I’ve been fortunate enough this year to have travelled to the Wolkberg (Serala) Wilderness in Limpopo. Hoping to experience the wilderness with all its challenges. I wasn’t disappointed! If anything, this experience has taught me so much about myself and what I’m truly made of! The mountain will test you in ways you never thought possible. There will be times when you have to push your body and mind, because giving up isn’t an option. That said; it’s not easy but it sure is worth it!
The road from Johannesburg was quite scenic – offering numerous mountain ranges, rolling hills and vast plains to take in as I drove up the long and winding road; but I was eager to get there despite the beautiful views – knowing I’d have a chance to appreciate them on my drive back home.
Reaching the gravel road that would take me into the mountain my heart skipped a beat – I was there! I remember looking at the magnificent mountain in front of me and thinking to myself, “What a giant beauty you are!”
I began the slow drive into the mountain on the gravel road that kept climbing and climbing, for what seemed an eternity at that point. Every turn I made revealed another turn and another. So I decided to stop for a minute and take a breath of fresh air while staring at the landscape that was surrounding me.
In the distance I could see the village I’d passed; drowning in the vastness of the mountains. Suddenly I felt quite small on the grand scale of all things. There’s just something about standing on the side of a mountain, the village and all her people at your feet, while the mountains continue to tower over you. It was something to see and even more to experience. Looking at perfectly framed pictures and 3D renderings I never quite understood the sheer enormity of it all, not until I was standing there in that moment and seeing it with my own eyes; able to see how I had turned into the ant scurrying about on the ground while giants walked amongst me.
Reaching the Forest Station I took another moment to see the mountains from up high. There was no more village to see, only untamed nature as far as the landscape stretched. It was glorious!
Forest Station to Wonderwoud
I woke shortly after 5 that following morning and was eager to get out of the tent and get my gear packed away, but I could hardly see a thing. The mountains had made good on the promise of it’s name – I was surrounded by clouds.
The trail started on what was once a 4×4 track – now it’s just a overgrown slice of wilderness that offers comfortable walking. It was only once I started hiking that it dawned on me, I was walking in the clouds!
The track ran just below a ridgeline and had some spectacular cloud covered everything; fortunately the clouds could clear up as quickly as they rolled in.
At the end of the track I reached the start of Andy’s path. A well known route followed by most that venture into the Serala Wilderness and it starts with a pretty view and a steep decent down a gorge!
The drop is quite intense and will test your balance, but mostly your knees and ankles – with an approximate descent of 400m over a 2.6km stretch. There are tiny streams that run along side you, on occasion, as you go down; but once you reach the bottom of the gorge it evens out quite nicely and makes for a very comfortable hike with beautiful views of the surrounding mountain.
I continued to follow Andy’s path all the way down to the Shobwe river, which was an absolute delight to cross – my feet were quite angry with me at that point. The river was gentle enough to cross in my camp shoes – I didn’t quite fancy myself wet socks and trail runners. I took some time off after the crossing to allow my feet to soak in the water and give them a good rub before they air and dry, naturally I had to take a breather as well. So I sat on the rocky banks of the river and started at the rock faces hiding behind the tress on the mountain that lay before me while my feet got some rest and I filtered water to replenish my stores.
I ventured further down the path toward the Wonderwoud, until I reached the point where I had to turn back. Let me tell you, that forest is dense and without a machete you won’t be getting very far. At one point I was down on all fours, with my backpack constantly trying to smash my face into the ground and that’s when I opted to turn around. It was a sad moment, but safety comes first.
I made my way back with a heavy heart as I left the Wonderwoud behind, crossed the Shobwe river once more and decided I’d reached my home for the night. Honestly I was quite bummed and didn’t feel like doing anything other than feeling sorry for myself at that point.
The following morning I had a look at my maps and plotted a different course back to the Forest Station. I opted to take a path that passed the gorge from which I came for a more gradual climb that weaved along side the neighbouring ridges.
The climb was quite steep in certain sections but overall it was much easier on my body than a gorge ascent would’ve been – not to mention that the gorge doesn’t have many places to safely take a breather. I was fortunate enough to have met a few cows in a grazing area I passed on the climb and they were exceptionally chatty as the sun was basically cooking me six ways to Sunday.
Taking the longer route not only did my body a world of good but the views were even more spectacular from this ridge, in comparison to what I’d seen when I started my little adventure! It was all worth it in the end.
To see a few more pictures of my journey into the Wolkberg, watch the video below: