No matter how accustomed to urban living we have become, a desire to immerse ourselves in nature still lingers. The Waterberg, named after its streams, rivers and wetlands, is a pleasing destination and in recent times declared a biosphere reserve by the United Nations. Man made aesthetics exist in harmony with beautiful natural landscapes and mixed bushveld scrub is unmatched elsewhere. Significant parts of this 15000 square kilometre countryside have become a backpackers dream.
It was an early Sunday morning when we arrived on the outskirts of the Marakeli National Park after a road trip of more than three hours. Parking for our 4x4 vehicle under the watchful eyes of some herdsmen was reassuring.
The day long scenic trek near the outskirts of the park covered 11 kilometres to the top of the voluptuous looking Waterberg Mountain. Strangely, some hikers are always overcome with a desire to reach a summit. It seems to be an overwhelming primordial urge. The trail also included splashing through several thigh-deep water streams. This left us uncomfortably wet for some time. Our trail leader, Jabulu, was a street wise Nguni guide who was well known in the area, his family herded cattle and grew cereal crops. We passed spectacular rock faces, soaring buttresses and layers of rock on top of one another that provided us with a dramatic panorama. The long morning's freshness was eventually replaced by the weariness of late afternoon heat and our pounding leg muscles quivered under the strain. The climb seemed to be endless. It was then that we found cover in a recessed rock formation where we pitched tents for the night. A hearty braai and energy drinks in the early evening was relaxing. Later an attack by squadrons of oversized mosquitoes who seemingly wanted to bleed us dry was repulsed with ultrasonic repellent gadgets that we had brought along with us. This was very effective. Jabulu was so impressed that he wanted to barter one of his farm goats for a gadget.
In the early morning the shrill of circling eagles greeted the warmth of the sun. Crisp mountain air and spectacular scenery never seemed to disappoint. Departing in a northerly direction we came across Servals and Wild Cats with small heads, long ears and long legs. As we descended, the terrain was rough going, reminding us of the Magalies. Accessing a high fence we meandered our way towards the escarpment where everything became lush and indigenous trees were everywhere. Part of the hiking effort was to trawl through beautiful places seeking out impressive and exciting things to highlight ones memory. There was little to equal the adrenalin charge as we gazed in awe at a rich array of unique and teeming African wildlife including close encounters with various antelope, mountain zebra, warthogs, wildebeest, giraffes, baboons and a great variety of birds.
Flowering flora was everywhere. At midday our leader led us to a safe flowing pool of sparkling water in a rocky outcrop where we all had a belated wash and replenished our water bottles. Lunch included a variety of canned foods which we shared. Agreeable conversations included the kicks we got from running streams, fauna, flora and scenic medium distance trails this place had on offer. Bread crumbs attracted the large ants and we hoped that when they took over the world they would remember with gratitude how we took them along on our picnics. From far we watched in silent astonishment as Honey Badgers attacked wild bee’s nests and the poor bees counter attacking in self defence.
The trail back to our car venue was covered by many fynbos and open plains. This included avoiding several nasty looking Puff adders and climbing high access ladders over a number of cordoned off electrified fences.
We came as a bunch of hiking enthusiasts taking advantage of a long weekend. This place proved to be an unusual experience. We thought to ourselves that at least one day when we have to leave planet Earth we make sure we have with us something that cannot die.