There is nothing better in the world than exploring a place on foot. The simplicity of throwing a day pack over your shoulder, tying your shoelaces, grabbing a hat, some snacks, a bottle of water and heading out to where no one can reach you has a significant impact on ones life’s journey. It’s along these walks that I learn the most about the environment and the significance of each tiny little thing that completes the circle we call life.

Hiking out in Plettenberg Bay

My walk this year in the Hi-Tec Garden Route Walking Festival was out at Brackenburn Private Nature Reserve with Mark Jones
The 7.5 km journey took us from forest to beach with a drop into the low lying areas of the coastal forest region, meandering along the Matjies River until we reached the ocean and the magnificent “Cathedral Rock” known to most as “Arch Rock” on Keurbooms beach.

As per normal I would choose a day that the heavens open up and the water tumbles from the sky, but none the less, it’s nothing that a rain jacket can’t fix. The soft rain turned the forest into a crispy clean array of greens with scattered spider webs, all glistening in the light and showing off their delicate works of art.

“Rain drops and webs”

Moving along the forest path Mark pointed out trees, plants, fungus, animal droppings and more. But what fascinated me the most was the details Mark pointed out of the little creatures that scurry along the forest floor or burrow themselves in the wood and stone crevasse. From millipedes and spiders to scorpions and tiny caterpillars that are hidden from plain sight.

Each with it’s own importance in this maze of intricate living. It’s odd that you would never go near a creepy crawly until someone picks it up and shows you the little tiny thing with to many legs and eyes for us to imagine. It then seems to become an intent subject and you stare at it like you’ve never seen it before. Humans are odd that sometimes!

The river meander surprised us not only with its abundance of life, but also with the most picturesque views of low-hanging branches and vines that weaved a beautiful displays of green, accompanied by a bubbly stream of water that works it’s way past the mossy boulders and over the smooth stones of the tannin coloured river bed.

Forest vines, trees and a bubbly stream

The quiet here is almost deafening at times, if it wasn’t for the odd bird call. And as you stand still and look around, it’s only the water that seems to make a sound, until a sudden bark of a bush-buck breaks through the silence. I had to smile to myself as I thought “it’s an unseen alive” life here gets on with it, in gentle way. Maybe the silence is the forests’ secret way of survival, a tactic that we can not seem grasp, but it does feel odd in the eerie soundless space.

Carrot fern

Along route we crossed a few giants, trees that has been around for much longer than most of us could imagine. It’s a wonder that they have survived the onslaught of the woodcutter. Maybe it was their odd shaped trunks, that in truth took some odd twist and turns in their growth, or maybe they were the lucky ones. Glad that they still around I took a moment to caress their barks and branches with my eyes and hoped that they would still be around for a few hundred years more.

The odd shaped Outeniqua Yellowwood
Trees over the river

The vegetation slowly changed as we approached the ocean, the roar of breaking waves could be heard long before we broke through the forest edge. Typical to rivers the natural debris of forgotten floods laid strewn across our the narrow exit and some neat foot work was required to work our way out to the welcoming sight of a white beach and the river mouth that spilled in to the greyish blue ocean. Our end destination before us.

“Looking out over the River mouth”

The gulls took flight from their sandy resting spot, shouting their displeasure of being disturbed by our approach. Five stragglers emerged onto the beach, the beautiful rock formations on either side embraced the happy hikers. The encore was the magnificent Cathedral Rock that has been shaped through the years by wind and water and now neatly stood its ground on the Keurbooms beach. We mulled about and took in its beauty, and a few pics of course, then headed back west to our pick up point near Enrico’s. Tired but happy we were collect and taken back to Brackenburn. The small scruffy group pilled out of the taxi, thanked the driver, shared some thoughts before saying our goodbyes and headed homeward bound. An awesome day had by all.

Exiting the Matjies River at Keurbooms

Thank your Mark ! Your walks are always so enlightening and I truly enjoy every step I walk with you. Learning and evolving as I go along.

Mark, leading the group up a path where he found leopard spot the day before

Hints and tips:

1. Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting wet

2. Take a Day backpack for camera, snacks, tissues, hat, phone, small towel and walking stick for the down hill and river crossings. You will get wet.

3. Don’t rush this hike, its about learning and enjoying the experience

4. If you get a pickup at restaurant stay for dinner it’s a great spot and you will be hungry. There are ablutions to change into a clean set of clothes.

5. For rainy days take a rain jacket, it will keep you not only dry but warm.

6. Remember a great attitude and an appreciation for nature

Arch Rock