The jungle that is the Groeneweide hiking trail, South Africa
As I sit in the blackness of a powerless house I write to you about my experience on the Groeneweide hiking trail. Yes, our power is out on the farm but I have committed to getting you this blog post and I have a ferocious determination to deliver. I have exactly 52% battery life left, one half charged power bank, for internet with which to upload said blog post. Let’s get right into it why don't we. Be prepared for the onset of my wealth of knowledge and for pretty pictures of Knysna Lourie's and picturesque streams.
How I found the Groeneweide trail:
This trail seems to be somewhat of a hidden wonder. It is a SANParks trail but doesn’t seem to be listed on any of their pages. I found out about this trail while I was volunteering at Surfari, an upmarket backpackers in Victoria Bay. Now I touched on this in one of my past blogs but just to give you the top line. I work remotely and was itching for a change of scenery. That's the joy of remote work right? I can go anytime I want and work from anywhere. I’ve been subscribed to a site called Workaway for almost a year now. It’s a site that links establishments looking for volunteers and, you guessed it, eager volunteers! You pay a once off yearly fee and bobs your uncle, you can now apply to be a volunteer at one of thousands of hostels, farms, schools, houses etc, at destinations scattered around the globe. So back to the point, Surfari found me on the site and asked if I wanted to come volunteer for a bit. It’s an hour away from where I live, so the perfect little environment change, and I got to meet new wonderful people and stay in a place with an ocean view. WIN WIN WIN right?
While I was there it was actually pretty quiet, being winter and all, so two of the other volunteers and I decided to spend some time hiking. We checked off the well-known Half Collared Kingfisher Trail, and our host at the hostel then recommended the Groeneweide trail. I’ve never heard of this one, so I was super keen to go check it out.
The highlight of the trail:
Jumping right in to the good bits. My highlight and definitely the highlight for my foreign friends was stumbling upon a haven of Knysna Green Louries. And no, i’m not exaggerating. There were literally 6-8 trees brimming with them. Their majestic green wings taking flight, showcasing the wonderful red hues on the underside. What absolutely beautiful birds! I’m from South Africa and I’ve seen many Grey Louries but I don’t ever recall seeing the real deal. I was scrambling trying to grab my long lens while simultaneously trying to traverse the trail and catch these guys in action. I didn’t manage to grab any of them in flight as we had a tight timeline to get back to the hostel, but I managed to get some great ones of them in the trees. I’ll definitely be back to try get some more.
Best time to tackle the trail:
I would 100% recommend doing this trail early. We started it at 09:00am and walked into a misty wonderland. As we climbed deeper into the valley we were greeted by dew covered plants lining the most picturesque stream. The sun, just peaking over the mountains, creating the most magnificent sun-rays as they poked through the mist. It was a scene right out of Jurassic park I tell you.
Ok so this one got me a little. I like to think of myself as fairly fit. I hike at least once a month, I run fairly often and go for long walks daily. But being middle of winter I had been slacking a bit. Anyway, starting the trail going downhill, I was lost in my thoughts and the beauty of the new day. Forgetting that when you go downhill, you inevitably have to go uphill. And uphill we went. Then down, then up, down and up. So it went. Most of it in pretty manageable slow inclines but the last incline which happened to be the first downhill, as the trail loops, happened to be a bit tough. I’d say it took us about 15 minutes of straight uphill. I broke out a bit of a sweat, but it was nothing you can’t do with a little time and vigour. Anyone can do it!
Those trees and them streams:
Wow, for a tree lover like me, I was delighted. This trail had so many awe-inspiring giants, towering above us, covered in moss and all things wonderful. Vines dangling down, Tarzan's call ringing in my ears. The trees were fantastic.
I’ve mentioned the first and biggest stream already but the trail also offers many more baby streams. I think we crossed about 4 if I recall correctly, one even had a bridge! Bridges are always fun.
The details - Length, markings and permits:
We decided to tackle the 11km trail. The sweet spot between the 9km and 13km. The trail was extremely well-marked with three different colours, indicating each length of trail. It took us around 3-4 hours to do the 11km. In terms of permits and fees, the trail is free, which is amazing and all you have to do is fill out a self issued permit at the start of the trail. It is a book in a wooden box, under the sign at the start of the trail. The trail is in George, behind the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Saasveld Campus. Good parking and pretty easy to locate. If you get lost just ask one of the campus security for help. They were all very friendly.
I must also mention a little over halfway we were walking along, all lost in our individual thoughts, the beautiful silence that comes with a hike well enjoyed. Just the sound of the twigs crunching and our backpacks scratching our backs when all of a sudden we heard the loudest animal call. It sounded to me like a baboon. That single wild call they make. We paused in incision, looking around, shrugged shoulders and carried on. The call then continued to happen about 5 times with big pauses in between, creepy, but beautiful in a vast and eerie forest. We even found some porcupine quills on the trail, how rad! And many, many little beautifully weaved spider webs.
I absolutely loved this trail! You get lost in the lush green of it, transported to a wild forest in Africa. It was so quiet, we didn’t see a single other person on the entire duration of the trail. A hikers dream, to be left to bask in all the nature for yourself. I will definitely be back to conquer the 13km trail.
And done! Hope I managed to entertain you for a second and give you some actual informative information on the trail. And with 39% battery life still to boot. Look at me go ;)