The moment one witnesses the beaming sun-rays, either from a sunrise or sunset, softly gild the sandstone cliffs making up the Maluti Mountains, it becomes instantly apparent how the Golden Gate Highlands National Park acquired its name. Mr van Reenen, in 1878, spotted this sighting and named his new farm, wait for it – Golden Gate.
From Kiara Resort, we drove approximately five kilometres to Glen Reenen Rest Camp within the Golden Gate Highlands National Park and parked the car. With the sun already casting a glow on to the distant cliffs, we crossed the road and embarked on our hike just after 6am. Desiring to knock off at least an hour from the four-hour Wodehouse Peak hike, we meandered via Mushroom Rock. In awe of its magnificence, we breezed around the mushroom-like rock formation, glancing up every few moments to absorb the scale of the mountain that loomed above us. Zigzagging up towards Wodehouse Peak, steeper and steeper we climbed. Feeling safe, we traversed along the extremely well maintained path with its perfectly carved sandstone steps, wooden bridge and iron rods strategically placed for hands to grab, to heave one’s body up the mountain side. Up and up we climbed, and after one and a half hours we eventually reached the top of the flat ridge that spanned for kilometres. Oh the views! The uninterrupted spectacular vistas of jagged and rolling hills coated in lush vegetation, and bare rock formations of different patterns etched in to the cliff faces of varying inclines.
While on top of the mountain, 2260m above sea level, with only the call of a baboon and distant thunder, I couldn’t help but feel both energised and insignificant at the same time. The arresting views and sandstone rock had me completely mesmerised for a solid two hours. I felt fortunate while experiencing such splendour. Incredible! Warning: not for the feint hearted.
After spending three nights on the outskirts of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, I now need to reconsider where to spend my precious time each year. How could I have forgotten about the mountains? Okay, so… The first third of the year – cooling off at the Indian Ocean. The second third – in the midst of the bushveld viewing the Big Five. And the remainder of the year – surrounded by mountains, namely the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, while hopping from peak to peak. Ummm…