Wednesday, April 1, 2015

From Nikes to Hikes (part # 2) – Nine Hikes to start with if you love it but just can’t look down without hearing your dying prayers in your head

Egyptian Expat In Joburg – an amateur’s guide to living Joburg to the fullest..

Tswaing Meteorite Crater
So Yeah, I love to Hike.. I guess I always loved that walk in the forest without knowing that this was in fact hiking: a sport, a hobby and a very organized activity to undertake.

I had forgotten about it in humidity-pervaded Indonesia. Totally missed it while navigating the sky scrapers of New York, did a bit of it in Jordan, but then I was either pregnant or breastfeeding at the time.. Not exactly your best hiker’s profile!

Then I relocated to the outskirts of New York. To every avid hiker out there, Westchester is a hiker’s heaven. Every fall season, the Catskills with their explosive foliage hues lure you to go explore the trails, breathe in their colors and enjoy the serenity of a passing deer and the squish of playful squirrels as they zip line above.

Then I landed ZA and my mind wandered to savannah plains, zebras and giraffes. And ZA did not disappoint!

The thing about Hiking ZA, is that every trail is an archeological site: Iron age, Stone age, dinosaur marks and meteorite craters..

The minute you set heels on a trail you are literally T-warped to another era in time, so well-preserved that halfway into your hike, you begin to wonder.. Am I really walking the paw steps of those Rexes? Did a meteor really blast through this rock I’m leaning on? Those cave drawings, who was that Bushman who took the time to leave his art carved in stone for me to see, thousands - if not millions of years later?

While Hiking around the country there are certain Must Dos and Must Knows:

-      -  Most trails exist inside private or gated reserves. This means they are for the most part well sign posted and well maintained, but it also means you have to pre plan your hikes and call to reserve in advance

-       -  All Hikes I’ve done have elaborate websites with detailed maps and descriptions. South Africans take their hiking.. just like their biking.. very seriously!

-       -  Government run nature reserves do not require prior booking for the most part, but there is always an entrance fee and you have to check operation times to plan your hikes before gates close

-       -  This is South Africa and the African sun is simply unkind to your skin so wear protection no matter where you originally come from.. Believe I’m Egyptian and I still get burnt

-       -  Bring plenty plenty plenty of water along

-       -  Reserves that boast animal and game encounters are off limits to pets. Makes sense!

-      -  Many reserves offer lodging from basic camping, to luxury tents all the way up to spa facilities and bush lodges, you can make a weekend of it if you wish

-      -  Hiking shoes are a must.. A trail is a trail here and there is no easy way to break it to you! But hiking is no stroll in a perfectly manicured English garden in the African bush

-       -  Most trail sites will offer picnic facilities, ablutions, and Braii (Southern BBQ), but you have to bring your own stuff

-      -   Nature is revered around trails and you have to show the utmost respect to your surroundings.. Breath in, observe, meditate even but show respect to the plants and animals you encounter along your hike

-      -  Bird watching is an activity on many hike trails, and you can join a bird watchers club as a starter

-       -  All hikes I did are child-friendly and boast either incredible views, animal sightings, or a dip in a natural rock pool and some splashing in waterfalls

-     -   Mosquitoes, Ticks, and other fascinating spiteful bugs will make a lunch feast out of you if you let them, so lather yourself in bug repellents and wear long pants.. The pants will not just keep the pesky creatures away, they will also prevent bush scratches and hopefully keep snakes at bay!

I’ve only been here seven months and I’ve done twelve hikes, ten of which are only an hour’s drive from the bustling Gold reef town that is Joburg.

So here they are from ‘awesomest’ to ‘awesome still’ but without the WOOOW effect..

1-    Robberg Nature Reserve
GPS Coordinates: Latitude: -34.075937
Longitude: 23.370538
One hour away from Joburg – North Pretoria
9.5 km+_ trail with 2 possible shortcuts
No game sighting / Seals and possibly Whale sightings
Pets (I don’t know)
Entrance Fees applied
Strenuous- Edge hugging- climbing - But watch for High Tides timetable

It’s not around Joburg but I just had to throw it in there because it’s well, THE HIKE
Robberg Point.. Can you smell the Seal Stench?

To the sand dunes

Dune Tumbling

The Finish Line

2-    Somabula
GPS Coordinates: S 25 42.622      E 28 31.936
One hour away from Joburg – Close to Cullinan
30kms of trail possibilities, design your path
Game sighting
Pets not allowed
Entrance Fees applied
Very Easy

The website says it all. It’s only one hour away from Joburg and it’s got tons of animals for close encounters during your hike..

3-    Tswaing Crater Reserve
GPS Coordinates: Latitude 25.409 S Longitude 28.0958 E One hour away from Joburg – North Pretoria
7.5 km trail
No game sighting
Pets (I don’t know)
Entrance Fees applied
Easy  - But avoid summer heat

 Also an hour away from Joburg and 40 kms north of Pretoria.
Just the idea of walking along the walls of an impact crater left by an asteroid that hit this excat spot of earth some 200 thousand years ago is mind blowing, right?

4-    Groenkloof Nature Reserve
GPS Coordinates 'S25 47 379 E028 11 764
Half an hour away from Joburg – Pretoria
3.5 and 4.0 and 10.5 km+_ trails
Game sighting
Pets NOT allowed
Entrance Fees applied – No need for Pre booking
Easy – No edge walking – some inclines but not too steep

This is the first hike I did with the family and even my husband who always feigns sleep when I propose Hikes as a family activity, loved it!

5-    Vergenoeg
One hour s away from Joburg – Magaliesburg/ Hartbeespoort Dam
No game sighting
Pets (I don’t know)
Entrance Fees applied
Moderate –edge walking/crossing – heavy inclines (was really hard for me)
Cape Vultures soaring above me

So happy I did it..Hated every minute of it.. Would never do it again.. Still.. it’s breathtakingly beautiful up there

6-    Rustig
GPS Coordinates S25 50.179 E27 39.114
Base camp - S25 48.522 E27 38.306
One hour and 15 minutes away from Joburg – Magaliesburg
3.0 to 9.0 km & 13.0 overnight +_ trails
No game sighting
Pets allowed
Entrance Fees applied
Easy / Moderate – some edge walking/crossing – heavy inclines

This is one of the most scenic hikes I’ve done.. once more a mere hour’s drive from Joburg, nestled in the beauty of the Magaliesburg

7-    Wonderboom Nature Reserve
Half an hour away from Joburg – North Pretoria
2.8 km+_ trail
No game sighting
Pets allowed
Entrance Fees applied – No need for pre booking
Easy/ Moderate – some edge walking – steep
Fort Play

Did you know that Wonderboom literally means Miracle Tree? Well here is your Afrikaner 101 tip for the day.

The park, aptly named houses a thousand year old fig tree that stands majestically welcoming day visitors.

8-   Saamrus
GPS Co-ordinates: 
S 27.516175 ; E -25.945809
One hour away from Joburg – Magaliesburg region
7 km+_ trail
No game sighting
Pets allowed
Entrance Fees applied
Easy – No edge walking – some inclines but not too steep

This was my second hike so naturally I was wowed all over. It’s an easy long hike that meanders through the Magaliesburg plains and hilltops. 

9-    Windy Brow
GPS Co-ordinates: R513Turn off  S25 40.772 E28 30.099
Base camp - S25 40.882 E28 30.159
One hour away from Joburg – Cullinan
7 km+_ trail
Lots of game
Pets NOT allowed
Entrance Fees applied
Easy – No edge walking – some inclines but not too steep

The only reason this was my least favorite is that on the day we went, we inhaled so much ash from a lightning-caused bush fire the previous night.. The animals seemed quite frightened and wouldn’t get close enough for photos, let alone a true encounter.. Maybe it was the after-shock of the fire !
Windy Brow

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