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in South Africa.
This is a 50 km circular trail and will take 3 days to complete. Attractions include extensive indigenous forests and limited pine plantations.
The trail starts at De Hoek Forest Station which is situated approximately 22 km from Tzaneen. The forest can be reached via the national road from Polokwane (Pietersburg). Approximately 70 km from Pietersburg, turn left to the Debegeni waterfall, and follow the gravel road for 7 km to the Grootbosch-Dokolewa hut and De Hoek Forest Station.
The first day of the trail follows the same route as the Dokolewa Section for 10 km. After the 10-km mark the route splits and the Grootbosch Section essentially begins here. The route follows the existing forest track for 5 km through the indigenous forest past the 'huilklip', an extraordinary natural rock which 'gongs' when hit with a stone.
Shortly before the overnight site the route crosses three mountain streams in the indigenous forest. From the last river at the 18-km mark, there is a climb of 300 m to the overnight site at Grootbosch lapa (water must be carried from here to the site).
The second day takes hikers from Grootbosch lapa to the Berg-en-Dal lapa. Within the first hour hikers encounter the remains of an ancient Outeniqua yellow wood tree which blew over in a storm in 1982. It was 31 m high and nearly 7 m in circumference.
After walking through the dense evergreen indigenous forest for a few kilometres, hikers are presented with a magnificent view over the lowveld, the Fanie Botha Dam in the distance to the east, and the lovely Mooketsi Valley.
At the 3,5-km mark the route takes a turn in a southerly direction and remains largely within the forest, meandering along numerous streams and traversing the Grootbosch Nature Reserve. The last Stearns is passed approximately 500 m from the overnight stop, and once again hikers must carry water to the lapa.
The final day of the hike takes hikers past one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Grootbosch - really a spectacularly long series of falls and rapids with pools and cascades, followed by a very steep 3-kn1 climb. The route then passes streams, waterfalls, forest and plantation.
The trail leaves the forest rather abruptly after 1km, and a panoramic view over De Hoek State Forest unfolds. The final 3 kn1 comprise an easy stroll through plantations back to the end point and Grootbosch-Dokolewa hut.
A number of mammals such as samango monkeys, bushbuck and bush pig as well as seventy species of birds reside in the Grootbosch forest. Sunlight is rare on this trail as you seldom get the chance to see out of the tree canopy of the largest forest in the Limpopo; hiking here in winter is not recommended. The best times to hike are from September to November and March to April.
Permits must be obtained from the Department of Forestry, Private Bag 2413, Louis Trichardt 0920. A map and brochure is available on request.
Accommodation includes the Grootbosch-Dokolewa base hut, equipped with hot and cold water, gas stove, pots, pans, flush toilet and showers; Grootbosch lapa, a rustic shelter which can accommodate 8 people (sufficient space is available for tents) and Berg-n-Dal lapa which accommodates 12 hikers; both lapas have a toilet, braai area and firewood.
There is no water at either lapa; you will have to carry water from marked streams to the lapa.
Ticks are prevalent, and only extremely fit hikers should attempt this strenuous trail.