Steep mountain slopes and blue skies: My hiking experience in Heidelberg


The idea of taking a walk in the countryside has never been on my bucket list, although fully aware of its health benefits however, my thoughts would run wild whenever I think about the long distance, snakes and all the unfavourable things one would come across while hiking.

On sunny Saturday morning, my cousin and I decided to go for a hike in Heidelberg, a small town just outside Johannesburg. Roughly 45 minutes’ drive and on our way there I was super excited to try out something I have never done before.

When we arrived in Heidelberg- Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, we equipped our ourselves for the walk. We applied lots of sunscreen as it was extremely hot, made sure we had enough water and everything else we may need in my backpack. Cap and shades, I was ready to begin. I only realised after the hike how important a trekking stick is, of which I had forgotten to bring.

 The hike started well. The route starts in the medicinal garden and after crossing the tar road it swings left following many coloured footprints that indicate the direction.

The view was everything I had hoped it would be. The sun was shining merrily, the sky was blue as the ocean, birds singing along the bushes as if they were cheering me on.

The first quarter of the walk was flat and I was happy. We played music throughout to make the walk a little jolly. My troubles only started when we went the route going upwards however, I kept my cool and took one step after another.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t turn my head around to see how far I had already walked because I knew I would have the urge to just turn back so I kept pressing on.

The trail was now going uphill and it got tougher. I would stop and ‘catch’ my breath then continue. There were moments where I wished a helicopter would just appear out of nowhere to save me from this long exhausting walk and others where I quietly uttered the words “I’ll never do this again in my life” to myself.

Things took a turn for the worst halfway through the mountain. I would lean on every stem of a tree I came across and sat on every rock I stumbled upon just to recollect my energy and carry on. Each step was followed by a sip of water.

The creepiest part of the hike was when I came across memorial stones of people who had succumbed to death while hiking.  It freaked me out thinking that one could die there.

With fatigue and joy, I submitted to the peak of the mountain. I took a much-deserved break for a few minutes, ruffled on my backpack for something to snack on. 

I was overwhelmed with joy mainly because I could finally see my way back and it was going downhill. It was like finding your way back home after being lost in the wild or desert.

From now it was downhill to the finishing point. I was all smiles going down, happy that I finished what I started, happy that I endured! And it was after I was done that thought hiking is not that bad and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

One lesson I learned from the experience was mental endurance. The saying that ‘goes you can do everything you put your mind to‘ was tried and tested on that day. Had I decided to turn back at an early stage of the hike I would not have this perspective on life.

I don’t mean to get all philosophical on you but my hiking journey (I’m calling it a journey because it felt that long) life will not be always smooth-sailing like hiking it gets steeply hard, however you must keep going until things get better again.

The next outdoor activity I want to try out is camping.


About Author

A qualified journalism alumna from the University of Johannesburg who’s passionate about writing and story-telling. She believes in social change, shifting the narrative around social behaviours and relations such as stereotyping, racism, and to live in a society where we can all be free to exercise our human rights. Busisiwe lives by this famous quote by the great Nelson Mandela “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.

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