The 13km Karee hiking trail is situated on the farm “Rustig” in the Magaliesburg, South Africa. This stunning family farm was established in the 1930s and originally served as a cattle and tobacco farm.
Rustig can be found near Hekpoort, approximately 70km from Pretoria, and about 40km from Krugersdorp. Although the little gravel road leading to the farm is manageable with a small car, it should be undertaken at a safe speed and with a careful eye.
The farm offers three one- day hikes, all named after indigenous trees which can be found in the area. Furthermore, there is an overnight hike available and various forms of accommodation.
On arrival, you make your way through the stunning, well-kept garden to reception. As the name “Rustig” (peaceful) suggests, you feel the city stress escaping your body as you begin to unwind. Report to reception to sign in and receive a basic briefing and map for the day. The hike costs R75 per person and can be paid in cash or by card. Listen to the briefing properly or, like us, when trying to find your way down the mountain, you may find yourself wishing you had been focussed on the brief and not your bladder.
A “rustig” (peaceful) start to the hike
After the basic briefing, you leave the reception area and make your way along the road for a short distance. The adventure begins through some grassland, passed a windmill, through an avenue of white stinkwood trees and gradually up the hill. Although we were slightly out of breath, this section is not yet very strenuous on your legs. The subsequent section, however, has a much steeper, taxing gradient. Take a tranquil moment to gaze back from the appropriately named “fern rest”.
At the ladder and bridge (dubbed “Up-up-and-away”) we waited for about five minutes behind another group of hikers. This became our first water break and gave us a few moments to admire the amazing view. The mist was beginning to lift over the horizon and the warm sun warmed the valley in golden light.
The first plateau – a view of the Magaliesburg
The view from the top of the mountain, however, was even more incredible. To the north, there are lush green valleys which entice the hiker further along the trail. To the east, the sun illuminates the north-facing slopes and mountain peaks and if you peer over to the west you get a somewhat deceiving idea of what still awaits you. Once you recover from the shock of the howling wind and incredible views, spend a few minutes catching your breath and exploring the English bomb shelter.
The hike continues in a westerly direction on the crest of the Magaliesberg. There are various smaller ascents and descents through various terrains of rocks and “veld” (grassland). About 3.3km into the hike, on the southern slope, you come across “New-years cave” which provides a lovely rest break, shelter from the wind and shade.
It gets tougher before it gets easier
After a short descent, you begin to climb again. Here you can leave the trail to have a look at the bat-cave just off the path. Yes, there are bats but in truth I just needed an excuse to stop for some air and water, enjoying it none-the-less. The next little climb deceived me and I found myself huffing and puffing more than I had expected. Take it easy and enjoy the constantly changing vegetation and geology.
The two kilometres which follow provide a rest from climbing. We enjoyed the meander along the top of the Magaliesberg, stopping often to photograph the interesting rock formations, valley views and plant-life. In addition, you are able to see some mines in the distance.
Choosing between the escape route or full hike
“Rustig Rus” or “Peaceful Rest” is where we became somewhat confused and disorientated. The signage here included signage from another hike and we were unsure of which route to take. We were especially concerned about accidentally taking the chicken run. After some time studying the map and contours we realised that the route takes you down a reasonably steep descent before splitting into the chicken run (8km) and Braveheart climb. Continue straight down (the left option) if you wish to escape. We, however, decided to complete the entire route and opted for the “Braveheart climb” to the right. The climb itself is slightly tough but it is the distance from the edge of the cliff that requires the real bravery. This section is sheltered from the wind and has some interesting flora including lanes of proteas lower down and “7jaartjies” or “everlastings” higher up.
A smiley face on the rock-face warns you of the awaiting tough little climb up to the trenches used in the Anglo-Boer war. You also have a view of ambulance-hill. You then amble along the top of the hill for a while. Enjoy the interesting rock formations, arches, rock pools and balancing rocks in sandstone statue valley before admiring the view of Hekpoort and the Oosthuizen farm.
Do not misjudge the last four kilometres
The zigzag descent and rock staircase are reasonably tough on the legs, especially if you have knee trouble. They are steep and made up of loose rocks so be sure to exercise caution. You come across a sign that says there is one kilometre left, but be warned, this is only to the overnight hike, where after you actually still have about 3.4km to the end. From about the “1km” sign, we became pretty focused on getting to the end. I believe we missed out on some of the beauty, including a stunning old fig tree, as we had misjudged the distance due to the slightly confusing signage.
Overall the hike was an exciting yet relaxing experience. It really is a lovely way of experiencing some South African history, biodiversity, geology and views. Although there are some tough climbs and descents there is enough resting time in between and the views and tranquillity make it worthwhile. However, a reasonable level of fitness and sturdy shoes are definitely a necessity. Ensure that you have enough water, some snacks and sunblock.
Suggestions and preparation
Be sure to orientate yourself using the map and signage as the signage alone can become somewhat confusing at times. Pacing yourself is essential as one often misjudges the length of the last half of a 13km hike such as this. Good company and a camera are a must and even more ideal if the company is good with the camera. Most importantly, however, is to stop and admire the diverse and ever-changing vegetation, views and beauty as often as possible!