Book Review: Hiking Trails of South Africa

Willie Olivier

Struik Travel & Heritage

Penguin Random House

Review: Brian Joss

If you are an avid hiker or just a novice and enjoy walking in the fresh air then you’re spoilt for choice in the Cape, Southwestern Cape, Little Karoo,  the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape. And Olivier should know, he has covered thousands of kilometres throughout southern Africa, on foot and on four wheels.

The book features more than 500 trails and walks in the regions. The guide is easy to navigate and includes information about accommodation, picnic sites, activities such as snorkelling, for example, nearby restaurants, whether the walks are challenging or easy, if they’re long or short.

If you’re doing the Tsitsikamma Hiking Trail, Garden Route National Park, Nature’s Valley, it will take you five days to do the 60.8km trail.  There are overnight huts and a porterage service which means you only have to carry a day pack. There is a comprehensive description of the walk.

There are walks in the Great Brak area: there are seven circular walks varying from 50 minutes to little over 90 minutes. One of these is called the Pepper Tree Walk. The pepper tree is believed to be the biggest one in South Africa and on the way you can see the original factory workers’ cottages and a hyro-electrical pump. The circular walk will take you on a meander through the town where you can visit the Searle Memorial Church and the Searle Graveyard where the town’s founders are buried.

Another ramble that should prove interesting is the Goudveld Forest, Garden Route National Park, Knysna. There are three walks  and you can visit the Krisjan-se-nek mining museum and the Bendiga mining village. The Matterolli House, one of only two surviving corrugated iron houses serves as a tearoom. The other was dismantled and re-erected in Knysna where it has been turned in to a museum.

The book is divided in to groupings and include uKhahlamba-Drakensberg and KwaZulu-Natal; Free State; Mpumalanga and Limpopo; Gauteng and Northwest Province; Great Karoo, Namaqualand and Kalahari.

Useful information includes trail terminology; planning your trip; the equipment you need and what to buy; nutrition; trail ethics; hiking safety and what to do in an emergency; how to treat illness and what to pack in a first aid kit. Important information is highlighted in text boxes.

There are contact details for the various trails and a personal trail record as well as a glossary and a comprehensive index. The full colour images will make you want to pick up your backpack and take a hike to tackle trails with unusual names like Leopard Trap Day Hike (Nieuwoudtville); Goegap Nature Reserve (Springbok); Vredefort Meteorite Hiking Trail (Vredefort Dome) and the Organ Pipes (Cathedral Peak), to name just a few. Pack it in your rucksack before you leave home.

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