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in South Africa.
This is a 13 km circular trail, taking 1 day to complete. There is a renovated sandstone school building sleeping 8, with mattresses, a woodstove (which also provides hot water for showers), cold water and a bush toilet.
A cave with Bushman paintings can be viewed by arrangement, also weathered sandstone formations. The trail can be booked for a maximum of 8 people. Hikers must carry their own water.
During the Anglo-Boer War a group of local women and children hid from the English soldiers in a cave. It is not known exactly how long they were there; some people say 8 days and others 3 weeks.
Their presence went undetected by the nearby soldiers until, on Christmas morning, the women lit a fire to make a warming cup of coffee. The soldiers noticed the smoke and the group was discovered and taken prisoner. The cave has been known as Christmaskrans ever since, and this walk will take you to it.
The trail is in the 12 000-ha Banke Conservancy, located 18 km from Marquard. From base camp the route, shown with black and white footprint markers, leads to the top of a koppie and follows a ridge, giving good views out over Sparta, a huge cattle feedlot. Descending, the path traces an old ox-wagon route until it passes the Kareefontein household spring.
From here you have a lovely view out over the gum trees to Christmaskrans farm. Keeping on this route you soon reach the 'Christmaskrans' and can stop to ponder the history that gave the cave its name.
Follow the trail down below the ridge and past a freshwater spring and Eensaamheid farmhouse. From here you can enjoy superb views to the eastern mountains. From here, you can visit the nearby Bushman paintings, if you have made advance arrangements. The final stretches of the route are past cultivated fields of maize or wheat.
As this is not a very strenuous trail and one that is suitable for families, there is plenty of time to look out for some of the mammals that make their home in the area, including impala, zebra, gemsbok and black and brown springbok.
An extended 2-day trail with facilities for overnighting is being planned.