Howzit Jozi (not the team doggo 🐶), Tshwane, Heidelberg, Roodepoort! We’re here! Sorry, it’s taken some time but you know with lockdown intra-provincial travel restrictions and all.
Gauteng may not be regarded as the trail capital of South Africa although it is very centrally located in terms of access to some serious hiking areas - the ancient Magaliesberg, the mystical Panorama Route and Magoebaskloof and the mighty uKhahlamba Drakensberg. But among all the cars, traffic, hustle and mine dump dust are areas with trails that offer something for everyone along quartzite ridges, grasslands, vleis, urban forests and wooded valleys. Many of these areas are dotted with interesting historical sites ranging from ancient remains of humans’ ancestors to Iron-age sites to remnants of the gold rush. One of the bonuses is that many of the areas in Gauteng are run by the associated municipality, with assistance from local friend/volunteer groups (give them a Bells). This means they often have no entry fee and are subsidised by your hard-earned tax money.
This week we release the first trail maps for Gauteng on the Forge app, which we will gradually add to. In the first batch of maps you will find the usual highly detailed, high-quality data you may be accustomed to in the Cape Town maps, as well as the maps recently released for the Winelands and Overberg areas. Gauteng is the most populous province and is a burgeoning region of outdoor activity, as shown by the throngs of people on her trails in recent weeks (of those areas that were open).
The first maps to come online offer a broad range of options for the outdoor adventurer looking for something “close to home” or the business traveler needing to escape the boardroom. They are:
Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve: Joburg’s largest nature reserve is regarded by some as one of the finest trail running spots north of the Vaal. trails wind through the natural veld, koppies and archaeological sites. Visitors may spot one of 230 bird species, 600 plants and several large mammal species, including blesbok, zebra and duiker.
Hennops Hiking Trails: arguably the most well-known privately-owned trails in Gauteng. The bushveld, ridges, caves, river crossings (of interesting varieties) and grassland of Hennops will make you feel like you're a million miles away, with plenty of trails to explore what the area has to offer.
Wonderboom Nature Reserve: the tree may be the star of the show, but there’s also a cave, a Boer War fort and several species of mammals that will keep trail users on their toes. There’s also a shady picnic site to relax at after some time in this reserve in northern Pretoria and on a Magaliesberg ridge. Then, of course, there’s the tree, which truly is a thing of wonder.
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens: established to showcase the unique ecosystems of the Highveld, this famous botanical garden is home to a dedicated geological trail, a variety of showcase gardens, a bird hide, the 70 m Witpoortjie Falls and arguably the country's most famous family of Verreaux’s Eagles.
Melville Koppies: have you been to Joburg’s only inner-city nature reserve? Melville Koppies hosts very important fauna and flora representative of the Witwatersrand Ridge ecosystem as well as important archaeological sites.
Marievale Bird Sanctuary: situated near Nigel in Ekurhuleni is, arguably, the finest bird-watching site in the province. While there are roads, one can as easily enjoy the reserve by foot and amble into one of the many bird hides. Twitchers and beginners are bound to leave Marievale with a substantial list, and even a few new species (lifers). There is a pleasant picnic site and you can even book one of the two cottages and spend a night with birds.
Kloofendal Nature Reserve: this small reserve allows one to explore the rocky Witwatersrand ridges along three dedicated trails. There is also a dam, a bird hide and a wetland which are of interest. You can also seek out several historical sites that reflect the area’s mining past.
Faerie Glen Nature Reserve: known by few aside from locals, this small nature reserve in Pretoria’s eastern suburbs is home to important endangered ecosystems and a variety of birds and animals. Several walking trails meander through the reserve along ridges, rivers and between important archaeological sites. Benches and informal picnic areas allow visitors to enjoy this hidden urban gem.
Tswaing Crater: 220 000 years ago a blazing meteorite crashed into the earth's surface resulting in a one-of-a-kind attraction where you can walk around and in of the Earth's best-preserved craters.
Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve: Gauteng's largest reserve offers kilometre upon kilometre of hiking trails and a beautiful cycling route to explore the grassland and valley thickets, spot birds and seek out wildlife. You may even find yourself looking over the province from its highest point.
We’ll be adding some of Johannesburg’s parks and greenbelts including Albert’s Farm, Northcliff Eco-Park, Delta Park, The Wilds and the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens soon, as well as the ability to download the Gauteng maps to your device, for use offline.
Many of the trails still require verifying and we’re sure there are plenty of trails that would be great to have on the app. As always you can submit a GPX of any trail data you’d like to share.
Know a private land-owner who you think should have their trails on the app? Drop us a note at email@example.com.
Spot anything that looks a bit weird or is just plain wrong? Let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please do share your Gauteng trail experiences with us on Instagram using the hashtag #IAmForge and tagging us @forge_sa.
Let's go... ho hloa lithaba (climbing mountains)!
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