Hiking Trails of South Africa
Struik Travel & Heritage
Just in time for the year-end holidays comes this comprehensive book, offering walking and hiking enthusiasts a plethora of hikes and trails all over our beautiful country.
In fact those who love to walk will find more than 500 trails including 60 new ones in this, the updated fifth edition of the well-loved and much thumbed original edition.
Seasoned hikers will attest to the fact that there is no better way to see the lie of the land, whether it is along a beach trail or in a nature reserve, than on foot. Here you can take your time, stop, examine the flora and the fauna and take a deep breath – perhaps a whiff of the fresh sea air or the deeply aromatic nuances of fynbos.
Olivier himself has covered thousands of kilometres throughout Southern Africa, not only by foot but also by road so he has considerable credentials.
Readers will find his introduction to the book a mine of information in itself: he tells you how to read the guide, where walks have been listed under the name of the attraction (nature reserve, national park or botanical garden) and the city/town where they are located – making it easier for aficionados to easily locate the trails and walks in their area.
Olivier gives the lowdown on permits, facilities on the trails, and offers the all important details for each. Planning is a crucial issue in having a safe and happy walk whether it's a day amble or an overnight hike, and Olivier tells you to choose a walk according to your fitness level (a bit of a no-brainer but something we all should take into account); what maps and equipment to take and even offers a detailed, sample food menu that offers long term sustenance, energy and liquids so as not to dehydrate.
The golden rule for hiking, says Olivier, which is both for personal safety and against potential attacks is never to set off alone, and advises that the minimum number of people to venture out should be three but four is best and, always let someone at home or a friend know of your intended route and when you'll be back.
He even has a diagram of how to pack your rucksack and what clothes to take if you're planning a long trail and overnighting, and importantly, offers several other tips on hiking safety: water, water, water is key, be aware of the weather and be careful when crossing rivers of potential flash floods and never ever cross a flooded river.
The trails or hikes are all grouped under area and in the South Western Cape and Little Karoo for example, 67 hikes are listed from the well-loved Silvermine trail, to Bain's Kloof, Jonkershoek to De Rust Heritage Walk, and a whole host in between which walkers may or may not know.
Also included in the grouped walks are the Garden Route and Eastern Cape; Drakensberg and KwaZulu-Natal; Free State; Mpumalanga and Limpopo; Gauteng and North West (sadly with the least amount of walks – 16); and finally Great Karoo, Namaqualand & Kalahari.
There are magnificent illustrations and each amble or trail is listed in a really user friendly way and where relevant, offers recommendations of hotel or guest accommodation. There is also a host of background information and for those in the Cape for example, the Helderberg Farm Trail has trails that range from 40 minutes to 9 hours to an overnight trail where you can sleep in a bedded huts. Hugging the western foothills of the Helderberg, the historic Helderberg Farm dates back over three centuries to 1692 and vegetation is typical mountain fynbos, interspersed with patches of rock candlewood, wild peach, wild olive and blossom trees.
Walkers will be lucky enough to have the opportunity to spot some of the 100 bird species recorded there and in addition, baboon, grysbok and common duiker are among the animals to be seen. As the author writes, one of the highlights among the colour coded indicated walks is the lush Granny Forest, with a mix of indigenous and exotic trees and 17 fern species and a viewpoint with the most spectacular views over False Bay to the south, the Stellenbosch winelands northwards and the Peninsula to the west.
My destination this weekend!
Olivier is also the author of numerous travel guides like the "African Adventurer's Guide" and "Touring in South Africa", and this latest hiking guide of his comes highly recommended.