“I don’t get it. The trail looked so flat on the map.” Unknown
It’s now been several months since we arrived in our new town and we really felt the need to get back into nature (and our hiking clothes)! But we were warned it was not safe everywhere, so where can we go?
Then we remembered the very first place we visited on arrival in East London back in May. A brewery farm on the outskirts of the city, Emerald Vale Brewery Farm, which also had hiking trails. (You can read about that visit here).
There are several hiking options: 4.8km, 8.7km, 12.5km and then the longer ones of 21km and 26km. Since we have not hiked the last couple of months, we thought to give one of the shorter options a try … so, 12.5km (7.7 miles) it would be. At that moment, it sounded quite easy (and relatively flat) …
When we left the house, it was overcast (while it rained overnight). It was a cool morning and we thought that hats won’t be necessary … it was anyway going to be a short hike. In our backpack we had rain jackets, two bottles of water and a packet of energy sweets. For hikers that were supposed to be experienced, we were terribly unprepared!
There is an honesty box at the start of the trail and after depositing our fee of R25 p/p (€1.40 p/p), we started to follow the coloured arrows (blue was our trail’s colour).
I don’t think we were even 2km into the trail, when we realised we made a big mistake by not bringing our hats with … the sun started to move the clouds away and it was becoming hot and humid! What were we thinking!?
We found quite a few stiles (those wooden structures that are built to provide people passage over the fences) and fortunately quite easy to navigate.
On the trail we past a handful of dams, which is typical to find on a farm. But it was surprising to see that most of these dams were covered with water lilies (or at least the leaves of these lovely flowers).
We soon realised we made a second mistake on this hike – remember, the first one was that we did not bring our hats along – and now we saw the trail is NOT flat (although it looked like that on the map when I studied it 😄).
Soon, we reached another dam. And our luck was in, because this time we could actually see a few water lilies.
Berto walked closer to the dam to take photos of the water lilies, while I found welcome shade under a tree. When I looked down, I saw the most beautiful wild iris.
The road continued to wind up and we stopped a couple of times to look at all the different trees (that are unfamiliar to us).
We then reached a small river (or maybe a stream), which we crossed and then the pathway turned to the right. This leaded to another dam … and a HUGE uphill.
After we rested a bit on top of the hill, we walked on (there was not much shade). As we walked past the highest point, there was a warning – presumably for cyclists and trail runners coming from the top. No wonder we were so out of breath!
When we finally reached the top, we were so tired and hot! There was a long stretch in front of us (without any shade) and we just collapsed at the closest little spot of shade.
We drank almost all our water (another mistake that we only took 500ml of water each) … one would really think this is our first hike ever! Luckily I remembered the energy sweets in our backpack and we quickly grabbed a handful of these … which seemed to do its magic and we could continue.
We reached a frame at the top of the long grassy stretch, which I reckoned was a good photo opportunity (with the lovely Indian Ocean in the background).
It was still another 3km back to the starting point, so we had to pushed on. But you know how it is, the last few kilometres always feel like an eternity!
With approximately 1km to go, we reached a bridge that we had to cross … and then a very welcoming sign!
And ironically, when we reached the Brewery, we did not order a beer! No, we ordered a glass of ice-cold orange juice – the best orange juice we ever tasted!
Will we do this hike again? Of course, it’s a beautiful trail! But maybe we should have started with the (much shorter) option since we were not really hiking fit! And next time, our hats are packed in first … and more water!