How privileged we Gautengers are, an escape from the rat-like grind of city life to the tranquil region and unspoilt environment of the Magaliesberg Mountains. A place that has become synonymous with the “Great Outdoors”, a destination where one could find solitude, ramble and keep in touch with nature. One is trailing on top of a brilliant end-point of millions of years of evolution and history seems to lie entombed under every step one takes. The region still seems haunted by telltale signs of past battles of indigenous tribes, Boers and Brits.
It is a place of immense diversity and encapsulates the vast saga of Southern Africa.
Recapping interesting trails that tickle my fancy
Mokabi: Thousands of hours were spent developing trails in years gone by. This took the form of successive zigzag quartzite terraced paths hued out of cliff faces and inclines, with abrupt left and right turns to the crest of the mountain. These pathways proceed through populated rare indigenous trees with wild shrubs some producing magnificent flowers in season. A view from the rim of the Amphitheatre down into the valley is another stunning portrait of a lost world where populations of Elephants and Sable Antelope, amongst others, once roamed and thrived. A lament for a world that once was.
Castle Gorge: -Named after its finely shaped buttresses- The area has a special attraction and is by far a popular hiking and swimming meet for many hikers. Also of interest is exploring the plateau where the Castle Gorge’s mountain stream falls majestically into a succession of deep smooth rock pools. An additional trendy spot is the Piranha pool. The eastern ridge area appears eerily reminiscent of past conflicts with strategic rock fortifications still intact. Then there is part of Mzilikazi’s Zimbabwe Flats where an abundance of perennial tumbling streams play muted liquid music. The southern green valley of Damhoek is easily accessible from the north where one can witness breathtaking images and scents of blossoming Jasmine in springtime. These cover the upper landscapes where Brown Veined White Butterflies dance in and out amongst the flowers.
Retiefs Kloof: Is an attractive waterfall some 30 metres in height. It plummets down like a silvery white pillar into an image glistening quartzite pebble pool. The rock face and its surroundings provide a tranquil sanctuary for different species of ferns and trees and an intricate maze of lush vegetation. These seem to flourish all year round. After flowing through a heavily wooded area, water cascades into a succession of smooth dolomite rock pools, sculptured through time immemorial. Even the surrounding rock formations appear extraordinarily clean and smooth to the point of being bizarre. Without doubt a magnificent oasis in a mountain aperture and a bather’s paradise to boot.
Foothold: -The name being symbolic with the club’s creation in the Magaliesberg- A hiker hankering for a weekend retreat will find the Haven offers ideal accommodation. Located in the foothills against the escarpment a number of trailing options to the summit are available. This is where one feels the urge…a primal instinct to experience repeatedly the mountain beauty in all its ruggedness, which includes an assortment of antelope, birds, reptiles and insects. In addition, well represented are baboons with the unrestrained roars of the alpha male sitting sentry. Big birds coasting on the thermals cover most of the Magalies range. If one has an inordinate love for stargazing then a night spent camping on the mountaintop whilst hiking the Traverse, one would appreciate the beauty and fascination of the velvety sky around us.
Fern kloof: - Accessible from Foothold- In the gorges and wooded kloofs, Wild Fig trees are most impressive. They clamp and claw themselves from high overhangs into rock fissures and crevices and do the most complicated and extraordinary contortions. The complex muscular root systems spread over boulders like tentacles or hang down rocky steep and convoluted slopes in a theatrical display of mock bravado. This is an indication of the tenacity of these energetic woody perennials. In the deep rocky rifts there is a constant water supply idling its way across and spreading into other channels. There are some magnificent pools downstream for swimming
Rustig: Is a commercially owned resort. The Klopper family have been running this venture for more than three generations. Trails on the mountain paths are maintained on a six monthly basis. This is due mainly to dislodged and loose rocks caused by Baboons and the upgrading of markers and signboards. Landscaped colonial gardens surround the owner’s historical gabled farmhouse and overnight accommodation is available for large numbers of hikers and visitors throughout the year. It is a social/hiking destination for many.
Rustenburg Trail: - Now renamed Kgaswane Mountain Reserve, which is a 5000-hectare nature reserve- It is a range of low hills, wooded valleys where highveld grass and bushveld savannah seem to meet. The reserve is part of the Rietvallei encirclement and includes many of the magnificent Sable Antelope among a host of other animals. Kloofs, water streams and gorges dissect the range. Trails up to 2 days include a
19.5 km and another of 25.3 km both are signposted and include two well-equipped pastoral accommodations. Additionally, short day hikes are encouraged.
by Selwyn Lager