As experienced on a Gorge and Special Interest Trail by MORE’s Digital Content Producer, Ingrid Nemorin
It was still dark outside when a friendly knock on my door signalled my 6am wake-up call. I quickly finished packing up my gear and made sure I was warmly dressed before making my way to the guest area where hot coffee and morning snacks awaited.
I was joined by a lovely couple, Hans and Gabi, who are avid walkers and hikers. The three of us waited in excited anticipation of our first safari walk. Being a complete novice at walking and hiking in the bush, I’ll admit to being a bit nervous of the adventure that laid ahead, but was reassured by our Field Guides, Matt and Rob, that it will be an experience I would never forget.
Matt went into detail about each walk – Riverine Trail, Gorge Trail, Special Interest Trail and Mountain Trail. He explained that the duration of the walk could either be an hour or 3 hours, depending on our preference. Walks take place in the mornings and afternoons, with the option of also enjoying a Vehicle Safari or Ms. Mara Water Safari in the afternoon.
We decided to do the 3-hour Gorge and Special Interest Trail, which gave us the opportunity to see cave paintings, Iron Age ruins and other relics of the Stone Age, as well as a scenic walk to the rock pools. Snacks and coffee consumed, we set off in the vehicle – wrapped up in a blanket with a hot water bottle on the lap to keep the winter nip at bay.
We made our way to the Gorge Trail’s starting point. By this time, the sun had come out and the morning was gradually warming up. Matt and Rob surveyed the area to make sure it was safe for us to climb off the vehicle. Matt started the safety briefing, explaining the salient points of the walking experience, the importance of being alert and that safety is always the first priority.
Lathered in sunscreen, Matt and Rob handed us water packs which they had organized, and we were ready to go. Hans and Gabi were excited and we set off in single file following Matt and Rob into the thick bush. As we walked quietly, sounds seemed amplified and I really felt a connection with the bush around me. The pace of the walk was comfortable. As we made our way through the gorge we encountered many birds, reptiles and a variety of animals like zebra, impala and a noisy troop of curious monkeys.
Following Matt and Rob we came to an opening by the cliff edge where there was a cave-like dwelling. Through Matt’s explanation of the history of the area, we were suddenly transported back in time. Our Guides also pointed out the cave paintings. Red pigment stained the cliff walls as we debated between ourselves whether the shape represented a buffalo or rhino (we eventually settled on a rhino). We were then shown Iron Age ruins and pottery shards, and Matt explained that the cave would have been used as shelter by people who passed through thousands of years ago. It was truly an amazing experience to physically see and hold artifacts that have stood the test of time.
We carried on and made our way to the rock pools. At this point the sun was out in full force. I could imagine in summer the idea of a swim in the rock pools would be a piece of heaven, but for now – mid-winter – I was content to simply remove my jacket, hoody, gloves and scarf. Perched on the rocks overlooking the pools, we all took a break to admire the sheer beauty that surrounded us as the rhythmic lapping of water over stone echoed through the gorge.
As our morning walk came to an end, I had worked up quite an appetite. We made our way back to Marataba Mountain Lodge where breakfast was ready and waiting! Around the breakfast table, Hans, Gabi and I could not help but feel inspired and invigorated as we relived our experience. Naturally we pondered the adventures that stood in store for us later on in the afternoon …..
Words, images and videography by: Ingrid Nemorin