Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Playing at Suikerbosrand

Since returning from Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, I haven't been sleeping very well. It's weird, because I usually drift off in less than two minutes and I sleep like the dead. After races and travelling I'll usually have a night or three where I wake up at odd hours, but I shouldn't have a disrupted sleep pattern three weeks after the race - that's unusual.

Take yesterday... I woke up at 02h30 - no particular reason: hot, perhaps, dogs barking in the neighbourhood... I tossed until 03h00 and then pulled out my laptop to mess around on Google Earth. I tried to go back to sleep at 05h00, unsuccessfully. Turned on my machine again and then slept from 07h00 - 08h00. Lovely. So, by last night, I was feeling way sleepy. And, it would happen that I'd sleep like death - hopefully back to normal - on the night when I'd needed to be up at 05h45!

My alarm went off this morning and I [almost] leapt out of bed, like a child going to the zoo, because I would be playing with Nic, Alex and Clinton at Suikerbosrand. I've been wanting to go for ages - I haven't been there for at least two or three years! - today was the day.

Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve is managed by Gauteng's Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Land Affairs. And there's been a whole Protea Hotel thing happening - they seem to have taken over the environmental centre (now a conference facility) and they've built some nice looking chalets. From what I can tell from their website, it looks like they've also taken over Kareekloof, on the other side, which has a caravan and camping park.

We set off on the 'overnight' trail - but to be honest, a trail that is walked-and-run in 3h45 is hardly an overnight trail... Nonetheless, we jogged past the sign that warns 'No day visitors past this point' and hit the hills.

In places the trail is decent but most of the way it is indistinct and overgrown. It doesn't look like it has been used for some time; and definitely not used with any regularity (the western 'day walk' trails are used regularly). Nic has run the route a number of times so he led the way through open grassy areas, where we saw red hartebees, zebra and pretty yellow and purple flowers, and through 'forested' leafy vegetated areas around Koedoeskloof and back up across some of the highest areas in the Reserve. The trail around Koedoeskloof, where an overnight hut is located, is difficult to follow - we did a bit of searching.

Suikerbosrand really is a gem that I most definitely under-utilise. It is fenced, safe and scenic with many kilometers of trail - enough to keep me busy for many hours: trail running and mountain biking. The first rogaine was held here many years ago and in eight hours we covered not quite half of the Reserve.

If you're in Gauteng, Suikerbosrand is definitely a place to keep in mind when considering a venue for playing.

The South-eastern side of the Reserve - Clinton is taking a photo of some antelope (one male, two females). Could have been eland - they're fuzzy and far away in my photo. Not much of the trail visible around here.

There are a number of different routes in the area; they're either day walks or 'overnight' trails that lead to hiking huts.

Clinton in a pretty glade in Koedoeskloof

Th Springbok overnight hut: dusty inside - not used for a long time. The 'facilties', a smaller building adjacent, is non-functional. Looks like the shower piping has been ripped out - probably for the copper. Loo is nothing you'd want to use.

Above and out of Koedoeskloof, which lies below (lots of trees - thorny trees!)

Pretty yellow flowers - like a meadow

Jo'burg is a high altitude city; and Suikerbosrand is just a bit higher. Here Clinton points to a hill, which has a spot height of 1896m. The highest point in the Reserve - and the info pamphlet says it is also the highest point in the Witwatersrand - is 1917m. We're up on a 'high-lying plateau'. Not much in the way of fauna 'cos the vegetation up high is more unpalatable than lower down.

Almost back at the start.. a lovely morning of trail running

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