Hiking has never been high on my list of priorities, but with an impending trip to Peru to attempt the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, some training was sadly in order. My super-fit and highly energetic cousin, Lisa, suggested that we head to Suikerbosrand to “get some miles on our legs”, and refused to listen to my suggestion that “hiking around the shops inside Sandton City” would do the same job.
Those in the know will tell you that the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve covers over 11 hectares and is situated close to Heidelberg (less than an hour’s drive from Joburg). I was silently willing it to rain, but the weather was absolutely beautiful and dry. “The perfect day for a hike,” trilled Lisa, while I sat on my hands to refrain from strangling her.
On the drive, I distracted myself with research into the types of animals we might see on our hike – Eland, Zebra, Black Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Brown Hyena and various species of birds. Apparently Baboons are also active in the area, which cheered me up IMMENSELY. Lisa is petrified of Baboons!
According to my research, Suikerbosrand comprises 66km of backpacking hiking trails, as well as 12km, 10km and 4km trails for Day Visitors. “We’ll tackle the 10km,” decided Lisa. “We can always turn round and do it backwards if we feel like doing 20kms.” We then laughed and laughed, because that was never going to happen on my watch.
I have to (reluctantly) admit that it was a SPECTACULAR hike. The facilities (aka bathrooms) at the Visitors' Centre are clean, the trails are well-marked, and the views are breath-taking. We came across quite a few people during the hike – even a married couple who were attempting a trail run. Well, he was trail running – she was lagging behind while apparently plotting his death!
Thanks so Lisa, we had loads of water (it did get pretty hot) and plenty of snacks. Sunblock and a cap are also highly recommended. We also discovered a Paraplegic Trail that is close to the Visitors Centre – ideal for those in wheelchairs.
The hike was actually perfect for me – it was challenging but not uncomfortably so. Lisa chose to complete it with a backpack weighing 20kgs (to prepare for a trekking adventure in Nepal) and also felt it was a good workout and great preparation for her trip.
Those looking for a longer hike can spend up to six days hiking through the reserve. The overnight huts are well-equipped with beds, hot showers, cooking area, gas lamps and chemical toilets.
I can honestly recommend a visit – even just to do the 4km hike. You will come away feeling as though you have been away for days!
For More Information
Tel: 082 484 8150 or (011) 439 6300