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Mount Sheba Rainforest, A true Pilgrim’s Rest

The year is 2018 and here goes another Friday like any other, well to everyone’s eyes maybe but my heart was undeniably paralyzed with happiness and yet again I managed to contain it all in the office. I remember leaving Johannesburg that afternoon, just before sunset and drunk with excitement for the long drive ahead, my tent was ready and the weekend was upon me. Driving to ear-splitting sounds of music with a lot of that constant clouded and highly occupied mind, I didn’t even notice that the weather was changing. I wore my favourite grey Wyoming Mountains T-shirt. Closer to Mpumalanga I hit my breaks, pulled over on the side of the road, braved the dust I had caused and rushed to the boot to grab my hiking boots.

Holding boots with one hand, phone with the other and standing there like a lost soul remembering Aobakwe’s favourite words when he was just 4 years old “always look left-right then left again before crossing the road”. Only this time I was watching cars and trucks as they passed by patiently waiting for my moment to run into the middle of the road.

Back on the road and it was freezing all of a sudden, the weather had changed drastically. Fog everywhere and that foot on the paddle had to go easy the deeper I drove into foggy Mpumalanga. It was raining, no, pouring and yet there I was curling my toes from excitement. I remember meandering my way on gravel road full of pool look-alike potholes. Another opportunity for a great shot I thought. Pulled over, positioned my boots and snapped away.

“Is everything okay dear?” I hear a voice from rolled down window. “Is your car fine” she continues, I delay as I mentally try to make out which country they hail from… England I subtly say to myself. “Good evening, hello hello” my eyes sparkled as my hand waved. It was a couple driving the same route. “All well and bless your heart for your kindness” I scream out. At which point they starred at me baffled, waved back and drove off. Of course I hid my boots and the camera, I was embarrassed at the thought of them seeing how nuts I was to think of photography at the point when everyone would jump for cover. I drove further past the tall plantation. It’s past 8pm, I’m on gravel and it’s pouring, I remember all this too well.

All went well though. Helloooo Mount Sheba, The Rain Cloud Forest, I thought. I remember on arrival after several hours of driving I went to the hotel reception and met a guy there. Exchanged greetings and finally asked where the camping site was. We both walked outside and he pointed out “ma’am the campsite is down that foggy alley down there. Are you alone? Are you tenting for the weekend? Its pouring ma’am, will you manage sleeping in your tent in this weather? Were some of his firing questions that seemed to not be ending, of course he was concerned. Earlier in the week I had connected with Adeline from Footprint Hiking Community for an urgent need to get away. That’s how I landed here.

I don’t know! I reply. It’s okay if they are not here yet, I’ll pitch. I don’t know any of them. We

stepped outside in the pouring rain and he pointed out “ma’am the campsite is down that dark alley, you’ll have to get back in the car and drive further down, do not miss the turn into the bush, it’s foggy you may just pass it. He looked at me for what seemed like a year, well a few seconds really but I felt his piercing worry. Grabbed his umbrella and in he jumped into the passenger side. He’s worked there for a couple of years he says. This place is gorgeous but it’s pouring now and where he’s taking me the grass is wet and there’s no shelter he said. Are you tenting? He asks again. Yes and I’m super stoked. I smiled and I think the gentleman looked at me and thought “this one has lost her mind” I could just hear his loud thoughts as he starred at me.

My sister, I stay here, and I think I can go crash (sleep) with my other mates in their rooms and you can use my room to crash for the night until the rain goes away. What an amazing gentleman I thought. Abuti, I don’t know you but wow I appreciate you so much right now. You are an amazing soul, a kind hearted man. But abuti I’m tenting tonight and it’s going to be amazing, cold and wet sure but amazing I tell you. I’ll be okay I promise.

You’re alone ma’am and it’s 21:30, are you sure I can leave you here. Starry-eyed wet and cold but confidently I uttered “Yes!!!” Sure, I don’t know the people I’m hiking with and they have not arrived yet, but I’ll try find a spot, pitch my tent and prepare to rest after such a long drive. The rain will make it more amazing, it will be messy at first, but amazing as I lay my head. And so he left.

22:00 and from afar sounds of a tractor coming this way. Its dark but I trust nothing terrible will befall me so I step out and try greet the driver after they parked. One by one they started driving in. Lourens, who was to be the lead guide had come with his sons and friend. Hennie had come alone, and there was a lovely couple that also joined. Glued by the hip and overflowing with so much affection you’d never say they’d been married for years. They were beautiful to watch, they tickled each other, they played and they laughed, she was in love and he was smitten by her.

By morning I woke up and made coffee, a little cloudy and wet with no sight of the sun rising I decided to take a walk to see the area. Mount Sheba Rainforest is nestled in Mpumalanga’s Forever Resorts in Pilgrim’s Rest.

This weekend we were doing what we call base camp hiking. Which meant that we were hiking the day and returning later that afternoon to base camp. A little later after breakfast we began the journey into the Woods.

Mount Sheba has a couple of trails so one is really spoilt for choice. You can choose to combine multiple trails to make your day that much more exciting. We walked down on flat road for about a kilometre or so which led us to a steep descent. After about 6 kilometers of walking down we got to a river it was beautiful it was green it was flowing the sound was peaceful I laid flat for a couple of minutes not a care in the world closed in by nature's beauty green all around as if the fairies would jump out at me And start tiptoe dancing around me to classical music.

The three boys were having so much fun playing around jumping all around moving from here to there until unfortunately one of them got hurt. The little boy who got hurt was Lourens' son. That meant we were losing Lourens who happens to be the lead guide and knows the trails very well. We explored on for the rest of the day to the most gorgeous waterfalls and rocky edges.

On day 2 Lourens decided he and the boys will drive back home, the lovie dovey couple were actually lazy to hike on the second day so I was left with Hennie. the second day was nothing more than 5 kilometers stretch just up the mountain to view the mountain range. Henny is one of the most amazing guys I'm yet to meet. He inspired me in so many ways and looked at life with a positive attitude. We shared so many stories of how we got to enjoy hiking.

One of the things that stood out for me about him was his love for photography, something we shared a lot. He was blind on the one eye and as he told his story about how he lost his sight on the one eye and how he came to appreciate nature a lot more after his operation. He used these exact words “I have been given an opportunity to appreciate nature and the camera has become my second eye”. He walks around with a camera and pays attention to detail. I looked at him and was just amazed at that perspective.

I wonder if you ever stop to be thankful for your sight? I wonder if you stop to appreciate your feet that take you places. I wonder if you appreciate the breath you take daily. I will never forget Hennie. That’s how nature teaches us and that’s how friendships and bonds are formed. I wonder if you stop for a moment and appreciate that perhaps if you had all that you wanted you would not be on this journey, and perhaps life has given you this journey to appreciate certain things. 

Hike Trail Details

Distance – Day 1 7km Day 2 5km

Moderate trail, slippery during rainy days, be extra cautious as you walk on the slippery edges.

Day 1: Steep descent to the river, 2 Waterfalls to see during this day

Day 2: Easy walk with a gradual incline towards 4km mark to view the Mountain range. We added another trail to view 3 more waterfalls in the forest.

A beginner can do the trail ease. Avid hikers will be spoiled for choice with the waterfalls and basecamp conversations around the fire

What you need: A Tent, Sleeping bag, Mattress and all your kitchenware

There are Toilet and Shower facilities walking distance from the campsite

Be Free to explore and keep learning out there.

Until next journey


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