30 years Kloofing in the Nuy River Gorge

The year 1988

We were just two 18 year old Swiss youngsters in the midst of our apprenticeships: Stephan a Lumberjack and myself an Architectural technician. But the opportunity of adventures way down in South Africa was too great to turn down! So we booked a 8 hour train journey to Luxembourg and the cheapest flight with Luxair to Cape Town. Stephan forged himself a 1.5kg Dundee-style knife, in case we were to encounter angry Lions – Needless to say the flight attendants had a good chuckle when we boarded “sword and all”.

Equipped with a Survey General map of the area, food for only two days and PEP store blankets for “sleeping bags” we explored the NUY RIVER GORGE on route to my Granddad’s farm, Simonskloof here in the Koo Valley. The adventure took three days, hiking old jeep tracks, then endless river crossings, bivouacking on the sandbanks cooking like cowboys on a open fire, the pot coffee and baked beans were missing though. The following day the bushwhacking and boulder hopping continued only to grind us to a halt at a rather magical rock dam half way up the gorge. We camped a second night, running very low on food but filled with an air of epic-ness.

A real adventure

In the morning of day three, after another cold African night wrapped in a thin blanket, we gathered drift wood to make a raft for our backpacks – not knowing that they actually do float, if you wrap them in a rain cover or wet-pack its content… After a 80m swim through icy mountain water, we scrambled several more hours to finally reach the towering wall of Keerom dam. Form there it was a quick 5km hike on Jeep track to my Granddad’s house.

And then some…

After a week on the farm helping with repairing fences we hit the road to the East for a more civilised hike along the well established Fanie Botha hiking trail.

However the Nuy River Gorge was deeply ingrained in my young soul and so a life changing adventure was born!

Now it’s your turn: http://www.simonskloof.com/kloofing/

Orange Cottage 2.0

Originally built in the 1960’s as a 2-bedroom farm worker’s cottage, Orange Cottage’s classic square shaped foot print, can be found in multitude
Main Bedroom @ Orange Cottage on farms from here to Montagu. Back in 1988 it served as our base when visiting granddad here on Simonskloof. Then in 2004, our 5th year, we turned it into our third guest cottage, after Eric’s Place and our famous Faraway Cottage.

Over the years it saw many minor additions: a wood fired Dover stove, Solar heated water, a reed and hessian ceiling, apricot pips around the braai area, an under-counter fridge – mind you, the latter back fired, literally and before we knew it, it simply over heated, I’m working on the ventilation as I type.

Solar lights replaced the sooty paraffin lamps and yet so romantic candles. But they simply darkened all the walls and together with the falling off of plaster and peeling paint, it started to look more like a shack than a cosy cottage. So, in January 2018 straight after the silly season holidays we tackled a serious make over! Fortunately, we had some much needed helping Bathroom at Orange Cottagehands in form of four young WWOOFers (Volunteers) and by the end of January we were done, including a neat reed screen to add privacy when enjoying a bush bath outside. The hot water for the bath is still on the cards and might just arrive in form of a Fire-Bath workshop – watch this space!

The Kitchen top, as well as the entrance door, received a good sanding down and trimming of the scraping bottom, all sealed with three layers of Woodoc. The double bed (Queen size…) finally “lost” its foot-board, making it more comfortable for taller people. The Geckos, however, proved themselves worthy of new speed records and escaped many attempts at being caught – natural insect solutions can’t be tempered with! Hence, please accept the occasional droppings on the wall.

The cottage looks amazing, we are pretty chuffed! The window frames still need some TLC and so does most of the floor, all in good time.

Braai Area @ Orange Cottage

MTB @ Simonskloof

It’s indeed our best kept secret. The first track was made or shall we say discovered already back in 1999, while exploring Simonskloof on a borrowed good old Avalanche Mountain Bike.
We’ve never made much noise about it, but lately there’s been several enquiries which made me realize that there was absolutely zero info on our website.

So here we go, check our latest page on Simonskloof’s MTB Trails with map and description of our 3 MTB trails from 10 to 40km, two of the three are circular routes, with the most scenic views, through remote valleys and up and down some hectic passes. The 20km track offers single track and even some historic ox wagon trails – the very first access into the Keerom valley.

Make sure you have a ice cold beer in the fridge on your return or carry some cash for a Coke and Biltong at Oupa Batt’se Winkel our local farm store along the route.

Photo credits go to Charles Raymond & Cooperfeesh – Thanks Guys!!!

Happy Feet

…Carless vs Careless

Honey badger at SimonskloofWhen last did you walk down to the corner shop for a loaf of bread, a bottle of something cold, a six-pack, some snacks, or the missing boerewors or mushrooms (vegetarians take note) for the impromptu braai???

Is the memory of driving a couple of blocks or even a section of the highway to reach the nearest shopping mall or even your favorite organic grocer in the suburb next door clearer?

The daily school drops with the kids, before spending Toktokkie at Simonskloofendless time in total static rush hour traffic to get to your even more stationary office desk. Mind the 2-3hours drive it took you to get to Simonskloof, dodging 18 wheelers and speeding minibuses along the way.
Sitting in flu inducing air-conditioning, law obeyingly strapped in by your restrictive seatbelt, while losing your favorite radio station’s signal, the more the city fumes give way to fresh country air and blue skies. Then to top it all “Are we there yet…?” or “I need to wee…” from the kids, while your copilot is scanning a smart phone for directions. Finally, ten dusty, bumpy kilometers are all that separates you from your well-deserved, so looked forward, hard earned weekend break – never mind the much-needed car wash before Monday mornings meeting with a prospective client – but let’s not think about work AGAIN!

Take it Slowly Please at Simonskloof Mountain RetreatSo, here you are opening a creaking farm gate, almost as powerful as Emmerich’s Stargate itself, beaming you into another galaxy, some old, really old car wrecks suggests a different era, one of white walled tires and even oxen, be it to pull the stripped “car-cases” to their final resting place or actually dragging the last wooden wagon on its monthly supply trip to the nearest steam train siding. Friendly road signs warn you about the slow creatures of this planet… no more speeding tickets – mind you, the receptionist might hint on your F1 driving style through the last ditch and gives you the checkered finish flag for first place in your personal car race.

You have arrived! … well almost, just another few Let them hang those car keys hundred meter to drive, depending which cottage you stay but NOW:

  • Hang ‘m up, those car keys!
  • Switch off that I-droid – no signal out here!
  • Light your fire…
  • Open that bottle of your finest or brew that cuppa…
  • Lean back, feet UP…
  • Breathe in the fresh mountain air…
  • and take in the endless landscape!

You get the drift: Carless is King or Queen…!

The next morning, after a good night’s sleep – wondering what happened to the neighbor’s Happy Toad at Simonskloofalarm or the noise from the nearby main road, the ice-cream bell (do you still get them?) and the builders racket from the site around the block.

You realize it’s all gone, does not exist, on hold for the next 36 hours at least!

Time for your morning run or yoga session or straight to breakfast with a slow brewed coffee, un-toasted fresh farm bread*, good – real – natural – honey** free range farm eggs***.

* watch this space for our “Weekend with Bread” treats!
** need some real honey from a happy beekeeper? Ask mom at the Honey Cottage!
*** well the eggs never ranged free, but ours are definitely Mongoose friendly, as he seems to get most of them, hence so far none are for sale – sorry!

Blue headed Rock Agama on Gecko Trail - Simonskloof Mountain Retreat

Sooner or later our hiking trails are calling, the little farm dam needs to be explored, the car wrecks beg closer inspection and summon your creative juices for an amateur photo session. The big old oak tree asks for your tree hugging skills and your ancestral connections, eventually will draw you to search for the rock paintings in the kloof.

All quests start right at your doorstep, the very stoep of each cottage is the base of each of these adventures. Your feet are the pivotal point around which activities on Simonskloof revolve. Here, these most remote of body parts are central to your stay, here they experience happiness, be it barefooted on the Campsite lawn, squishing through the mud of the little farm dam, stepping on sharp little pebbles in the rock pools up in the mountain, soaking up sun rays while you lie in the hammock at Faraway and read your favorite novel, toe wriggling with the water taps while enjoying a bush bath at Orange, tiptoeing across the creaking wooden floor of Eric’s, strapped into your hiking boots while hiking the Gecko trail or while finding your rhythm down a rock wall, abseiling into the gorge and ultimately boulder hopping in your Rockys 14 times across the Nuy River – HAPPY FEET!

Happy Feet even the Ants at SimonskloofYour feet keep you slow paced (except for those Iron-men and ladies…) they pick-up your natural beat, they are your connection to the planet, this side of the Wormhole.

Leave those keys hanging, just like Tom Dooley’s head. Leave your car parked, for the weekend – well of course that is, if you’re not heading for the Saturday Morning market down in Montagu or the Protea Farm’s famous tractor ride to the top of the Langeberg…

Simonskloof offers you that happy feet experience, that connection with mother nature, slow enough to spot the little things of life. “Down to Earth” is our terrestrial pursuit after all and so is our appeal at Simonskloof for the understanding and respect of the land, to walk and not drive while staying here – it’s only a 5 – 10 minute walk between cottages and the perceived trail head – remember all trails start at your cottage!

Owls are watching us as we should watch over natureSee the opportunity for your young kids, to gain a deeper insight of what it means to drive or not to drive, to walk or not to walk, the beauty of an ever so unconditional supportive planet earth, down to the smallest unexpected living thing. Yet in a blink of an eye we’d sit in our metal monster, driving over her little creatures, catching the flying ones with our windscreen. At night a car’s headlights become death traps for most night insects or birds of prey. Instead marvel at the endless night sky with its millions of fairy lights, while taking a safe 10 minute stroll home with the chance to discover a porcupine shuffling in the oaks forest looking for penny bun mushrooms or listening to the frogs chattering in the farm dam.

Keep those keys hanging! We, Simonskloof and mother nature will be thankful.

Next time you need another six-pack… hmmm, consider walking, it will grow with every step!

WWOOF @ Simonskloof

Ever had the urge to hit the road for a Simonskloof pizza nightchange of scenery, needed a break from your everyday 8 to 5 job, do some hard work instead of sifting through 100’s of e-mails and endless Whatsup conversations a day? Wanted to actually eat healthy and breathe clean air? Drink water from a natural stream instead of a PET bottle. Be part of a trail building team and come home physically tried but happy. Sleep with seeing the stars above and shower with a scent of fynbos in the air not from an Airfresh can… Meet the chicken you just had an omelette from or water the herbs and veggies you’re about to have for lunch?
WWOOFers on veranda roof 2Than WWOOFing might just be what your doctor ordered, to get you back on track and experience life, how it was meant to be: Natural, sustainable and truly rewarding!

17 years, since mid-1999, We’ve been living off-grid out here in the mountains near Montagu. At first all by myself and two border collies, turning the old farm house into a guest house, serving guest mouth-watering trout, or beef fillet from an open fire, potbread and homemade jam from organic apricots and freshly ground coffee… Whenever the work load got too much, help came from friends and volunteering people, weeks and even months at a time. Then in 2004 we joint WWOOF Independent and opened up to more real life seeking humans from all over the world. We’ve been going strong ever since and enjoyed a great exchange of culture and ideas as well as valuable help and expertise.

Americans Iyla, Nick and me

But what is WWOOF for you may ask?

WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an international organisation – see also www.wwoof.org . The movement started in England the 70’s as Working Weekends On Organic Farms, giving organic farmer a much-needed helping hand to be competitive with conventional production. Today WWOOFing focuses more and more on cultural exchange while volunteering on farms with an organic approach to life and production. It’s an exchange of your help for Food and Accommodation. In short it’s about experiencing and taking part in everyday farm life, to its fullest and NOT just a HOLIDAY on a farm! Duration is around 1 month up to 6 month, all year round.

Fixing the catchment

What help is needed?

WWOOF work here at Simonskloof ranges from heavy stuff like: Fieldwork, building or renovation of a guest cottage, hiking trail maintenance and stacking wood, to light work as: Cleaning of guest cottages, helping in the kitchen and our permaculture garden. Where possible we all work together in a team, however WWOOFers should to be able to work on their own and be comfortable with the remoteness of the farm and the lack of connectivity. Working hours are 6 hours per day 5-6 days a week, so there’s time for you to meditate, read, study and explore the farm.

Are YOU suited?

Painter DJ Magdalena from Switzerland

YES, if you outdoorsy, willing to do physical work and are open minded – having practical experience is a bonus. Mostly we eat vegetarian meal these days, all help with the preparation and eat together. WWOOF accommodation is a caravan or the safari tent, depending on availability. We take between 1-4 WWOOFers at one time, so far they have come from all over the globe:

Ignathio from Spain working on the Gecko Trail

Australia, Scotland, UK, France, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, USA, also from South African, Taiwan and Liechtenstein. But please keep in mind, if you are looking for a job, cheap accommodation, or a holiday on a farm then WWOOFing is not for you!

What do I bring?

WWOOF caravan

Plenty of enthusiasm to work and learn! Standard backpacking gear e.g. Backpack (for working on the trails) Sleeping bag, hiking boots, some light shoes too, an overall or other working clothes, sun protection, cool and warm clothing. Temperatures in summer days can reach +42° and in winter nights drop down to -5°. And of course you’ll need a valid tourism visa if you are not from South Africa, appropriate travel and health insurance, as well as enough pocket money for your personal little luxuries.

So, what are you waiting for?
Like to see More Images? Please visit our picture gallery.
Like to WWOOF? Call us or e-mail us! Last minute help is always welcome!


18m… 12m… 5m… more to the South, no… a step to the West. Yes… there, that must be it, under those rocks!!! YES, GOT it!!!

Twin Peak geocacheThis is pretty much how it feels for some 3 million people around the world every weekend, off day or whenever they have a free minute to head out into the woods, hills, malls – yes, even the malls.

Armed with a GPS (Global Positioning System device) or a mobile app and a Waypoint downloaded from the internet, they are poisoned to find a little box, as small as the dice, but more often the size of a 35mm firm container or a lunch box sized Tupperware container containing a logbook and sometime even some additional items for swopping. These boxes called Geocaches with names like Under Pressure 2, Disconnected, or A bridge too Far, are hidden in the most unusual places, under park benches, in trees, on mountain tops, or in private post-boxes or under garden gnomes or rock piles.

Locomotive geocacheCurrently there are over 2,5million caches hidden in 180 countries all over the whole world, 12’000 alone in SA, ~40 in and around Montagu. The game is called Geocaching and started in 2000 with the opening of the American GPS satellite system to the general public.

The first geocaches were simple sturdy ammo-boxes and over the years people downsized them to tiny containers called NANO caches, suitable to be hidden in heavy traffic areas like shopping malls, restaurants or bus and train stations. Other caches were so big they needed no log book, but a confirming photograph of the Geocacher in front of the object like a geological formation and then called EARTH cache. These caches are often very educational, as are those placed at historical monuments or plaques. Did you know for instance that Montagu has at least 5 Boer war forts and where they are – Geocachers know! The caches are placed by the players themselves under strict rules, with great respect to the environment and permission of the landowners.Geo Coin at Twin Peak sm

Sometime you might even find a GeoCoin (see above) or a Travelling Bug (TB) in the cache, those are traceable items which players released into the game to travel the world, some time with a dedicated mission like: Visit mountain summit caches all over Travel Bug - Geise Glöggli - The Bellthe world, YES even Mt.Everest has a cache right on top, called: “Earth’s Roof – Mount Everest Peak”. Our personal Geocoin made it all the way to the Ramat Razi’el in the Judean Mountains before getting lost back in 2011… another TB called “s’ Geise Glöggli – The Bell” travelled 37334.5km so far and is currently in North Carolina.

The 16th of August is International Geocaching Day, for more info on this awesome treasure hunt visit Geocaching.com In their own words: “People geocache because it’s a way to explore the world around them with friends and family and because it’s fun. Geocaching is a free game that reveals a world beyond the everyday.”

Geocache Rebirth of a RiverSO, if you love to spend a whole weekend geocaching and never step into your car, head for Simonskloof, we currently have 10 caches within our boundaries and another 8 within easy reach.

Back on 1895

After more than a year of struggling with cable theft, hence loosing our Telkom number to an odd sounding 0230040459 VoIP number, we’ve claimed it back TODAY, and kissed Telkom good bye for good!!! And it is even more funny looking at our last phone bill that shows R125.29 in credit… THEY owe us! So on that happy note, please note our new/old number again:back to 023 614 1895

But should you by accident dial the old/new number, a friendly lady will pick up hoping you’d like to buy a jar or two of her NATURAL honey. That’s my mom, living across the valley who since today has her own phone and connection to the world.

So be it rest full accommodation or healing honey, we’re back on line!

For those of you outside South Africa, just add +27 and leave the first 0 away and just to give you the full info on the number: 023 stands for the Langeberg Municipality area and 614 is the village of Montagu, yet the new law allows you to have your number transferred to any telecommunication provider of your choice. But most of all 1895 is us!

On the Rim of Africa

Rim of Africa Sunrise at Waterfall Peak campNice when a long held dream finally comes true. Since around 2001 I’ve had this vision of creating a hiking trail from Simonskloof to Montagu and eventually connecting with Swellendam. I started with the first section from Nuy Valley to Simonskloof in 2003 and after several rebuilds due to fires and floods, added Simonskoof-Langdam in 2010.

This year I was asked to join an even bigger vision: The Rim of Africa, a 650km mountain passage from Pakhuis pass in the northern Cederberg via the Hex River mountain and the Langeberg all the way to the Outeniqua mountains in the East – not just as part of the trail, but to guide participants along the Rim on stage 5, from the Hex River Valley via Simonskloof to Montagu.

On the 16th October I joined my group of mountain hikers, local and from overseas, at Die Tolhuis outside Ceres heading for Milner peak over into the Hex River valley. However, due to bad weather conditions, snow prediction and zero visibility on Milner, we had to transfer on day 4 to Nuy Valley and hiked the Gecko Trail as a welcome alternative, including its adventurous 14 river crossings and a final scramble up the boulderous Cobra ravine.

For the following two days it rained, so we stuck it out at Simonskloof (lucky me) getting ready for the next four days to Montagu. Monday the 22nd full backpacks were hoisted and in good spirit we headed for Arangieskop. There the hut and its fireplace kept us nicely sheltered from the 4° outside while we dried our boots and feasted on freeze dried Moroccan lamb with couscous. The following day saw us descend along the hiking trail, by-passing the dangerously steep Vensterbank and re-join the ridge by the evening. That night we slept in our tents with a howling south wind plucking on the guylines.

Rim of Africa hikers at the SwooshDay 9 started in thick mist but by the time we reached Olifantskop it had cleared and we were blessed with a vista better to none and in true Rim style we scrambled along the very top of the ridge to our camp at Waterfallkop, much better sheltered then the night before.

Our last morning on top of the Langeberg was greeted by a perfect glowing red sunrise, dry flysheets and a good coffee made from water we had collected out of rock puddles.The journey continued past the trig beacon, then down the “Swoosh” were we finally found fresh spring water again, hence it was time for a much deserved tea break. One “last” climb back up to the ridge and by lunch time we had reached Bloupunt, overlooking Montagu.

Rim of Africa hikers at ArangieskopWe descended on the established hiking trail with some sever flood damage and overgrowth shortly before the Klipspringer Cabins. Here Lola, Pete and Galeo welcomed us with ice cold beers and a mean lekker lamb and waterblommetjies potjie. A restful night followed and the next morning we walked out back into civilisation but our hearts remained on the mountains…

If you are interested in “walking” the Rim of Africa visit their website.
In 2013 another 3 stages will be added, finishing at the Outeniqua mountains.

You owe it to yourself AND to the mountain!

For more images of stage 4 & 5 visit our Facebook page.