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THE ROOIHAAS HIKING TRAIL
VREDEFORT DOME
The Rooihaas Trail - Vredefort Dome
Submitted by: Leon Bekker

Some 20 km. from the rather restful town of Potchefstroom one finds a quiet valley born from a violent past. Here the local people still leave doors un-locked because the violence which shaped the area happened millions of years ago. The only evidence one finds today is the geological features which, most geologists believe, resulted from an impact when a meteorite collided with the earth.

 

The Dome Trails Conservation Group, formed by the community which lives in the Vredefort dome has created a network of hiking trails, mountain bike trails and, for those who are prepared to mix water with their hiking, a "boot and paddle adventure" in and on the banks of the Vaal River. One of these is the Rooihaas Hiking Trail, named after Smith's Red Rock Rabbit Pronolagus rupestris which occurs in the rocky areas in the hills.

 

One has a choice of accommodation where one can spend the night before one tackle the 16 km. first leg of the trail. The base camp consists of a few historic buildings at the old mining town of Venterskroon - built during the last few years of the previous century. The various buildings can accommodate up to 115 people and provide electricity, fridges and electric cooking facilities which make for clean and comfortable hiking accommodation. Solly, the man on duty at the base camp deserves a mention for the friendly and enthusiastic reception which he provides whenever another party arrives. For those who prefer better accommodation than the communal sleeping halls of the base camps, there are self catering chalets at Thabela Thabeng on the farm Buffelspoort, the farm from where the Rooihaas starts.

 

The Rooihaas hiking trail is introduced to the new hiker in an informative talk by the obviously keen owner of Buffelskloof, Mr. Johannes van der Merwe. The fist hour is spent on the banks of the Vaal River in a riverine forest. The hiker has the opportunity to spot the water birds that live and feed on the mud banks and in the reeds next to the river. Soon the path leaves the river to climb up the rocky hills following the course of a stream which provides interesting scenery and easy access to the higher plains where most of the day is spent amongst the Sweet thorn (Acacia karoo), Buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata), Wild olive (Olea europaea) and Mountain karree (Rhus leptodictya) trees. From the higher plains one is rewarded with views of the surrounding country side. An interesting feature of the Rooihaas trail is the fact that the hiker is, to some extent, left to decide what he or she wants experience. Several optional loops from the main path may provide adventure (along the steeper Rock Rabbit Roundabout which includes a climb along the devil's chimney), an opportunity to walk in an indigenous dry forest (along the Rooidonga forest) or interesting geology (along the Gold Bush trail). All these extensions may lengthen the first day to a formidable 25 km.

 

After a long day one arrives at the overnight stop at either the traditional Bundu Camp or the Boplaas Mountain Hut. We slept at the Bundu Camp which consists of several traditional "mud" huts (with dung floors), built in the ruins of an ancient, partially renovated, stone kraal. Each hut has its own braai area and there is a well equipped communal kitchen. A two-plate gas stove and a gas geyser provide luxury rarely enjoyed by hikers. The high setting provides the hiker with a view of the surrounding area - and lights of far-away towns on the horizon. We were welcomed by the owner of the farm on which both overnight camps are situated, Mr Pierre Pienaar. He took us down to the Boplaas Mountain Hut where we could enjoy a refreshing swim in the clean, blue swimming pool which is a popular facility for those who stay at this camp on a hot summer day. Many of the trees in this camp are marked and Mr Pienaar discussed the names of the many interesting trees and bushes in the area with enthusiasm. I will never forget the insignificant little "Transvaal Curry Bush" which, as was pointed out by Mr Pienaar, would fool the most ardent curry enthusiast with a smell which, to my uneducated nose, cannot be distinguished from the real, hot mixture of spiced loved by the Indian People.

 

The next day is a relatively short 7 km. spent on the ridges dotted with the stone ruins of settlements of black people who lived in this area for centuries - some suggest as early as 500 AD. Their ash heaps, still largely unexamined, provide a treasure trove of relics, ancient tools and clues to the way of life of the people of these early settlements. Judging by the size of the area on which the settlements occur a considerable number of people must have lived here.

 

A different kind of history, of more recent origin, awaits the hiker at the end of the trail. The house where Totius lived during the time when he, ans others, translated the Bible into Afrikaans has been converted into an interesting and very sparse little museum - with photographs and examples of the books he used. From here transport back to the starting point is provided (at a small fee).

 

One can hardly ask for more, being a hiker who lives in one of the big cities of Gauteng. Variation, interesting features, beautiful natural features, a quiet restful, atmosphere and friendly people - all within two hours easy drive from either Johannesburg or Pretoria.

 
Leon Bekkercatspaw@mweb.co.za
 
Bookings and enquiries: Dome Trails/Koepelroetes
Tel: + 27 (0)18 294-8572
Fax: + 27 (0)18 297-7976
 
For more information on hiking in this area visit the Linx Africa Trails page at:
www.linx.co.za/trails/lists/nw25list.html

 
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Date of entry: 1 July 1996
Updated: 2 January 2004