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Ladders, holes and bushman paintings ...
Holhoek hiking trail, Paul Roux


Take the road to a little town in the Eastern Free State, called Paul Roux.  From there you turn east and follow a gravel road for 17 km.   Do not complain, open your heart and let the untouched beauty flow through you and just continue until you reach an unusual gate with a round hole in the stone wall …HOLHOEK.  Approximately 310 km from Johannesburg and 230 km from Bloemfontein.


The base camp consists of 2 thatch-roof huts  and dubblestory house,  next to a dam - with electricity and accommodates up to 24  and 31 hikers.  Equipped with beds and mattresses.  The ablution facilities houses  flush toilets and  showers with hot water. The lapa with braai facilities has a kitchen with a gas-fridge, hot plate, 2 pots, 1 pan and kettle.

Route description

It is a figure 8 trail (day one is 13 km and day two 7 km ), developed and built by Tiaan Strydom of Discovery Trails.  Both nights are spent in the same base camp.  The farm has a very rich archaeological heritage and is therefore very special and unique.  Let the bare rocks of the mountains touch your most inner self.  Trees in all shades of green or touching autumn colours, mountain streams and ducks on the pond, will speak a language that no one else will understand.  One of the 5 caves that are visited on the route is located near a stream and is rich in Bushman rock paintings.  The second cave was inhabited at some stage by Iron Age farmers, probably Sotho-speaking people.  There are two huts, built against the back wall under the low overhang of the roof, which are close on 200 years old.  The next cave is close to the above and is semicircular with a spectacular waterfall and pool at its center.  On the second day the cave where the mother of old president PW Botha took shelter during the war is visited.  The ruins of several rectangular houses are still visible above the farmhouse, on the route of the hiking trail and probably date to the first white settlement of the farm.  Safe bridges built over mountain streams, breathtaking trails through the valleys and ladders up the mountains will not only be an unforgettable memory but an urgent call to come back to Holhoek Hiking Trail.

Other info




Diffuculty rating Holhoek (3)


  1. exceptionally easy
  2. easy
  3. easy to moderate
  4. moderate
  5. moderate to difficult
  6. moderate to difficult
  7. fairly difficult
  8. difficult
  9. difficult to very difficult
  10. extremely difficult (1)
  11. exceptionally difficult (2)


The rating is done in terms of hikers of average fitness i.e. people who hike only a few times per year.



Additional information


Prinsloo received the farm HOLHOEK in 1842 with the primary purpose of populating the Free State.  His son Ignasius Prinsloo and his wife occupied the farm until he passed away.  She remarried with Davel.  They had no children.  Davel bought his first motorcar in 1924 – a black Studdibaker with white spoke wheels.  The salesman showed him how to drive the car and Davel drove back home.  Arriving on the farm, he had forgotten how to stop the car.  He drove around the dam in front of the house, until he remembered that they said that the car works with fire.  He then realized that if he drives into the dam, the water would distinguish the fire.  He drove into the dam …. What also makes this farm so important is that it has an open cave in the mountains.  This cave gave shelter for many woman and children during the Anglo Boer War.  President PW Botha’s mother  was one those women who took shelter there and it is here where his half brother HG Prinsloo was born.  There are 2 huts built against the back wall under the low overhang of the roof.  These huts were built of stone and mud, and plastered by mud, which is colored orange.  Mud plastered huts in caves usually relate to the Difaqane or Mfecane which displaced populations from about 1815 to the 1840s.  The Difaqane is the term given to the upheavals in Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal brought about by drought and internecine strife.  Fighting between the Zulu and surrounding tribes had a ripple effect on surrounding populations, and many people fled their home.  Whole tribes became displaced.  Some of the people who later became the Sotho nation fled to the mountains and made themselves huts and kraals in caves where they could hide themselves and their livestock.  The huts in “Bushman Cave” could very probably relate to this.  This would make them close on 200 years old. 


Bushman rock paintings.   These paintings remain dominantly shamanistic in meaning.  According to the “San” religion an eland was a very special and most sacred animal.  Therefore it was chosen by their god / kaggen.  They believed that because of its fat an eland had supernatural powers or potency they called num.  The eland was also important to the Bushman because they needed fat as a hunter-gatherer society to survive.  Images which are half-human, half-animal are referred to as “Therianthropes”.  According to the Bushman religion “therianthropes” represent shamans who are transformed into animals.  This is informed by their belief that certain animals like an eland have supernatural powers that could be used by shamans to perform certain duties such as healing and making rain.  Therefore in order to use the potency of certain animal’s shamans had to transform into such animal and have its physical features.  This explains the paintings, which are half human half animal.  According to the Bushman belief a human figure with feathers indicate a shaman in a form of a bird flying to the Spirit World.


Why is the rock art on Holhoek special?

      The rock paintings focus on the super natural powers and images.

      The site also has one well-preserved panel showing eland and therianthropes

      The farm is located in an area, which is rich in rock art.

      The site was important to and used by the Bushman and the Sotho people.


What did the Bushmen use for paint? 

      Red paints were made from ferrous oxide – a type of rusted ironstone. 

      This ironstone was ground to a fine powder and mixed with animal blood and fat.

      Plant sap and egg whites were used to bind the paints.

     Yellow paints were made from hydrous ferrous oxide.

      White paints were made from clay, bird droppings, calcrete and bone.

      Black paints were made from manganese and sometimes charcoal.


Useful Rock-Art Facts

      Bushman rock art is Africa’s oldest artistic tradition – 25 000 years old.

      Bushman rock art is a religious art and Bushman religion was known as shamanism.

      South Africa has over 20 000 rock art sites.

      Damage to rock art sites carries a R1-million fine and a 2-year prison sentence.

      Archaeo-tourism is a growing field in which rock art plays a prominent role.


Extracts from report done by Bloemfontein National Museum


Acknowledgement and bookings: Discovery Trails