The very influential economist Milton Friedman said: “There is nothing like a free lunch.” We mortals can translate it to “everything comes at a price.” Somebody else would say “to experience what few people experience, you have to go and do what few people do.”
And this describes today’s hike. I saw what very few people see. I could almost not believe my eyes. One of those hikes where you want to take a tea break every 15 minutes to enjoy the WOW. But it came at a (very worthwhile) price: it was one of the most strenuous hikes I did in a long time. An 18km hike is always tiring. But this hike has a persistent climb that made me think of turning back! I am probably exaggerating, but if somebody told me it is 1-on-1 climb, I will not argue!
What I am trying to convey (other that I am unfit) is that you need a lot of fitness for this one. Good sturdy shoes is a must.
We left the bakkie at the entrance gate and hiked on the left side of the Jonkershoek dam (clockwise around the circle.) I was looking for a trail that I did 12 years ago, but could not find it. No problem, we just continued to where the Jonkershoek circular drive turns and on the left hand there is a marker: Panorama Trail. From gate to here is about 5km’s and almost level hiking. But when you put your foot onto Panorama, you start climbing. My wife remarked that it feels worse than Boesmanskloof (Greyton to McGregor, which we did last year). This is a long, steep and steady climb. Since Panorama is on my to-do-list, I am coming back to finish this (in 2 weeks time I repeat this hike, anyway) and I am looking for a trail to the left that will connect with my contour trail of 12 years ago. Up we go. The fuel guage drops dangerously low. We eat protein bars. Up we go. What a relief when I can turn left onto the contour path.
You have to understand this as well: this IS part of the Panorama Trail, albeit only about 2km’s. We have amazing views over Jonkershoek. Opposite us is the First and Second Waterfalls, Kurktrekker Trail (another one I have to explore), Sossys Kloof, the old fire watchman’s house, Peak Sans Nom, out towards Stellenbosch. Every now and again you cross a little river gurgling over the rocks. It is well worth the sweat!
Now we have turned left on a downward sloping trail to walk at the feet of all the peaks. Every peak has a valley. Every valley has a river. But the best part, every valley has indigenous trees and growth that must be what Jonkershoek was like when Simon van der Stel first saw it. Next time I will pack lots of snacks so I can sit back at each little river and just enjoy the environment. From this altitude the cars on the circular drive looks like Dinky toys. I cannot see people moving. I have left all my stress and trouble far behind. Not even SARS could find me here!
The trail continues on the contour for some distance. Somewhere we missed the trail and got onto a jeep track. Coming down is a “problem,” since there are lots of forestry trails and these days cycling trails. They zig-zag and take long round abouts. We did hike some distance on a cycling trail, which bothered me, because it would be extremely dangerous if a cyclist came down these single tracks and neither one of us has room to move away. I would like some ideas on alternatives, please. The real truth is, that I did not want to take chances exploring dead ends, because I was tired by this time.
Eventually we connect to the circular drive again and walk back to the gate for a well deserved chocolate milkshake.
Milton Friedman was right, there is nothing like a free lunch. I am also convinced that the suffering was a small price for the experience. Lots and lots of people entered Jonkershoek with us. A handful saw what we saw.