On a recent weekend getaway, we headed to Mountain Sanctuary, a small nature reserve in the Magaliesberg with stunning crystal clear rock pools. It’s a great place for camping, swimming, and family fun. I know this because while sitting quietly at one of the pools a whole troop of families, with I don’t know how many little kids, descended on the pools. I heard them before I even saw a single person.
After chatting to the park guide we opted to buy a mountain pass for the nearby Tonquani and Cedarberg Kloofs and go for what was described as a “short hike with a few wet patches.” However, it ended up being closer to ‘kloofing,’ was definitely nowhere near short and wading hip deep in freezing water is a little more than a wet patch! Still, we live and learn. Here are some of those lessons for next time (or not, who knows).
1. The meaning of the word “kloof”
Okay, I studied Afrikaans at school (and I was mostly concentrating in class which is why the word was floating about in my mind somewhere) but now that I think about it, I didn’t know the meaning of kloof. I knew it had something to do with mountains and inclines. I was not thinking ravine or the like. This, I would later learn, was a major fail on my part because our short hike ended up being closer to “kloofing,” which I’m told is loads of fun if you are ready for it, not so much when you stumble on it.
“Kloofing is an adventure activity that typically involves the descent of a deep ravine or watercourse that may be dry or wet. The defining factor is usually that the ravine is several times deeper than it is wide. All manner of walking, scrambling, climbing, swimming, plunging, jumping, bumslides or abseiling (rappelling) could be involved.”(Wikipedia)
2. The need for a detailed map
Thanks to our map from reception, which was actually more of a very rough guideline and part of it was hand drawn (do not do this), it took us longer than described to actually find the starting point of this little adventure. Now, due to a few navigational issues I’ve had in my past (I blame google maps), I’m never tasked with the map on hikes or any trip for that matter but can I just seriously say “do not use a sketchy map, things will get sketchy.”
3. No lies…it’s beautiful
I was relieved when we finally found the entrance to the ravine. As we began our descent, I was surprised by how pretty it all looked. It felt like we’d just entered an enchanted forest with burst of sunlight sparkling through the trees. The water was crystal clear, colourful butterflies fluttered along the path and all we could hear was the calm sounds of the water, the birds singing in the trees. The path was not a smooth one with a lot of clambering over rocks, fallen trees and stumps. It was worth it though for the first hour or so….
4. Not all paths lead to the exit.
After a couple of hours, I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. The rocks got bigger, the gaps we needed to jump wider, the path narrow and non-existent, and I was suddenly struck by how precarious this little adventure had become. All I wanted to do was get out but as I discovered (after a few melt downs) the only way out is through. We finally came to a clearing where we could finally fully see the sky and I was really relived to reach the end hence my happy dance below (this was not the end).
5. Go with someone who has done this type of thing before
After my little happy dance, I was calmly told “the path has ended but this is not the end.”
“We’re too far to turn around, so you’ll need to change into your costume and wade or possibly swim the rest of the way.”
“I suggest you put your socks in your backpack so they are dry when we get to land.”
Get to land? What the hell? How do you know this? Why did I do this? Glad one of us has a plan. All these irrelevant thoughts are racing through my mind as I start the painstakingly slow trip out of this beautiful ravine.
6. Bring great snacks
This point may seem really random but whether you’re a stress eater or not you’re going to need a really good snack. I remember sitting on a sunny rock (just before what turned out to be the last curve and freezing rock pool) eating prego sauce potato chips. As I sat there, hoping there were no snakes in these waters and wondering if I was actually going to make it out of here, I suddenly thought “it could be worse, I could be eating an apple right now.”