The Vier-en-twintig River, noisily surging through shadowy ravines and cascading into a deep, cool basin, enchants visitors to Die Hel Valley - one of the most beautiful areas in the 19 200 ha Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area (part of the greater 30 600 ha Groot Winterhoek Conservation Area).
The beauty of the area is breathtaking - the diversity of the mountain fynbos is so great that locals say there is a different species in bloom every day of the year.
Birdlife is prolific and includes raptors such as the peregrine falcon, rock kestrel and jackal buzzard. Among the smaller birds are Victorin's warbler, the protea canary and the Cape sugarbird.
The rock formations consist of Table Mountain sandstone, and caves are decorated with Bushman (San) art dating back between 300 and 6 000 years. The wildemess area is reached via the Dasklip Pass above Porterville.
Groot Winterhoek offers hikes of varying length and difficulty. Laid out in two zones - Kliphuis and Perdevlei in the east, and De Tronk and Die Hel in the south, the hikes penetrate the wildemess, winding below the rock formations so typical of the area and passing tempting rock pools.
Although summers are dry and hot, the temperature often drops to far below freezing point in winter, when heavy snowfalls are common on the prominent Groot and Kleinwinterhoek peaks.
Rooms:Veepos Guest House
This spacious self-catering family house lies in the mountains near the entrance to the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area, and provides wide-angle views of the Winterberg.
It has electricity, hot water, a bath and a shower. The three-bedroomed house has two single beds in each room. The kitchen is fully equipped with crockery and cutlery, as well as a microwave, stove and fridge.
There is no television or cellphone reception.
Bathroom: Warm/cold water; baths and shower
Linen supplied: Yes
Swimming: In nearby river pools
Firewood provided: Yes
Braai facilities: Yes, at the back of the house in the shade of an old oak.
Shop on site: No Huts
There are primitive shelters at Perdevlei, a comfortable farmhouse at De Tronk or simple huts at De Tronk. Hikers may use these, or choose to overnight anywhere in the veld.
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