Spring in your step

Spring in your step

Winter is on its way out and warm weather is on the horizon. Time to dust off your walking shoes. Richard Holmes leads the way

Cape Town: Get to the top of the Table

When you’re on holiday in the Mother City, it’s all but impossible to ignore Table Mountain. The locals use it for everything from giving directions to forecasting the weather; but, for visitors, it also offers some of the best views of the city. If you’re heading up the iconic cableway, it’s well worth leaving early to fit in the wonderful walk to Maclear’s Beacon. You’ll soon leave the crowds behind and get to soak up the wild beauty and endemic fynbos flora of the Back Table, accompanied by distant views of the city suburbs and the far-off Winelands.

An hour’s walk from the upper cableway station delivers you to the highest point on Table Mountain, at 1 086m above sea level. It is marked by a large stone cairn erected in 1865 by the astronomer Sir Thomas Maclear. The path is flat and clearly indicated by yellow feet painted on the rocks; but, if the cloud comes down, pay close attention to where you’re going so as not to get lost. The weather up top is notorious for changing quickly, so always pack a good warm jacket and plenty of water, whatever the weather when you start out.

If you have the time, make it a full day on the mountain by descending via Platteklip Gorge or Kasteelspoort to enjoy views of Cape Town’s central business district and glamorous Atlantic Seaboard far below. Metal sign-
posts near the upper cableway station clearly mark the route back down.


Durban: Explore Krantzkloof

It may be tough to tear yourself – and the little ones – away from Durban’s stunning beaches, but it is well worth packing up the bucket and spade and trying something different with a day in the hills. Krantzkloof Nature Reserve is a mere 30-minute drive from the coast; so, with an early start, you can be back in the waves by lunchtime.

The reserve surrounds the meeting place of the impressive Molweni and Nkutu River gorges, and offers visitors seven walking trails to suit different levels of fitness. Paths meander through the lush indigenous forest, and the 584 ha area is home to all sorts of creatures, from tiny shy duikers and bushbuck, to quietly  grazing zebras and chattering vervet monkeys. Twitchers will be happy here too, with more than 200 species of birds.

For a lazy outing on a hot day, the Longshadows Trail is an easy ramble along a mostly level path through the forest. But, if you’re feeling energetic, the Molweni Trail is well worth the effort. Leading down into the river gorge, it offers hikers wonderful views from the foot of the impressive Kloof Falls. It is, however, a strenuous climb back out, so give yourself at least five hours to tackle it.

There are also picnic sites and braai facilities with easy access to the river – perfect if you’re not itching to get back to the beach just yet.


Joburg: Capture the Koppies

Jozi might be the biggest and busiest city in Southern Africa, but it’s not all that hard to find a green space to escape to. While the city’s parks are ideal for lazy picnics, to really stretch your legs you’ll want to head straight for the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve.

Situated just a short drive from downtown Joburg, the reserve is divided into three sections: East, West and Central. While both the East and West sections are criss-crossed by paths and open to the public daily (it is best to walk in a group for safety), it’s the Central section (only open for guided walks on Sundays) that’s the most interesting to explore.

The oldest part of the reserve, this area has a rich and ancient history with evidence of Iron Age settlement. Trails lead through waving russet grasslands and dense forests of blue gwarrie, wild apricot and umbrella thorn. The guided walks can be strenuous though, and aren’t suitable for children under the age of six.


Gauteng: Head straight for Hennops

If you want to escape the city, point the hired car westwards towards the Magaliesberg and the delightful Hennops Hiking Trails. Only a 40-minute drive from the northern suburbs of Joburg, Hennops offers the 10 km Krokodilberg trail and the 5 km Zebra trail. If you’ve got young kids in tow, there’s also a child-friendly 2.5 km amble on the Dassie Trail.

On the two longer walks, the paths meander through forest alongside the Hennops River, before climbing uphill to offer hikers wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. Don’t forget to stop and admire the magnificent wildflowers and aloes putting on their best spring display.

The paths are all extremely well marked, with painted feet to keep you going in the right direction. There are a few shy antelope on the property, but also keep an eye out for birds, dassies and the occasional wandering cow.

The highlight of both the Krokodilberg and Zebra trails comes at the end, when a rustic pulley cable car whisks walkers back across the Hennops River and to their waiting vehicles. There are also picnic and braai facilities if you want to make
a day of it.


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