Fernkloof is an exquisite nature reserve in Hermanus that offers awesome hiking opportunities, splendid views, and an array of fynbos. One of the minor peaks, Galpinkop, at 596m, boasts incredible views of the Hemel en Aarde Valley, Babylonstoren mountain range and the whole of Hermanus and Walker Bay. The Hermanus Botanical Society built and maintains Galpin Hut, a small structure at the summit for overnight visitors and members.
Simply call to make a booking, collect the key at the Fernkloof Nursey, and park near the Visitor’s Centre before you begin your moderate two-hour hike. The well-marked orange route zigzags up ‘Adder Ladder’ and through an indigenous forest patch, Boekenhoutbos. When you hit the jeep track, look for the path marked Galpin Hut, and you’re A-for-away. The route is considered safe, but always be cautious and hike in a group.
The humble hut features two bunk beds with mattresses. Bring sheets, pillows and bedding to make yourself comfortable. You may or may not find a table, random utensils, and perhaps some beer bottles plugged with candles. Put your own camp kitchen supplies to good use and test your creativity and camp cooking skills. Fires are not permitted, but you may bring a gas stove. There will likely be rain water that you can drink in a tank. A chemical toilet, called ‘Loo with a view’ provides a unique opportunity when nature calls.
While the facilities are basic, the hut is a real treasure and the experience is all about the adventure. Climb to the top of the peak for sundowners and scenery; the vistas provide a stunning backdrop for some epic photos. Don’t forget to page through and leave your mark in the guestbook.
From September to November every year, Southern Right Whales migrate to Walker Bay to mate and calve. With spectacular views over Walker Bay, you stand a good chance of spotting whales from Galpinkop, and if you sleep over and are lucky, you might wake up to the sound of whale song.
Flower lovers are in for a treat; Galpinkop is home to some rare as well as endemic plant species. The sticky red and white tubular erica, Erica aristata, called the ‘Pride of Hermanus’, usually grows high on Galpinkop, along with with the yellow Erica galpinii.
The surrounding area burnt just before Christmas 2015, for the first time in many years, so the landscape is rather interesting and might appeal to a keen botanist searching for post-fire growth. The area should be green again by around July 2016.
Galpin Hut is an absolute gem and an excellent opportunity to get in touch with nature.
Where Fernkloof Nature Reserve, Fir Road, Fernkloof, Hermanus
Cost R200 per night
Contact +27 28 312 3011, +27 28 313 0819
Photography courtesy Gary Peiser