I’ve really missed doing the solo hiking I got so used to in the Cape. There’s just something about being in mountains, just you and nature. There is a danger element, but it’s definitely manageable if you know the terrain and the route, as well as take some precautionary measures. Recently, on our regular Sunday hikes, I was the only one that could make it. I was not about to let a Sunday hike slip away, and this was the perfect opportunity to go the route of solitude. I decided to do the Suikerbosrand 17km as the last time we did the 11km it was fantastic.
On arrival, I was informed that the 17km route was closed, but that there was instead a 10.5km and an 11km route. I wasn’t too keen on a shorter route, I really wanted to do the distance, but head out regardless thinking if I felt full of energy I could do a loop back and make up the kilometers. I started off on the same route as we previously did, and remembered there was one section which crossed a valley ridge and headed into the distance. Looking on the map, it showed that there was indeed a route that side – the other 11km I presumed. I reached the ridge and head off.
The path was barely visible (making the hike extra fun), and eventually faded out completely. I was headed up this steep hill, when as I looked up I saw an entire herd of Zebra. No matter how many times you see wild animals, free and in the wild – it never gets old. I stopped and quietly looked on. Within a few moments they ran over the top of the hill, and I followed shortly after.
As I reached the top a massive and breathtaking valley opened up below me. It is truly incredible there – rolling hills and sunken valleys, and teeming with wildlife. Immediately I saw the Zebra as well as buck. I made my way up a very steep hill to get a better idea of the best path to take. I decided to head across, down and up another hill, to a clearly marked viewpoint, and then from there walk along the ridge before coming back down and back onto the original 11km route. With the path set, I took off.
The landscape at Suikerbos is amazing; very rocky and quite dry but loads of fun to climb and definitely has its own beauty. The views from the other side of the valley were just as breathtaking as the last. There is so much mountain to explore that side, I am definitely keen on planning a proper exploratory hike there soon.
I head along the ridge, seeing more wild animals and making sure we didn’t get too close. Eventually it was time for me to head back down, so I took an dry river path to the bottom of the valley. As I was reaching the bottom, I heard a small noise behind me. I turned around quickly (your senses are on high alert when you’re alone in wilderness) and I saw – about 20m away – a jackal. From what I’ve heard jackal are incredibly rare to see, and as I turned and saw his bushy tail scamper off into the distance.
I made my way back to the main 11km, and decided to head up over another hill instead of going back the way I came in on the saddle. As I was climbing, I looked up again to see a herd of around eight Eland. Normally once buck, Zebra or horses see you and you carry on walking towards them, they move away from you. Not so with Eland. One of the Eland stared me down, not budging an inch. I backed away and made a very wide route around them. The entire time this huge Eland was staring at me, not moving at all except to follow my gaze. It was pretty intimidating.
I reached the top of the hill and made my way back down towards the main route. I’d been passing route markers this entire time, so there must have been a route going through there at some stage if not currently. After I made it back to the main path I headed around and back the same way as the last hike.
This was such a fantastic hike. The wild animals, the solitude, the unexplored territory, the amount of territory I couldn’t explore in a week’s worth of hiking. Definitely keen to head back there soon and do a longer one. Suikerbosrand is really close to Johannesburg and if you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend you go for a hike there.