The Krom River hiking trail, situated in the Limietberg nature reserve, is one that we completed many times before we had kids. It is a wonderful hike that takes you along a beautiful stretch of river, culminating in two impressive rock pools, the last of which is simply incredible, with its cascading waterfall and . The fact that you are almost constantly walking along crystal clear, cool drinking water is of real benefit, especially in the hot summer months. Fair portions of the hike are in shade, especially in the earlier part of the day, but the stretches in-between can be very hot. Fortunately, you are at liberty to take a dip and cool off whenever you like. Furthermore, the water is drinking quality meaning you don’t need to lug around unnecessary weight, which is especially useful when you have a 17kg toddler dangling off your back.
As is tradition when leaving the house with 3 children we packed what seemed like the sum-total of our household contents into the car and set off to the trail head. From Cape Town it takes just about an hour to get to the parking lot from central Cape Town. Google Maps has the start point as: ‘Krom River and Elands River Hiking Trail Start, Paarl’ – so set it on your GPS. Getting into the parking lot can be a bit tricky as it is along a busy highway and, depending on whether you go through the tunnel or via the alternative route, you may have to perform some questionable driving manoeuvres.
On this hike we were joined by Grandpa, which was great because having an extra hand when you are outnumbered by your children on a hike is always welcome. We packed Jude and Seth into their carriers, gave Emma a motivational talk (as she is the only ‘walker’ among the kids), applied sunblock and set off from the parking lot. It was hot already at 07h30 when we started, with the maximum set to reach into the mid-thirties. A long, hot day lay ahead but we were cheery and optimistic that we would make it there and back without too many near death experiences or hell-fire tantrums.
On the latter, we were quite deluded apparently.
It all went a bit bottoms-up when Emma tragically stepped into a shallow bit of river water when performing one of the many, relatively simple, river crossings.
It all went a bit bottoms-up when Emma tragically stepped into a shallow bit of river water when performing one of the many, relatively simple, river crossings. Naturally this was devastating and all proceedings had to be ground to a halt while we dealt with this injustice. The only solution, seeing as our plea of ‘just carry on walking, your shoe will dry out soon sweetie pie’ was quickly dismissed, was to take Jude’s shoes off and give them to Emma. He didn’t really need them because he was in a carrier anyway. This however was the next revolution of the snowball and he didn’t take too kindly to the removal of his shoes. Emma, now gladly skipping along the rocks while Jude wailed, struggling to come to terms with the abrupt removal of his oh-so essential footwear.
The format of the hike is generally as follows: Walk along the river, mostly on fairly uneven rocky terrain, cross over from time to time – stepping across boulders to get to the other side, carry on along the river some more, etc. It is beautiful, the sound of the river is enchanting and the reward when you reach your destination is fantastic. After the shoe incident we carried on going, stopping occasionally to rest in some shade or to have a 10 minutes swim in one of the smaller rock pools along the way. There are several portions of the hike where you gain some elevation, with some sharp drop-off’s to the one side, so be sure to keep an eye on the little ones as they walk.
Before you arrive at the first big rock pool and waterfall you are treated with some wonderful indigenous forest, offering a great deal of shade and an interesting change of scenery. At this pool is where things start to get tricky with kids. There are several chains running up some 2 to 3 meter high rock terraces which need to be carefully navigated. We debated for a while whether to give it a go and in the end decided to try it. Fortunately all went well and we made it up the face and carried on walking to the main rock pool and waterfall.
The kids were in a pretty good mood, with Emma having the occasional melt-down when the heat got too much, or when she knocked a knee on one of the rocks, or when a butterfly looked at her in the wrong way. I think that as a 4 year old you really do live in the ‘now’ and one moment you LOVE hiking and the bounties of nature, and the next moment you curse your parents for so much as thinking about exposing you to the horrors of outdoor adventure.
We arrived at the main rock pool at the top of the trail, took in the magnificent view of the waterfall and settled in for some lunch. The kids enjoyed some hot dogs and had a few long swims, but be warned that the water in this particular pool is very cold! There is so much to do at this pool apart from just resting and relaxing. Tadpole catching was a favourite with the kids and we managed to grab some big ones. There is also a high rock jump for the thrill-seeker. This is not for the little ones at around 7 to 8 meters in height.
…as a 4 year old you really do live in the ‘now’ and one moment you LOVE hiking and the bounties of nature, and the next moment you curse your parents for so much as thinking about exposing you to the horrors of outdoor adventure.
After the legs had been rested, stomachs were filled and tadpoles were caught, we headed back in the same direction we came from for the return leg of the trail. The chained terraces, while achievable if you are careful, were challenging on the way down. The heat of the day had really set in by this point and the kids were hot and not in the best frame of mind. Fortunately, with plenty water to drink all the time, good sunblock and hats were able to keep them from burning or dehydrating. Several tantrums ensued, but we made steady progress. At one point I commented on how flat the next little part of the trail was and Emma, taking this very literally, marched right over a rock step about 30 meters ahead. She made sure I was aware of her disapproval of my misguiding statement with a few ‘totally over it’ words in my direction.
We ambled back to a point quite close to the parking lot where another rock pool invites you for one last swim. The water here is much warmer by this time of the day making it a real treat for the hot and tired hiker and their gaggle of disgruntled young. We were disappointed by the apparent disrespect shown by the people making use of this rock pool though. The amount of litter was shocking, with plastic bags nonchalantly tossed into the river, used diapers lying around and broken glass lying in wait for your children’s bare feet. This is the most accessible portion of the reserve, being a mere 10 minute walk from the parking lot, so it goes without saying that this naturally where most people will congregate if they are not in it for a day hike while enjoying what nature has to offer.
It was a great hike, full of many unforgettable memories, but we were shattered.
After we all cooled off we made our way back to the car, spent what seemed like an eternity packing everyone in, and made our way home. Lisa and I sat down after the kids went to bed and both commented on how utterly exhausted we were. It was a great hike, full of many unforgettable memories, but we were shattered. We have done numerous hikes as a family with three kids, but this topped all that for sure.
But would we do it again? Yes, of course! As with many challenging hikes and adventures, the tough parts seem to vanish from the mind with time, leaving us with fond memories and that sought-after feeling of accomplishment.