If you take a peek at my Instagram you will notice that the girls and I are doing a fair bit of walking about in nature this year, primarily because Emily is now a little bit older and thus a little more capable, meaning that we finally get to tackle Saturday morning outings that are a little more strenuous than just finding the neatest newest indoor or outdoor playpark. So with this in mind, back in March of this year we braved the heat and headed out to one of South Africa’s oldest towns, the historic pearl that is Paarl.
Paarl is of course home to the stunning Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, which in turn is the home of the town’s famed gigantic granite boulders, namely Bretagne Rock, Gordon’s Rock, and the titular, most famous of them all, Paarl Rock. Although it is of course possible to drive directly up the mountain to Paarl Rock itself, this wasn’t quite the experience that I wanted to get from this particular outing. Instead, having earlier peeked at Google Maps, I figured out that you should be able to park at and then stroll out from the Meulwater Botanical / Wildflower Garden grounds and make your way up to Paarl Rock itself, which then became our plan of action for the day.
The incredibly scenic drive up the mountain to Meulwater is certainly one that you do slowly in normal hatchback or sedan, but get up there we eventually did and we arrived to the scene of a youth group having a ball of a get together on the botanical garden’s picnic grounds. As for the clunkily named Meulwater Botanical / Wildflower Garden itself, this relatively compact garden is packed to the brim with well over 200 of the local fynbos and wildflower species, having been laid out in 1931 by a group of ladies who had gone on to establish the Paarl Beautifying Society at the time. Centered around the Meulwater mountain stream (which runs through the garden) and lying directly below two of the massive granite rocks, come Spring this floral gem truly jumps to life as a blanket of mountain wildflower colour envelops it.
Admittedly, signage isn’t the garden or nature reserve’s strongpoint to be honest, and while the garden itself made for a pretty wander about, it wasn’t quite what we were looking for. Now you can make your way up to the boulders directly from the grounds, but that route is a tough one and you need to be reasonably fit to tackle it – something I am most decidedly not. Instead, the easier route is to walk out of the parking lot, back to the road that you came up on (Jan Phillips Bergpad), and take a left. Continue walking up until the first left turn (which is actually listed as Paarl Rock Road), and swing left onto it. You will next encounter a green board which lists Nantes Dam, Bethel Dam, and The Rocks to the left. This is the direction you want to go, and following this steeply rising road will take you past the Pienaars Camp picnic site.
At the top of the road, it flattens out a bit and a short hop gets you to the official gates to Paarl Rock, where if you are in a car, you would hand over some money and continue the journey up to the Rocks. However, this final stretch to the famed Paarl Rock is one that for now is left to my imagination – given the harsh heat and the unrelenting ever upwards walk, my two (incredibly sweaty and now moany pony) girls straight up rebelled and refused to take a single step further, meaning that despite the really exciting last leg of the walk still stretched out in front of us, I was forced to turn back and save the rest of the day by walking downhill to return back to the car.
So a failed mission this one then, but despite that, still a lovely outing with good elevation, lots of views, beautiful flora, and loads of fresh air. And besides, not all was lost because of course there was still the Afrikaans Language Monument and a few other local spots to be checked out before the day had run its course…
It is worth noting that the girls and I have subsequently done quite a few more walks since we attempted this particular one, meaning that they are both much stronger and fitter now – i.e. a near future and hopefully much more satisfying return to Paarl Mountain is definitely very much on the cards!