While traveling through the Amsterdam area on a business trip early in 2004, I spotted from the Piet Retief road this little crag on the banks of the Ngwempisi River. Marking it on the map I made a note to explore the region further at a later date. Having access to a GIS mapping system at the office helped me to locate the area and other potential crags on the Ngwempisi. Darryl Margetts and myself, both keen on exploring new areas, set out in November 2004 with my maps highlighting areas that could produce something worth climbing. After much hiking around that morning, discovering only lovely scenery and very steep bushy crags, I set out on my own to check out the last crag on our hit list close to the R33. Luckily, just out of sight from the road I stumbled across a lekker little crag right on the edge of the river. I also explored further downstream and spotted bigger cliffs in the gorge. Two weeks later we returned with some other mates to secure access to climb on the river crags. We made acquaintance with Christo van Aardt and his wife who were very friendly and happy to allow us onto their property. They introduced us to their farm, showing us the way to the crags from their house and giving us some history on the area. It was a treat to meet such a amicable couple and invited us to visit the area again.
Amsterdam is situated on the Swaziland border just to the north of Piet Retief and east of Ermelo. The town mostly revolves around the forestry industry in the area. The town is on the junction of the R65 (Ermelo) and the R33 (Piet Retief / Carolina) roads. From the junction of the R65 and R33 in Amsterdam, travel on the R65 towards Ermelo for 1.9Km then turn left onto a dirt road. Travel on this road for about 8Km, crossing over the Ngwempisi river, then turn left at the sign for farms AEA 8&9 and follow the track to the first house on the right. (Christo’s house). Continue on the track, past the next house on the right, to the sign for Ngwempisi lodge. You have to cross the river to get to access to the path that goes to the crags. Before taking the track going left to the lodge, a gate on the right leads to a track going down to the river. A crossing can be made at a narrowing in the river just near some rocks. Follow the path after crossing the river that leads to the left of a hill with trees on. Leave the path and walk up to the left of the trees where another path forking left is followed around to the base of another hill. Leave the path and walk leftwards, down the hill to a flat section above the dell. Continue eastwards, along a path, to the gorge.
ACCESS & ACCOMMODATION
Christo van Aardt has been kind enough to allow us access to his farm so please contact him prior to visiting the area. It may not be necessary to call upon him at his house but just phone ahead to let him know you are coming. There is accommodation on the farm at the Ngwempisi Lodge. Contact Bouwer van Aardt to make a booking. Contact Details: Christo van Aardt – 082 4453325 / firstname.lastname@example.org Bouwer van Aardt – 082 8047357
Amsterdam sees high rainfall in the summer months and can be very hot and humid. The winter is generally mild but chilly in the mornings. Please be warned that lightning strikes are common on the farm so keep an eye on the sky and leave the area around the cliffs if electrical storms are approaching.
So far only trad climbs have been opened in the gorge. There is a rare species of bird (Bald Ibis) residing in the gorge, so although there is potential for bolted routes, this area would not be suited to sport climbing as frequent visits by large numbers of climbers, often associated with sport climbing, could infringe on the bird’s habitat.
Three crags have been identified in the Ngwempisi gorge: Coffee Shop Crag is the up-stream section of the gorge that has shorter climbs starting right next to the river. The rock is superb quality and reminiscent of Blydepoort. Red Light District is down-stream of Coffee Shop Crag on the eastern side of the river. Climbing is mostly found on the top band of the cliff. Little Holland is further down-stream near the mouth of the gorge. These are much bigger than the other sections of the gorge.
The river is quite nice to swim in after a hot days climbing but avoid it if in flood. Drinking the water in the Ngwempisi is not suggested. There is a nice stream with clean water that flows in the raining season on the western side of the gorge opposite the Red Light District crag. The river may be difficult to cross when flowing strongly after heavy rains. Please respect the fauna and flora with whom we share this beautiful area.
Tubing When the Ngwempisi is flowing strongly after heavy rains, it is quite fun to tube down the river. Christo has some old tractor tubes that can be used. An hours tube ride can be enjoyed from the river crossing, used to get to the climbs, to the rapids just before Coffee Shop Crag. Take care not to go too close to the big rapid at Coffee Shop Crag. You can be picked up at the end of the tube ride on the Amsterdam-Piet Retief road (R33) where a gate, on the western side of the road, accesses a track going down near the river just up from the crags. Biking There are a number of good mountain biking trails in the areas surrounding the farm, offering routes through the forests and hills. Ask Christo for advice on the area.