An exciting new hiking trail, the Haarkapper Hiking Trail is launching this month. Named after the famous Tesselaarsdal barber (haarkapper), Jannie Willemse, this beautiful hike crosses over the Klein River Mountains, between Phillipskop Mountain Reserve near Stanford, and Tesselaarsdal, via Elzaksa Farm. 

The 15 km trail follows a figure-of-eight route, starting from either Phillipskop Mountain Reserve or Tesselaarsdal. You can also hike just one way over the mountain, if you arrange transport on the other side.

The route echoes the weekly journey of Willemse, a farmer from Tesselaarsdal who used to walk 20 km over the Klein River Mountains to Stanford every Saturday, to cut the townsfolk’s hair, before returning to his Tesselaarsdal farm the same day. Beginning in 1926, he did this each and every Saturday for over 20 years without fail, faithfully serving his Stanford customers, and clocking up over 42 000 km on foot – more than the distance all the way around the earth! 

The Haarkapper Hiking Trail offers you the chance to follow in his footsteps, crossing the Klein River Mountains at their lowest point between Tesselaarsdal and Stanford. The highest point on the hike is at an altitude of 575 m and is named Haarkapper Peak.

The Haarkapper Hiking Trail is a straightforward but still challenging route for anyone with reasonable fitness. There is an initial steep climb from the reception at Phillipskop, but after that the path takes a more gradual ascent towards the ridge before descending via Elzaksa Farm. A detour from the main figure-of-eight part of the hike will take you into the historic village of Tesselaarsdal, where you can enjoy a delicious lunch at De Postkantoor (featured in the 10 July issue of The Village NEWS). 

The return climb from Tesselaarsdal follows the same route up the mountain as the 2017 Cape Epic cycle race. The scenery changes throughout the trail, from lush fynbos-covered slopes on the southern side, to dry rocky outcrops on the north. There is a hidden valley at the back of Phillipskop and unusual rock formations all along the way, such as the impressive David and Goliath Rock Stacks. The climb over the ridge is worth it for the views both north and south. On a clear day, the vista stretches from Sir Lowry’s Pass across to the Langeberg above Swellendam.

The fynbos here is particularly beautiful. Over 700 species of plants have been recorded on the reserve at Phillipskop. At any time of the year there are lots of flowers to see. Winter brings the proteas, spring the bulbs and numerous pincushions on Elzaksa Farm, while in summer and autumn the ericas dominate the landscape. There is also plenty of bird and animal life. The sugarbirds and sunbirds love the fynbos flowers, plus you have a good chance of seeing Black Eagles or Klipspringers on the rocky slopes of Phillipskop. Leopard are also known to roam the mountains, so keep an eye out for tell-tale signs.

More information about the hiking trail, including maps and permits can be found at www.phillipskop.co.za/activities/hiking-trails/haarkapper-hiking-trail. Permits for hiking need to be purchased in advance and are available online for day visitors at R60 per adult and R40 for children under 18. The trail is open daily between 08:00 and 17:00. Phillipskop Mountain Reserve also offers self-catering accommodation and is open for day visitors who want to do shorter hikes for a conservation fee of R40 per adult and R20 per child.

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