Hiking isn’t everybody’s thing – it certainly wasn’t mine. While I fully appreciate the beauty of nature, I didn’t think I needed to endure a hot, sweaty uphill slog to get a good look at it (I can appreciate it just fine from the foot of the mountain thanks, it’s quite pleasant down here, really.) Who knew hiking needn’t be a lesson in physical endurance? Who knew it could literally be a walk in the park.
For me, the turnaround came with a team-building exercise (read: day off work) in the West Coast National Park. We were off to explore the Postberg Flower Reserve, a section of the park that is open for only a couple months of the year (August to September) during the spring flowering season.
It’s a small window of opportunity that has walking enthusiasts clamouring for the limited number of day or full weekend passes available – and now I know why …
The Postberg Flower Trail:
After managing to get slightly lost within the first half hour of walking (entirely our own lack of navigational prowess; the path is in fact very decently marked), we puff our way up the only steepish incline of the day, stopping to survey the views with a cup of tea and a snack from our diligently prepared packs (supplies are absolutely necessary, unless you plan on eating the scenery, which is frowned upon). And what a view.
The landscape is strewn with multi-hued wild flowers nestled in the abundant fynbos that carpets most of the reserve and stretches on either horizon to meet the azure waters of the Langebaan Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s pristine, undisturbed nature as far as the eye can see, and we’re a handful of the maximum twenty people who will be allowed to enjoy it today.
As we continue our way through silver topped grasses – doing that cool thing grass does in the wind where, from a distance, it looks like flowing water – we are watched somewhat inquisitively by a herd of assorted antelope; tiny springbok, long-limbed gemsbok and something huge kneeling in the grass that could be a kudu or a camel, it’s hard to tell.
Other wildlife sightings of the day include a lethargic cobra and four wildebeest racing each other across the slopes and looking for all the world like they’re just having fun in the old nature reserve.
The flowers are already past their prime according to those in the know, but they’re breathtaking nonetheless. Though my own floral lexicon only extends to ‘orange flower’ and ‘purple flower’, I’m lucky enough to be with people who know the difference, and can point out any specimens that my city eyes have missed. Swathes of colour surround us, and even if you don’t know your steenbokbos from your Namakwa daisy, it’s hard not to be swept away by the sheer beauty of them all.
We stop for lunch and a quick siesta at one of the reserve’s postcard-perfect, windswept beaches, the crashing Atlantic reminding us of that wild quality that makes the West Coast just so majestically beautiful. The path continues along another stretch of beach, back over another fynbos-encrusted hill and along the path back to the gate, the car and home.
If you’d told me a month ago I’d be doing a five-hour (excluding stops), 14-km hike through a nature reserve and loving every minute of it, I’d have told you you had the wrong person. But I’m converted. Stiff, sore and sunburnt, I’d do it again tomorrow (or maybe just as soon as my legs have recovered).
Bookings opens in June.
Contact numbers: +27 (0)22 707-9902 or +27 (0)22 707-9903.
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Photographs taken in the West Coast National Park