Three days to spare? Why not spend it here…

The next couple of months are littered with public holidays, and are great excuses to pack your bag and go adventuring. Need some inside info on where and how to spend a long-weekend in our national parks? Petro Kotzè gives her picks.

For an active weekend away: Golden Gate Highlands National Park

If you live in Joburg, Golden Gate is a great option for a quick getaway in any season. Possible snow in winter, green, undulating hills in summer and spring and golden leaves to frolic in if you visit around autumn. If I had the weekend away at Golden Gate, I would drag a couple of friends along and spend it like this:

Day 1
After arrival and check-in, stretch those legs after sitting in the car for a couple of hours. The Holkrans Hike is a nice one to start with. It takes about an hour, but budget more time to sit in the shade of the large, cavern like overhang of Clarens sandstone.

My favourite late afternoon drive is the 6.7 km Blesbok loop. The views are breath-taking, so spend some time on it and stop often. Look out for Langtoon Dam and the highest peak in the park, Ribbokkop (2 829 m) in the distance.

It should be high-time for sundowners at the chalet, campsite or at the hotel bar to celebrate your first successful day on holiday, and catch up with old friends. Once the embers have died down, remember to take a peek at the stars before turning in for a good night’s rest.

Day 2

I love an early morning hike up the iconic Brandwag Rock. You can start from either the Golden Gate Hotel or the Glen Reenen rest camp. It’s quite steep, but not too difficult, though there is a chain to help with the steep ascent.

Afterwards, drop into the Golden Gate Hotel for a well-deserved brekki to power up for the rest of your day.

After some relaxing, and perhaps prepping some food for the road, aim your car towards the 4.2 kilometre Oribi Loop. On the way, spare moment for the dinosaurs that once roamed at Rooidraai. The famous dinosaur eggs were excavated here. When on the loop, remember to stop at the Vulture Feeding Project and soak up the magnificent views of the Drakensberg.

Head onwards to the Basotho Cultural Museum. It’s a fun tour of the architecture and life style of the Basotho people from as early as the16th century to the present days. Plus, heading back to the rest camp afterwards puts you in the right position for late-afternoon views of the game-filled plains – another favourite for sunset photos.

Day 3:

It might be time to go, but the trip is far from over. Pack up and head towards Clarens on your way out. Before you exit the park, stop at the van Reenen family graveyard and soak up the beautiful views.

Continue straight and you’ll drive into Clarens after around 20 kms. The quaint village is a picture-perfect stop for a relaxed lunch and some shopping before you head home.

Golden gate fact file:
Why was this national park proclaimed? Many reasons. It’s one of the few protected areas within the Grassland Biome of South Africa. It is part of the most important water catchment in Southern Africa, namely the Maloti Drakensberg catchment complex.
How big is it?11630 hectares
What is it famous for? The Brandwag Buttress, dinosaur eggs, the Golden Gates, vulture hide.
How old is it? This park was declared in 1963, then 4 792 ha large.

Need more info? Visit www.sanparks.org, phone the Golden Gate Highlands National Park on +27-58-255-1000 or e-mail Goldengate@sanparks.org. Clarens tourism can be contacted +27 (0)58 256 1542.

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