A trip to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is best done by road. Preferably with friends because there is nothing like a road trip that is filled with lot of laughter and joking around talking rubbish.
I went with a friend and seven strangers who later became good friends. Thanks to spending 8 hours in the serene mountains of the Northern part of the Drakensburg.
We left on Friday night and arrived at the hotel just after midnight. Traffic on Friday is usually bumper to bumper on the N12 or N3 so my advice is to leave in the morning.
The Golden Gate National Park is located in the North-Eastern part of the Free State province. It is also one of the coldest regions in South Africa so if you are going in winter like we did you need to dress warm. Luckily the Chalets at the Hotel have electric blankets.
We were up bright and early and geared up for the Wodehouse Peak Hiking Trail. I tried to pull out when I heard it was going to take 7 hours to complete because I had never hiked before. So after bidding farewell to my friends, I turned around to get back to our shuttle but the combi was nowhere to be found. I could not go back to the hotel. To make matters worse, I did not have his cellphone number. O_o
The only option left was for me to run after the guys who had just left for the mountains. I could no longer see them though, so I simply followed the trail that I saw them take until I eventually caught up with them huffing and puffing.
The Hike was so beautiful I must admit. It was not strenuous at all. I had no idea of the beauty that lay ahead. Surrounded by layer upon layer of mountains that looked like rows and rows of green carpet. The silence up there is so surreal and cannot be expressed fully in words. Now I see how hikers have a love affair with mountains.
The whole hike felt like going for a walk with a bunch of friends. We talked, bonded, almost cried when we climbed to the highest peak, the famous Wodehouse. Another tricky part was when we did the bum slide on our way down. That sent my poor heart racing and required strategic thinking and contemplation.
When we got to the bottom of the mountain my legs were so numb but the feeling of victory and sense of achievement was so euphoric it overshadowed every ache. We walked for about two kilometres back to our hotel.
The day was sealed with a braai and lots of laughter as we teased each other about the struggles of fighting with the mountain. The lesson of the day was, “ don’t fight the mountain, negotiate with the mountain and you will be just fine.”
The following day we headed the charming, picturesque village of Clarens after a hearty breakfast of course. The quaint and vintage town is located on the foothill of famous Maluti Mountains of Lesotho. It is fondly known as the jewel of the Free State.
A walk around the little town reminded me of the pleasures of the simple things in life. Especially if you are from a big city like Johannesburg, where there is too much traffic and noise. You can enjoy craft beer or freshly brewed coffee while admiring vintage cars or shopping at cute boutiques. It’s literally a one street town.
Here expect to take lots of photos for the gram because the town was declared a heritage site so it’s very old school and nostalgic.I absolutely loved spending time in Clarence. My heart is longing for a weekend there.
Contact:www.sanparks.org to make a booking.