Some time ago we were planning on going to Prince Alfred’s Hamlet near Ceres. It never happened. But in my preparations I discovered a hiking trail maintained by the local Primary School – Christie Prins Hiking Trail. This weekend we did go to Prince Alfred’s Hamlet for an excellent weekend and experience. And the Christie Prins Trail was on the To-Do List.
At the Togryers Museum in Ceres I learn who Christie Prins was. A man appointed to control varmints, but a nature lover with extensive knowledge about the environment. A man who worked hard to repair the damage done to the Fynbos by Eskom when they trekked up the Gydo Pass. I assume the trail is along part of this area.
When leaving Port Alfred’s Hamlet you travel up the Gydo Pass towards Oppiberg. On the right is the Koelfontein Farm Stall, At Source. About 100m further you will see the sign to the left: Christie Prins. Park here, study the information board and notice that you need hiking fitness. You can get a map and info at Togryers Museum, or you can download the map on the board here. Or use the GPS track at the bottom!
There is a space where you can climb through the fence, so do not climb over the fence (my Dad always had serious problems with fence climbers and I have a few scars after fence climbing went wrong). The trail goes over the dam. Before you turn left, there is another info board telling you more about the geology and fynbos. The trail is marked by conical blocks with footprints and rock cairns. Some places is fairly rocky, then the trail is not very clear on the ground, but the cairns will lead you.
We lost the trail at the pipe, early on. As you cross the pipe with the valley on the left, keep right. Lookout for the footprints higher up to the right. There are a number of trails here and it is easy to take the wrong one. You just follow the trail up the ridge, up and up. Uphill (remember the warning about hiking fitness?) When we came to the bridge over the ditch (taking water from the mountain to the dam) I took off my boots and walked both ways in the water. It was a hot day and the cold water was refreshing. But it was also about seeing what is to be seen! That is the spot marked on the Map as “Fresh Water.”
Uphill again to a jeep track. If you are tired, go right to the parking area. We continue uphill. The valley on the left is beautiful with a waterfall clearly audible, but not visible. And in the deepest part you look down on a forest that just beckons. But it far below you and not on the trail. So there is only one way – up. The view over the Ceres Valley is astounding. Every now and then you see the Gydo Pass. Finally you come to a T-junction. left is to the swimming hole. Naturally we go there. The water is so clear, I think the river is dry! After lunch I skinny dip. A brave effort and afterwards I speak falsetto!
This is where I take the photo of the Snotrosie that caught the moth. At this point you are very close to the top of Gydo Pass. But the only sound is the birds and the water gurgling over the rocks. This is why I hike. Where else can you get peace and quiet like this?
Unfortunately you can’t stay at the mountain tops, so we start back. On the downward part I pick up litter. Up to the T-junction there were no litter at all. No tissues or sweet papers. Nothing. Then suddenly there is a Boxer bag, empty plastic bottles, biscuit wrappers. Could it be people throwing it down from the pass? The wind blowing it? The trail is really very well maintained and a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the people working on it.
Going down had two extra special moments:
The first is that you walk on the old Bain Pass – you can actually see the typical Bain stonework in some places. Bain and Son are two of my heroes. Unless you have lots of time, don’t get me talking about them!
The second is a Poplar forest. When you drive up Gydo Pass there is a sharp bend. You drive through a Poplar forest. If the window is turned down, it is always cool here. To me it is one of the prettiest scenes ever. I never pass here without feeling some joy and excitement. Today I look down on this wonder. Sadly, it is a very small forest. But when we drive here in the car the next day, I enjoy it even more!
According to the GPS the trail is 8.5km. It took us just under 4 hours of very leisurely hiking (including a relaxed lunch.)
I would love to do this again in springtime.