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Sleep in a cave
Overnighting in a cave is a prehistoric contemplative encounter with yourself, the resident bats and anyone who has ever used it as a hideout before you. It might be a cold night, will probably be restless and definitely uncomfortable. Until dawn breaks. As the sun kisses
peak after peak, the mountain vistas will wipe the hardships of the night out of your head quicker than an espresso. Sure, you can do it from a tent, but opening your eyes in that natural lodging will connect you to everyone who’s done the same. And man, will you appreciate your tech-lite mattress and flashy hiking tent like never before. For your first night out, try Grindstone Caves, about 3.5km from the small eNjesuthi self-catering camp, in the Little Berg. Book before you go and never sleep in a cave with rock art.
Take the train
….from Joburg to Cape Town Karoo
The Shosholoza Meyl is likely to take all of 26 hours (instead of the usual two-hour plane hop), but you’ll see parts of South Africa (to the background clatta-clatta of steel wheel on track) that you’re unlikely to normally see, fly past. You’ll also meet some very interesting characters and when the train stops (oh and it does – at random, without warning and nowhere in particular) you’ll develop a new level of patience, which, as they say, is a virtue. Or, get pretty damn sharp at playing Texas Holdem. Want to avoid the interesting characters and dubiously comfortable bunks? Then opt for the Blue Train, but be prepared to pay.
Verneukpan is a horizonless stretch of 50 by 11km of baked earth, a short drive from the one-road town of Vanwyksvlei (100-odd kilometres is nothing in the Northern Cape). Standing on the roof of your vehicle and staring at 360 degrees of flat nothingness is likely to make you realise your place in the world, almost as much as being in the middle of the Atlantic in a rowing boat. Once you’ve stopped feeling small, drive the track (a straight 17km lined with tyres) on which Malcolm Campbell tried, unsuccessfully, to break the land speed record in 1929. Be sure to go with a guide. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get lost in so much open space. And when the mist comes…
Robben Island, Table Bay
Seven kilometres (as a dolphin swims) from Big Bay beach lies a World Heritage Site that symbolises freedom and triumph over extreme adversity. You know the history. Now go and see where Nelson Mandela and his fellow political prisoners were held for chunks of their lives. In the yard, where they were forced to break rocks (simply to pass the time), you can almost hear the chisels and hammers. It’s context and a connection with what the great man endured for this country.
Hike the Magaliesburg
North West Province
Cape Town has the mountain and sea, Durban good surf and great fishing. Joburg? Traffic. But, just an hour’s drive can get you out into
nature. The Magaliesburg forms a rocky divide between the warm bushveld to the north and the cooler highveld to the south. A large variety of mammals and birds make their home here but, it’s the canyons and kloofs that really make you feel as though you’re hiking somewhere
further than just a 100km from the nearest traffic jam.