Sometimes you don't just need an escape from your work, the people around you or your city.
Sometimes you need to escape yourself, and get just a little lost in the oblivion of isolation.
Nature is the perfect balm for when you want to retreat into yourself, and despite its ominous name, a road trip to Die Hel in Swartberg Nature Reserve is just what the universe ordered.
SEE: SA Road Trips Mapped: Highlights of the Karoo Highlands Route
My parents have been there twice, and they always regaled me of the horror that is the road down to the valley where once a community of Dutch Settlers lived in isolation for over a hundred years. With this in mind, when I was invited by Jared in CPT to take on this treacherous road I steeled myself for what was going to be a rough ride - but it's well worth it (and in a million rand 4x4 you're basically floating the whole way).
After crossing the Swartberg Pass, you'll see a sign pointing towards Gamkaskloof, plastered with the stickers of previous travellers who lost themselves to the seduction of Gamkaskloof.
The deeper you drive into the mountains, the more awe-struck you become. It was springtime, and patches of snow were still visible from a recent snowfall, but it was clear the fynbos was thriving with the extra water. Besides the stunning vistas of gorges and golden-hued mountains, the biodiversity is another mind-blowing experience. As you travel, the scenery changes from shrubs to proteas to spekboom forests to a variety of succulents that will make a flat-living Capetonian's heart burst.
When we finally reached the bottom of the valley, a higher being decided to spill out the world's gold onto the mountains around us. We stayed in one of the renovated homes of the bygone community, who eventually left barring one family after a road was eventually built in the 60s.
The houses are named after the families that used to live in them, and our predecessor was Koot Kordier. Each equipped with their own splash pool to stave off the horrendous heat of summer, our house felt like it seriously had the best views out of all of them, making the longish trip to the outside toilet totally worth it. There's no signal, but this is more a blessing than a curse, even if you struggle with automatically checking your Facebook without thinking.
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At the main office you'll find out more about the history of the region, which is worth a read, and you'll also get more information on the variety of hiking trails in the area.
We took on Koningsgat - a short 40-minute walk with few inclines to a cold pool, perfect for dips when it's a few degrees warmer.
At night, the millions of stars take over from the sun's duty of astounding you with beauty, and you realise suddenly that you have completely forgotten about yourself, and your soul feels content.
For more technical details on Gamkaskloof, read here.
*Disclaimer: Gabi Zietsman from Traveller24 was hosted on this trip by CapeNature and the vehicle was sponsored by Land Rover Cape Town.
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