When someone says they like taking long, pleasant walks in nature, they’re probably not talking about the kind of walk I want to tell you about.
When my newly acquainted housemate, Steve, invited me to join him and his hairy friend for a walk in the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve 9 km outside of Stellenbosch, I thought he was talking about one of these quiet, peaceful find-yourself-in-nature kind of walks. Not knowing he actually meant a hike followed by some rock climbing, I put on my Pep Stores shoes (which are cotton shoes with laces) and convinced my sister, Renée, and classmate, Chris, to come along.
The Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is 98 km² of mountains and valleys with more than 1100 plant species. The late afternoon sun makes our long shadows walk just ahead of us.
The footpath is clear and flat, at first.
The hike is 6 km and takes about an hour for an unfit soul like myself to complete.
Once you are on the trail you are surrounded by mountains. The landscape is like an impressionist painting with grey, green and orange smudges of colour as well as some black patches from charred trees and bushes from a fire that happened some time ago.
While you walk, you encounter a silence the city will never know. At spots you hear the sound of water rushing past. When you see the water you can catch a glimpse of a big fish, dirty orange pebbles and frogs.
When my Pep Stores shoes and I feel like we have seen enough the path starts getting steeper. At some point we all have to hold on to some railing to prevent us from falling off of this beautiful mountain.
A bit further on we hit a wall of rock. I search for my housemate’s eyes to get the go ahead for turning around, only to find him scurrying up the wall as elegantly as a Stellenbosch squirrel running up a tree.
Turning around wasn’t an option anymore, but neither was climbing the wall with my Pep Stores shoes, so I climbed the wall barefoot. Once all sweaty and breathless at the top, we could leap into a tiny, clear and cold pool.
When our bodies start to burn from the cold we decide its time to move on. Instead of back, we move ahead, to a place Steve calls Pinnacle Point. To get there we have to scale large boulders and rocks, but it’s so worth it, because at the top we’re met by a plateau and a steam of fresh drinking water.
The walk back is a lot easier, downhill all the way. My Pep Stores shoes didn’t get to see the end of the day, but then again, neither did my slight fear of heights and hairy strangers. This uphill journey was well worth the climb.