Hiking in a scenic environment with unique rock formations.
Paarl is named after its 3 unusual granite rocks – Paarl, Bretagne and Gordon Rocks – which date back more than 500 million years – the second largest granite outcrop in the world.
In 1657 Abraham Gabemma set out inland from Cape Town to search for new meat resources. It was after a rainstorm when he saw a mountain in the distance, with a giant granite rock which glistened like a wet pearl in the sun. He named the mountain “Peerleberg” (Pearl Mountain), which later became Paarl Mountain and the town that evolved at its base was named Paarl.
The town of Paarl is about 60 km from central Cape Town along the N1 Highway. Take the Paarl Main Road turnoff from the N1 (exit 55 for R45), continue for about 1,5 km and turn left onto Jan Phillips Mountain Drive, a gravel road. The road was opened in 1928 and was built by Jan Philips, a well-known wagon builder. Follow the road up the mountain until a T-junction, where one turns right towards the Millwater (Meulwater) Wild Flower Garden and picnic site. You can park your car here and start exploring. No entrance fee from here.
There is a number of trails criss crossing the reserve, ranging from 2.5 up to 10km. The most impressive is the hike up Bretagne rock, with chains to help you along. You can start your hike up the hill from the toilets in the braai area and follow the white painted foot prints. It should take you about 2 hours out and back, depending on how much exploring you do. Do wear shoes with a good grip and a warm jacket. It could be very windy on top of the granite outcrops. Bring water and snacks when entering from Meulwater as there is no shop.
We started our hike through the magical wild flower garden. The garden was established just before World War II, by the Paarl Beautifying Society.
After a rather steep walk we came to a gate and Jeep track which we followed for about 4 km, with proteas and fynbos to admire.
At the Paarl Rock view point, we headed towards Bretagne and Gordon Rocks. Bretagne Rock looked very intimidating, but I made it to the top with the help of chains. Impressive 360 degree views from here. We even saw Table Mountain. And 2 of the 3 dams, Nantes and Bethel, which form part of a historic water purification system, supplying water to the town of Paarl since the 1800’s. And it was picnic time!!
Gordon’s Rock is for the serious rock climbers!
After a slow decent we went to Paarl Rock.
Here the old cannon which was used to signal the arrival of ships in Table Bay harbour, can still be seen. This particular cannon was stationed on a lookout point on the western side of Paarl Mountain. Some time after the Battle of Blaauwberg (1806) the cannon was removed, and dragged with a team of oxen to its present position on Paarl Rock.
Interesting and scary rock formations!
And to end the day off on a high note, a coffee and a chat..