More Useful Stuff
Few things will have you facing fear more than rock climbing. It’s the exposure that gets to you more than the height. That and the physical input – anyone can jump off a bridge attached to a bungee cord, but when climbing, you have to muscle yourself to the top. Some men never conquer the fear, others thrive on being vertical. There’s only one way to find out how you’ll handle it.
Head to the quartzite crags, known as “the restaurant at the end of the universe” in the Elands River Gorge near Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga. With more than 600 routes (and plenty of unmapped rock), Boven is a rock climber’s paradise. Roc ’n Rope Adventures is the top local operator, offering expert guiding, courses and equipment hire. If you’re an old rocker, they’re also the
best source of updated route info.
Track big game on foot
Kruger National Park
Seeing an elephant from the safety of a car is thrilling. But tracking an old bull (you know
he’s aged from the biggish bits you noticed in his steaming dung earlier) for half an hour, will
awaken every primitive hunter’s instinct inside you. You’ll study his dustbin-lid sized prints, seeing how he dragged his trunk in the dust, then hear branches breaking and the rumble of his insides before finally catching sight of him in a raffia palm thicket, Your weapon? A good camera.
Try the guided Mphongolo Trail near Shingwedzi Camp in the Kruger National Park for the best shots and the most authentic experience (you camp wild and carry your own pack for four days).
Atlantis, West Coast
Got control or trust issues? Jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane strapped to some guy you’ve never met should fix that. Sometimes you’ve just got to believe. Take the stats for instance: only 12 people have died in skydiving-related accidents in South Africa since 2004, none of them tandem related. Of course, you’re going to want to jump somewhere scenic to get good photos and video to show your mates. For backdrop you can’t beat Table Mountain, Robben Island and the sandy white beaches of the West Coast. Just try to keep your eyes open…
Go off the map
A common criticism of South Africans is that their passports are full of stamps while they haven’t
experienced even a fraction of what their own country has to offer. Don’t want to be that guy?
Start by going to Hartebeesvlakte, a nearly-forgotten, grassy-knolled cauldron of mountain wilderness between Ohrigstad, Sabie and Pilgrim’s Rest in Mpumalanga. Blesbok, wildebeest and jackals thrive and years back there was even a resident herd of wild cattle. Not buffalo, feral farm cows. Are they still there? Only those who go will ever know.
Raft the Orange River
When was the last time you really relaxed? Not that rainy Saturday afternoon under a duvet on the couch. We’re talking about reaching that mental space where your only concern is remembering to breathe. You might find this kind of enlightenment in a Buddhist retreat high in the Himalayas, but there’s a much more enjoyable option closer to home. Submit to the rhythms of the Orange River on a rafting trip – it’s guided, catered for and those four or five days are guaranteed to rank among the mellowest you’ve ever experienced. Do the Gorge section near Pofadder rather than the usual Richtersveld run. And for extra context and to appreciate an untold part of South African history, read William Dicey’s Borderline before you go.