Here to help spark a similar lust for exploration and adventure in you that was sparked in himself, Jacques Kok writes this handy hikers guide for all future explorers in preparation for an adventure of their own to the renowned Blyde River Canyon.
Story and captured by Jacques Kok
The spark for adventure started with my first multi-day hiking trail in Magoebaskloof. Setting off on this adventure, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Ultimately, it would change the way I view my life – and myself, for that matter. This time around, I find myself in the well-known and frequently treaded Blyde River Canyon: the second largest canyon in Africa after the Fish River canyon, and the third largest on Earth. Located in Mpumalanga, and forming part of the Northern Drakensberg escarpment, this 25-kilometre-long canyon forms the most picturesque back-drop for a magnificent adventure.
REACHING THE CANYON
Getting there from O.R. Tambo International Airport is about a four-and a-half hour drive, including some quick pitstops along the way. The journey includes some time on the N12 from O.R. Tambo before taking the N4 exit at Emalahleni, and continues along this route through Belfast, Dullstroom, and Lydenburg. It is best to try and avoid the R555 road owing to the many potholes and ongoing road works.
The distance covered is roughly 390 km on tarred roads, so you can do this trip in just about any vehicle – just make sure you have enough room in it to pack all your camping equipment, adventure gear, and refreshments. If you have a little more time on your hands, you might want to stop at Breathe Adventures located in the fly fishing capital of South Africa, Dullstroom.
Breathe Adventures offers zip lining, abseiling, and rock climbing. For those pancake aficionados, make sure you visit Milley’s Restaurant in Machadodorp for their famous trout pancakes, or try a
variation of that on the Harries’ Pancakes menu in Dullstroom. Just be sure to leave enough time to setup camp at the destination before sunset.
SETTING UP CAMP
Blyde Canyon, A Forever Resort is the closest I have been to glamping. This three- and four-star resort is fully equipped to meet all of your needs, from a convenience store and filling station,
to a cold water swimming pool, puttputt course, tennis courts, trampolines, horse riding, volleyball, and well laid out hiking trails. There is even the Kadisi Bar and Restaurant that serves up some local cuisine and unique buffet.
This award-winning Caravan Park is cloaked in shade, and offers 30 spacious sites with patches of luscious green grass, all equipped with electricity outlets, a braai area, and refuse bin. The two
modern ablution blocks are spotless, with a communal laundromat at ablution block A. The park is suitable for camper trailers and even the more basic of tents. Most importantly, the resort is safe, clean, and well maintained with commanding views of nature surrounding you. Luxury chalets and standard rooms are also available for the more leisurely inclined.
TAKE A HIKE
You can access the trails from the lookout point in the resort. There is a total of three trails from which to choose: the Leopard trail is for the more experienced hiker, while the Guinea Fowl and Tafu trails are more suitable for a relaxed hike. For those who are up for the challenge, the Leopard trail makes for a more scenic, challenging, and diverse hiking experience. The route is clearly
marked with a leopard footprint, and the tracks are visible for the majority of the hike, making it easy for you to stay on course. Approximately 7.2 km in length, with an elevation of about 300 metres, the hike will take approximately four hours to complete, and you require a reasonable level of fitness. On this trail, you will encounter the spectacular Blyde River, Blydepoort Dam, Three Rondavels, and Mariepskop.
The trail embarks on a descent and the terrain will change from rocky mountain topography to a more densely canopied walk along the river. Keep an eye out for the river pools and small waterfall along the way, as these make for perfect spots to enjoy a quick snack or swim. No extravagant gear and equipment is required to do this hike, but make sure to wear the correct hiking footwear and
a shoe that is moderately waterproof, as you will be crossing the river. Other tools and gadgets that might come in handy are trekking poles, hat or cap, hydration pack, and a camera. The end of the trail brings you to an “oasis in the dessert”, the Kadisi Restaurant, just in time for a well-deserved ice cold beer or two, so be sure to bring your wallet along as well.
Apart from all of the entertainment options at the resort, there are a lot of great tourist attractions in and around the area. The resort is a half-hour drive away from Graskop, offering attractions such as the Bourke’s Luck potholes, and the Big Swing in Graskop (the highest cable gorge swing in the world). This road trip truly has something for everyone, and will be a good way to terse out the inner adventurer inside of you. So go out, see, experience, explore, and discover a new passion for life. For the curious adventurer looking for more information on how to recreate this trip, visit: www.thedaywalkers.co.za.