Hanging on by the seat of your pants on the zipline
Trailblazing our way through tree canopies, gullies and gorges on a zipline adventure
Those of you that have seen my home page and noticed the trivial word ‘adventure’ on there, and have read some of my blogs, might have some doubt about me being adventurous. Just to prove that I can be adventurous (albeit cautiously), I have done something daring. Yes, you’re right, an adrenalin junkie will hardly be satisfied with this experience but I think it’s just a small step above me being a couch potato traveller and adventurer.
A couple of years back we spent a weekend in the Magoebaskloof. It’s an area that I hadn’t explored yet. We stayed at Magoebaskloof hotel. Some of its charm had been destroyed in a recent fire, but it has been restored. Perhaps not to its former glory, but the view made up for it. It is situated on top of the hill.
We shared the hotel with a biker rally. Amusing decorations on their number plates!
We drove around the area, discovering a few things that were worth looking at. One such place was the Cheerio gardens. We had a glimpse of what it would like when in full flowering beauty.
We also found the final resting place or rather the crater caused by one of the Long Toms that were used during the Second Boer War in South Africa. After firing a few shells at the British in 1901, it was destroyed by the crew.
While we were exploring we saw a tiny sign that caught our eye. Canopy Tour. In a moment of madness, we decided to investigate and see what it was all about. A zipline adventure that weaved its way through the gullies of the Letaba River gorge. Why not?
A true adrenalin junkie seeking thrills might yawn at it. What did we have to lose?
Kitting up and heading out
There’s some preparation before you’re allowed on the tour.
An indemnity form is waved in front of you to sign with your own blood (only kidding). Indemnity forms usually send out the warning bells. What for? Presumably when your tour guide has had enough of you screaming in their ear from fright, they can just gently unclip your carabiner and give you a little shove over the edge…no questions asked, because you’ve signed that form.
You’re given a short safety briefing then assisted while kitting up.
Your kit consists of a body harness, straps, pulleys, carabiners and clips and anything else they deem necessary. You’re twisted and tied into knots, constricted with this chastity belt cum restraint suit. If nothing else, it’s liable to give you a decent wedgie. Don’t expect a graceful catwalk swagger when you have it on.
The gloves are useful, but if you grow tired of them you can easily throw them down the gorge, never to be retrieved again. After all, they are made for gigantic hands.
Before you can go any further, they supply you with a last piece of protective clothing – a helmet. I doubt if it would protect your noggin, if you landed on it. I know it does nothing for your hairstyle except flatten it.
The next step, or thousands of steps, they lead you down the garden path through indigenous vegetation, and you’re supposed to relax and take in the tranquil surroundings. However, you’re more worried about tumbling downhill with the extra thousand kilos that have just been added to your weight.
The first slide is supposed to lure you into a false sense of security. You hold on for dear life, tuck your legs in as you pass a rock pool in case a gaping mouth of a crocodile is ready to snap at you. Don’t be stupid, you say. There aren’t any crocodiles. I defy you to dive into that water to disprove me. The slide however is mild, short and over before you know it.
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Don’t let this short and easy slide fool you. Soon you’re teetering over a precipice on a strip of wood, wide enough for your little toe. There's nowhere else to go but forwards and downwards, because you ain't gonna climb back up to the first platform again. The platforms look flimsy enough to crack under all that extra weight you’ve just been supplied with. Crystal clear waters, no, make that murky waters that you wouldn’t want to touch with a barge pole, rush by under your feet. So, if not for the crocodile, at least because of the water, you make sure your feet don’t dangle in it.
All too soon the tour is over. Take note: Because of gravity, where are you now? That’s right, at the bottom of the gorge. Do you have to hike all the way back up? It seems like it when you’re led up a steep path. After a short climb, though, a vehicle awaits you to transport you back to the top. You sigh with relief.
Thank you, Canopy Tours for an unforgettable experience.
(No, it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be. I’d love to attempt all your zipline adventures.)
After the Canopy Tour, we tried to find the Modjadji cycad reserve. We started at the bottom of the hill and took a road which looked like the right one. We traversed steep slopes taking uncharted roads, or so it felt. The adrenalin was probably still flowing through our veins and we felt we had to trailblaze our own way to the reserve. We couldn’t find it, although we’d marked where it was on our GPS. We ended up at the bottom on the other side of the hill at one of the main intersections and knew we had gone too far. The Modjadji reserve might have remained a myth to us if we hadn’t persevered.
We turned around and retraced our steps. Eventually after many detours, we saw the sign, only visible from one side. One would easily give up, if you weren’t really that keen to see the cycads because it is a mission to find. It is such a pity, because these prehistoric plants, originating from the time of the dinosaurs was worth looking at. The view was spectacular as well.
The picnic spot was deserted, so we could immerse ourselves at leisure, admiring these majestic cycads (Encephalartos transvenosus). Some of them can grow to gigantic heights of about 13 – 14 meters. The cones are enormous too and can weigh more than 40kg.
The enchanting Rain Queen, Modjadji who settled in Limpopo after fleeing Zimbabwe has the Modjadji Reserve named after her.
On returning home the Sunday, we wanted to have lunch at a restaurant somewhere in Haenertsburg. We soon discovered that this tiny little hamlet was having a Sunday market selling blueberries, food and a multitude of crafts. We strolled around and sampled some of food and drinks before we headed home.
All in all, not a bad weekend of mild adventure.