2 Jun, 2016
One hundred 400 megawatt hairdryers set to high heat at full force was what it felt like as we slid open the doors of our air-conditioned minivan. This would be the conditions for four days, fifty kilometres and about twenty four hours of walking. Seven daunted girlfriends were almost silenced by the prospect of what lay ahead. Our guide advised us to keep the computer cool. Literally. So wetting your hat in every available waterfall, pond or rivulet would keep your synapses snapping and your cerebral software programming at optimum performance. Good advice it was.. The gang would chatter on with confidence.
The Green Mountain Trail in the Overberg region of the Western Cape traverses spectacular and diverse territory. One hundred thousand hectares, home to nearly two thousand species of fynbos plants combined with archaeology, ornithology and history make these four days an information bonanza. And that is before what you will learn from your posse of friends.
Gourmet meals, fine wines, crisp linen and luxurious guesthouse accommodation mean that this trail is dubbed slackpacking. The walking, the territory and the distances may not be slack but feel free to pack as much as you fancy because you will not be carrying your own luggage. Nor will you be carrying any pots and pans or polyester sleeping bags. You will be slumbering in percale with full bellies and tipsy heads. On day four your aching(-ish) muscles will have been smoothed and pummelled into restored form by a local masseuse. Dreamy stuff.
Smug in the knowledge that we had put in enough toil and sweat to be in a state of possible calorie-deficit, our mob tucked in vigorously to the spectacular variety of refuelling sustenance on offer. Even our snack packs were handcrafted affairs of fruit and nuts cunningly interspersed with malted chocolate nuggets. The culinary theme was hyper local, super indigenous and uber generous with the farm to table distance being just a few paces. Seasonal harvests played a starring role on the menu’s. This was apple country so these spheres of deliciousness made various appearances in double-baked puddings, fizzing cider and ice-cold freshly pressed juices. Somedays lunch was barely down the hatch when scones, jam and cream or triple layered carrot cake graced the groaning guest house tables. Most evening sundowners saw us gathered with fox-like attention around a local winemaker who had arrived with a car boot full of boutique wines. Some that would remain friends to revisit again and again.
Every walking day had it’s own personality and was clearly carefully crafted by the organisers. Day one featured a horseshoe loop of breathtaking views while day two’s highlights included an historic road of ancient gum trees and head-high fynbos before lunch at Paul Cluver’s restaurant, Fresh. Fresh we were not but the friendly staff bravely invited us to remove our shoes and socks and soak the steaming throbbing paws in the pond. An act of rare hospitality possibly only found in the Overberg. Day three showcased more beautiful farm land that led to a crazy hill and onwards over a small mountain to indigenous scrub and finally a cool forest that prefaced a spectacular lunch at Wildekrans Guest House. Day four saw us hugging a mountainside for eleven kilometres with a permanent view of the Houw Hoek Pass. A remarkable route full of history, varied vegetation, curious dassies, black eagles flying drone-like and a coffee stop perched on a rocky outcrop. A view and a setting that was rare, world-class and a privilege in which to take your percolation. The day and the entire trail finished with hydration in Beaumont’s generous wine cellar followed by a lunch befitting the finale of fifty kilometres of friendship, fun and fields of flowers.
As eye-poppingly beautiful as this four day trail is, as informative as your guide is, as delectable as the food is and as gluggable as the wine is, I guarantee that you will gather the most joy and belly laughs from your walking buddies. Choose them well. Hours spent in the camaraderie of seven girlfriends was more entertainment than seemed legal.
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