Amongst the Grass­lands of Ezemvelo

Au­thor of the pop­u­lar ad­ven­ture blog, The Day­walk­ers, Jac­ques Kok finds him­self amongst wild an­i­mals on the scenic grass­lands of Ezemvelo

Road Trip - - CONTENTS -

Bronkhorstspruit – the once pop­u­lar week­end get­away des­ti­na­tion on the bor­der be­tween Gaut­eng and Mpumalanga, has re­cently fallen down the peck­ing or­der be­hind places such as Har­te­beespoort, Parys, and Ma­galies­berg.

But with its rolling grass plains Ezemvelo Na­ture Re­serve, a short drive out­side Bronkhorstspruit, is now bid­ding to change the sta­tus quo. The re­serve is lo­cated a mere 95 km from O.R. Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port, just off the N4 on the R25. The road gets a bit bumpy for the last 20 kilo­me­tres as the tar leads onto a dirt road. Note, this gets very slip­pery when it rains so be ex­tra care­ful.

What makes this lesser-known des­ti­na­tion so unique is the fact that you can en­counter wildlife in its true sense; in the un­tamed wild. All the an­i­mals on the na­ture re­serve roam freely and the camps

are not con­tained or fenced in. It is the per­fect way for the city-slicker to con­nect with na­ture.

Their claim to fame at Ezemvelo Na­ture Re­serve is hav­ing one of the big­gest un­spoiled grass­lands in South Africa. The re­serve has some ex­cep­tional cliffs, river val­leys, rocky out­crops, and as­tound­ing views. On the re­serve you will get to ex­pe­ri­ence 22 dif­fer­ent plant com­mu­ni­ties, about 286 bird species and over 30 mam­mals, which in­clude preda­tors like leop­ards, brown hye­nas and the African wild cat.

LOOK­ING OVER MY SHOUL­DER

As the host of the pop­u­lar trail run­ning chal­lenge, the Aard­wolf, it seemed a fit­ting set­ting for a wild trail run. You can choose be­tween three trails, each with dif­fer­ent chal­lenges and at­trac­tions. The Ochna Trail is the short­est and easiest of the three, with a dis­tance of 4 km. The Protea (14 km) and the Burkea (21 km) trails will give you more of an en­durance test. They are per­fect for run­ning, hik­ing, and even moun­tain bik­ing.

Run­ning the trails, you can help but feel like an in­truder in a for­eign, hos­tile habi­tat. With the re­cent sight­ings of the leop­ard and know­ing of the other preda­tors around you, one can­not help but look over your shoul­der. This was wors­ened af­ter a few en­coun­ters with a snort­ing, un­com­fort­able wilde­beest try­ing to stand its ground on route.

The breath-tak­ing scenery and the in­ti­mate game view­ing make this a truly unique ex­pe­ri­ence. Af­ter a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres you be­gin to feel more at ease and you start im­mers­ing your­self in this abun­dant en­vi­ron­ment. I was for­tu­nate enough to see spring­bok, bles­bok, ze­bra, jackal, wilde­beest, wa­ter­buck, and im­pala on the trail.

Whilst look­ing down you see a mix of wild an­te­lope, jackal, and snake tracks and man-made tekkie tracks over­lap­ping each other, re­mind­ing you that liv­ing in har­mony with the wild is pos­si­ble. This is truly a trail run with an edge.

THERE IS A WILDE­BEEST IN OUR CAMP

We pitched our tents in one of the 50 camp­sites avail­able in the re­serve. The camp­site has two ablu­tion blocks and a small kitchen area. Each camp­site has its

own braai fa­cil­ity, power out­let, and am­ple shade. There is a swim­ming pool for the chil­dren, but I do not rec­om­mend the dif­fi­cult putt-putt course.

A small dam close to the camp­site is ideal for some catch and re­lease fish­ing. The shop has all the ne­ces­si­ties with am­ple fire wood and ice avail­able. The ab­sence of trash cans at the camp­sites did com­pli­cate things a lit­tle, es­pe­cially with mon­keys do­ing their daily rounds around the camp.

As the bub­bling com­mo­tion of the ac­tiv­ity in the camp set­tles down you can hear the wild an­i­mal calls in the dis­tance. Amongst the plethora of cries dur­ing the dead of night you can clearly iden­tify the more prom­i­nent high-pitched bark of the ze­bra and haunt­ing howls of the jackal – re­ally the best lul­laby one can ask for.

…But be­ing wo­ken up by the snort of a wilde­beest is not as sooth­ing.

The sim­ple plea­sure of a camp fire un­der a blan­ket of stars is pure bliss and some­thing you for­get to en­joy in the fran­tic city life­style. Kick back, re­lax, and take in ev­ery­thing this na­ture re­serve has to of­fer.

VEN­TURE FUR­THER

The Bronkhorstspruit area does have a cou­ple of at­trac­tions if you de­cide to ven­ture fur­ther. You can get your feet wet at Bronkhorstspruit Dam with some wa­ter sports and re­cre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties the re­sort has avail­able. For the art lover the An­ton Smit sculp­ture park over­look­ing the dam is well worth the visit.

For the cul­tur­ally in­clined you can go to Nan Hua Bud­dhist Tem­ple, which is one of the largest Bud­dhist tem­ples in the South­ern Hemi­sphere. Step­ping into this vil­lage you get trans­ported into a whole dif­fer­ent coun­try and mind-set. The tran­quil­lity and peace is matched by the true artistry and tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­ture to give you an au­then­tic taste of a dif­fer­ent cul­ture.

For more tips and ad­vice on out­door ad­ven­tures, visit www.day­walk­ers.co.za.

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