HIKING adapted from http://www.southafrica.info/travel/adventure/hiking.htm There’s no better way to experience wild places than to put your boots on and your feet on the ground. South Africa has a huge variety of awesomely scenic hiking trails. Here are some of the highlights. The Otter Trail along the Tsitsikamma coast is probably the most popular hike in the country. Lush forests, rugged shorelines, mountain streams and waterfalls and fragrant fynbos make this a special one. It’s strenuous, with lots of ups and downs, but the distances aren’t too great. It has recently been assessed by HOSA and received the prestigious Green Flag award for a trail being under responsible management. (www.greenflagtrails.org). If you want the scenery and walking with less slog and more luxury, try some of the Slack Packing trails such as the Dolphin Trail. It traverses similar terrain to the Otter but instead of hiking huts you stay in fully catered guest houses with great views and good food. Your pack is transported to your next overnight spot by vehicle, and you carry only a day pack with lunch, water, camera and swimsuit. Purists can tackle the Wild Coast as rough as they like.
There are miles and miles of unspoiled hiking trail traversing high mountains, deserts and forests, where the accommodation is the usual hiking hut, and the cuisine whatever you decided to carry. Mpumalanga has been the traditional mecca of hiking through the commitment of SAFCOL – the Magoebaskloof trail being perhaps the most renowned. The paths follow forestry roads and single file paths through pine plantations but also through much indigenous forest landscape and the most beautiful streams and pools. The Bushveld of the northern parts of the country provide equality good trails though of completely different character: game viewing and sitting around a camp fire at night typifies these trails. The hot summers limit their use to a degree. Added to these are the trails of the Boland mountains with the Fynbos vegetation and the vastly different Karoo and Free State trails with their wide expanse. Trails vary in length and character. Day trails vs long distance trails. Open ended trails where hikers return along same path back; linear or cul-de-sac when someone has to fetch you at the end; clover leaf gives you the luxury of carrying only your day pack, sleeping in the same hut every night; and then the ultimate in luxury: slack packing where you sleep in luxury and walk at ease – your luggage being transported for you. The Hiking Organization of SA (HOSA; Afrikaans: VOSA) is the umbrella organization bringing together all role players interested in the hiking industry in SA. (www.hosavosa.co.za)