HAPPY NEW YEAR FRIENDS!
If there’s one word that I associate with the festive season and this time of year, it’s “indulgence”; indulgence in good food (OMG ICE CREAM), good wine (maybe a treble vodka here and there, with a side of G&T), good company and, because Christmas and New Year fall over summer in South Africa, a healthy dose of sun, sand and sea.
I also tend to “indulge” (if that’s the right word to use? Probably not) in a fair bit of exercise over this time, to work off some of my other exploits (see previous paragraph r.e. vodka and G&Ts).
As I’ve spent the past couple of weeks at our family holiday house in Plettenberg Bay, much of this exercise has involved waking up at 5.45am (yeah, ew, I come from one of those families) and going on great treks through the great, diverse wilderness of Plettenberg Bay. Hiking is one of my favourite forms of exercise. With all that fresh air and possibility to explore new areas and go on an adventure, it doesn’t feel like exercise. This also means it’s the perfect alternative for holidays.
If you’re in Plettenberg Bay this summer – or are planning a visit in 2017, which you definitely should do, because it’s the best place ever ever ever and surely that’s reason enough – here are some of my favourite hiking trails and walks in the area, where you can work up a sweat, work off those indulgences and reconnect with nature.
ROBBERG NATURE RESERVE
I hike these trails numerous times over the 5-week period that we’re in Plett for the summer, and every time I discover something new that I love about it. Whether you opt for the short-ish 2km stroll, the 5km route or the more gruelling (and my favourite) 9km that wraps around the full length of the reserve, this is truly an epic trek. Winding along the edge of a green-topped peninsula that juts out into the crystal clear blue waters of Plettenberg Bay, the trail leads through a diverse landscape – to forested, shady areas, white dunes, rocky ledges and a vast expanse of untouched beach. From the peninsula, the ocean view is so endless and enchanting and blue, I often have to remind myself to keep at least one eye on the narrow path ahead. Besides for keeping an eye on the trail, look out for seals in the waves down below, as well as dolphins, whales or the lurking shadow of a hammer head shark.
Some other useful information…
It gets nasty hot in summer time up in the reserve, so I’d recommend an early morning start to beat the heat (sure, a 7am hike sounds like a drag when you’re deep in the holiday game, but you’ll thank me later), loads of extra water and some snacks – especially if you’re tackling the 9km trail. There’s also a conservation fee at the entrance to the reserve (R45 per person).
HARKERVILLE – PERDEKOP TRAIL
Stepping on to the Perdekop trail was like descending into a foreign world, one surrounded by layers of tree trunks and shrubbery, and enclosed by a leafy, domed canopy. As the sounds of the city drift away, allow yourself to tune into the forest – the whisper of your footfalls against the ground, damp from recent summer rain and covered in yellowing leaves, the rustle of birds (or other unidentifiable forest critters) in the trees all around, and the cackle call of the Knysna lourie.
The Perdekop trail is one of two trails in the Harkerville area, a stretch of indigenous forest between Plettenberg Bay and Knysna, that extends to meet the coast. While the second hike – Kranshoek – takes one down to the sea, the Perdekop trail winds through the relative cool of the forest.
It’s a fairly gentle route (gentle, bar a couple of rogue tree roots, all of which I very elegantly tripped over), so we took our time to take it all in. From the towering trunks of the yellowwood trees, to the mushrooms sprouting from the undergrowth, the flash of red feathers that signals a Knysna lourie and a cascading waterfall that marks the halfway (ish) point of the route, there is much to discover here.
Some other useful information…
Mosquito repellant is a must, especially after a bout of summer rain. The little buggers were buzzing around our legs every time we stopped to admire something special in the forest, resulting in some frantic hopping about and slapping of legs. The trail also intersects with mountain biking routes, so keep an eye out for cyclists at they tackle the terrain.
KEURBOOMSTRAND TO ARCH ROCK (and beyond)
This is not so much a hike, as a gentle stroll along the beach. I head left of Enrico’s, a well loved restaurant on Keurbooms Beach (referred to as Keurboomstrand in Afrikaans), famed for its pizzas and that calming ocean view. This stretch of sand, backed by a forested mountain side, is dotted with toppling rock formations, which one can weave around and through until reaching the ultimate rocky outcrop – Arch Rock (which, as its name might suggest, is an arched rock formation and is also quite fantastic and photo-worthy).
Here’s the best part though – just beyond the arch, nestled between the rocks and looking out towards the crashing waves, is a beautiful glassy pool of water, perfect for a morning swim to cool off after that stroll. In other words, this gem of a rock pool is like a reward for being an awesome human bean and dragging yourself out of bed for some light exercise, while on holiday. If, however, you would actually like to add some kilometres to your walk, there is a pathway that leads along the coast, well beyond the rock pool. The path is made up mostly of driftwood shards and pebbles, so a pair of sandals come in handy.
Some other (quite useful) information…
Check the daily tide tables for Plettenberg Bay (Google is your friend) before embarking on this mini-adventure as the arch is only really accessible at a low tide.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and that you’ll be adding these hikes to your bucket list for this year. I find it really easy to get into a rut of doing the same hikes over and over again (especially when I become comfortable with a route, and all its trials and tribulations) so have promised myself to tackle a bunch of new routes this year – in Plettenberg Bay, Cape Town and elsewhere. Follow my blog for updates, and here’s to an adventurous 2017!