Schaapplaats Bushman Paintings and Mountain Walk

Clarens Schaapplaats Hiking Trail schaap-goats Clarens Hiking Schaapplaats Trail and Busman paintings

 

I can’t think of a better way to start the day than taking an early morning walk to the cave at Schaapplaats.  But before you go – remember to phone Christine Walwyn on (058) 256 1176 or 083 630 3713 to warn her that you are coming. Schaapplaats is, after all, a working stud farm, and so it’s very important that the workers keep certain gates locked and that everyone knows exactly who is where on the farm. There is also an entrance fee of R50 which goes towards the upkeep of the trail and the safeguarding of the Bushman paintings. To get to Schaapplaats from Clarens, turn left onto the Golden Gate Road as you exit the town, and then right (about 100m down the road) onto the Fouriesburg Road. (R711)  Travel for 1.3km and then turn left on the S1028.  Schaapplaats is 6km from the turnoff. (You will however need to travel slowly as the tar ends after about 2 kms.) Drive slowly and keep a look out for Christine’s mohair goats – which are often obliging enough to pose for the camera.  You’ll also be driving past paddocks of beautiful Connemara ponies. (Ashgar stud is well-known for its quality horses.)

There is a clearly marked shady parking area at the beginning of the trail. Leave your car here and proceed on foot. You need to cross a small stream near the beginning of the trail, after which you turn right to follow the stream as it meanders through a poplar grove. (Be sure to stop here to listen to the soothing sound of the water and  rustling of leaves – punctuated only by the call of the Piet-my-vrou, during summer.)

Still hugging the stream bank, you then start a gentle climb. Take your swimming costume with you if it’s a hot day, as there are some very pretty pools where you could take a dip in the gin-clear mountain water. (I never take water with me on this hike – preferring to drink the water straight out of the stream!)

Rock art  Schaapplaats Hiking Trail Rock art on Schaapplaats Hiking Trail Clarens Rock art on Schaapplaats Hiking Trail Clarens

 

As you enter the cave, the first thing you notice is the rather ugly barbed-wire fencing which runs across the front of the cave. It’s unfortunate that this fence has had to erected to protect the rock art – but you will soon understand its necessity when you notice traces of graffiti here and there, and a rather ugly gouge in the rock where someone has actually tried to steal one of the paintings. No matter, just let you eyes adjust, and focus on the wonderful bushman art, and the spirituality of this very special place. You’ll find that the paintings are quite difficult to photograph – but I managed to capture a few images by focusing my camera on a dark area first.  There are however some very good photographs – and some very useful information on the paintings on the Ashgar Horses website: http://ashgarhorses.co.za/6.Rock_Art.htm   Before you leave the cave go to the corner on the far right and put your hand through the barbed wire  – you’ll be able to touch a dinosaur – ok – not a real one – just a dinosaur footprint.    If you’re a farm child you won’t be able to resist trying to fish out one of the little antlions that have made their traps in the sandy cave floor. (If you’re a city child – be sure take a farm child with you to show you how to do this.) (By the way there is an amazing clip on you tube about antlions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWkfAyfBDHE) The walk (there and back) 2.7km and takes just over an hour (depending on how much time you spend in the cave.)

Photos and story Toni Walters