may consider the 17-kilometre Panorama Circuit, which takes between six and eight hours to complete. Tayne explained that it can be a tricky hike, with sections of the Panorama not clearly marked or easy to follow – so it’s best to go with someone who knows the route.
Note: Permits for hiking can no longer be purchased at the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve entrance gate. You’ll need to book online at the Cape Nature website or make a phone booking ahead of your planned hike.
If you’d like to do a guided hike, Adventure Shop (a member of Cape Country Routes) will organise the guide and permit for you.