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  • Cath Green

MAGIC AND MIST - THE MAGOEBASKLOOF HIKING TRAIL

After driving through the green and ochre landscape of Tzaneen, we dipped into the thick pine forests of Magoebaskloof, excited to start the SAFCOL ecotrail through the Woodbush Forest. We were a motley crew of five hikers, with varying levels of fitness, and a shared love of the outdoors - the kind of people prepared enough not to get into serious trouble, but unprepared enough to create many memorable adventures. If you can find a hiking group like this, you’ve won the golden ticket.


True to hiking tradition, our packs were too heavy but our enthusiasm was high. At the last minute, we did a panic audit of our cumbersome backpacks to remove unnecessary items before setting off. This is 10/10 recommended behaviour! A word to the wise… pack lighter, share equipment where you can, bring a hiking pole and waterproof gear - the weather on this trip was rainy and misty for most of the trail, so backpack covers and raincoats are a must. Also don’t skimp on the treats (whatever your poison may be).


De Hoek to Woodbush (9 km)

After parking at De Hoek and taking in the beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding landscape, we made a quick descent past Dokolewa Hut and then followed the river upstream. This section is marked by a series of waterfalls and makeshift wooden bridges which zig-zag across the river and the wetter parts of the trail - it’s a quick initiation into finding your balance with a pack on.


The rest of the day found us tackling a steep climb up to Woodbush Hut through the Helsche indigenous forest. Despite being strenuous, it was otherworldly in its beauty, and gave us the opportunity to share the space with some Samango monkeys which was particularly magical. At the top of our climb, we were spurred on by the sight of the Woodbush Hut - a large farmhouse with basic wooden beds and mattresses, bathrooms, and a large kitchen area.


Woodbush to Broederstroom (14 km)

The following day was destined to be my favourite, because of the moderate intensity and the incredible diversity of landscape ranging from indigenous forest, to pine plantations, mountains, and a final stretch past the Dap Naude dam. The plant-life is truly astounding on this trail, particularly the range of exotic fungi that populate the trees and walkways, so slow down and spend some time taking it all in. Our end destination was the Broederstroom hut, which has electricity, so we all enjoyed lovely hot showers to soothe our aches and pains.


Broederstroom to Dokolewa (18 km)

Day three started with some impromptu matador training, when the melodic sound of cow bells was unexpectedly replaced by the thundering hoofs as the resident bull decided to charge us. After making a speedy getaway, we moved through oak trees into the forest. Highlights of the trail included the swamp cypress trees and a high-octane scramble across the chained walkway of slippery rocks where sadly the “stunning view over the Grootbosch” disappeared into heavy mist (still epic though). Another adventure revolved around an unplanned detour under electrical pylons resulting in some extreme bundu-bashing through spider-infested foliage - character building stuff. But, a solid group of friends and an emergency Strava route-check got us back on track again. The paths are relatively well-marked, but be sure to retrace your steps if you haven’t seen the painted footsteps marking the trails in a while.


The beautiful multi-tiered waterfalls on the final descent made the extra miles worthwhile, and the day ended with a refreshing swim in the pools outside Dokolewa hut. For full disclosure… the condition of the hut could not be considered a highlight of the experience. It’s pretty dark and dingy, and the mattresses have a significant amount of wear and tear. A lightweight tarp or sheet is a great asset in keeping out the critters and giving you a comfier sleep. But, the sound of the waterfall outside and the beauty of the natural surroundings make it all worthwhile. On our final day, we made the final 600m ascent to De Hoek where we all agreed we were sad for it to end, but happy to rest.


Check out the Multi-day Magoebaskloof Hiking Trail on www.safcol.co.za


Photos by Koooooos / www.janaandkoos.studio

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