The Waking Giant
With the morning grass still crisp underfoot, myself and two comrades bravely set off on our quest upon the ‘Waking giant’ trail.
Spirits were high as we crossed the river to the starting point of the three du Kloof Lodge hikes, each of which explore various parts of the mountain. The time was 7:45. Had we known better, I’m pretty sure we would rather have left at 6:00.
For the first 2 to 3 hours, the Waking Giant follows the same route as the Sleeping Giant. It is a steep trail along the ridge of the mountain requiring a fair amount of stretching and climbing. Here we were still spoilt with the man made steps to help us along the way. We made a few stops to enjoy the views and catch our breath, and were lucky enough to spot three light-footed deer a few meters away. Once we reached the top of the ridge we crossed a plateau-like area, and descended down the back of the ridge into the first valley. Watch your step here, as this is rocky and also sandy at some areas. Use the rocks and plants around you for extra support. This is the halfway mark of the Sleeping Giant, where you are encouraged to take a victory selfie and then go back down the same route to the starting point. This is also about the time I was so darn thankful that I was wearing a good pair of hiking boots and socks, and if you are doing the Waking Giant, this is also the time to say ‘bye-bye’ to any man-made steps. From here onwards, count on adrenalin, orange arrows and intuition to guide you.
At this point there was a wide, lush resting area with a wall of greenery as backdrop. We were lucky enough to have had some rain a few days before, which meant that we could fill our water bottles from the droplets that made their way down the “wall” –this is one of the many waterfalls on the mountain after heavy rains. I also used this opportunity to stretch the muscles, clean up scrapes and remove any twigs from my hair. After about 10 minutes we were off again, to take on the second phase of this adventure.
From the resting spot, we ‘climbed’ to the other side of the valley over approximately 150m of large rocks –there really is no other way to get there. Yet another sandy, steep ascent awaited us, where after we walked along a trail –blissful!– for about 30m to the final sandy ascent. Again, using he flora as our only support.
As nature will have it, what goes up must come down. Gripping (at times, sliding) down a steep trail of veld terrain with no man made steps, my only hope for staying upright was the shrubs growing alongside the trail.
The shrub terrain led us to rocks –large, dark, pointy rocks on a slight downhill, with trees among them. Many trees are dead, and quite low, so at some spots we had to climb over or under them. Luckily there was enough shade along the way. This was truly a high impact, acrobatic challenge that lasted approximately 2 hours. By this time everyone was quite acquainted with one another, and conversation didn’t seem to be as important as 3 hours back.
The appearance of the rocks became rounder and lighter in colour as we went, meaning that water also drew closer. The initial sound of running water was too good to be true –what a relief! The first thing I did was to drink the cool, crisp water from the stream, and took off my shoes to soak my feet. This would be a good time to have a snack and take a breath, celebrate how far you have come!
And then began the final stretch home. Still climbing over rocks, the challenge didn’t become easier. We followed the stream and pools for approximately 1 hour. Some rocks are slippery, and there are spots where you walk through the water. Eventually the stream meets up with the Molenaar’s river.
Here we turned right into the Molenaar’s. At this stage I was determined to get back home by any means possible. Be it rock hopping, swimming or walking alongside the river –you will do all three. This last stretch also lasted about 30 minutes. The challenges here were slippery rocks, and trying to swim with my cellphone above my head. It worked. The great thing about the river stretch is actually knowing where you are for a change! Then again, the great thing about the rest is not knowing where you are, and allowing yourself to surrender to the surroundings.
I must have looked so silly trying to get through that river on my own (my two comrades were still walking along the initial stream at this stage as there was a bit of an injury, and I had to get back to the toddler at home). I did find myself looking around now and then to see if anyone saw me each time I tripped, or tried to motivate myself before swimming through the deeper waters.
Well, I made it! Using the buildings of Du Kloof Lodge as a beacon, I exited the river to walk the final bit of trail, with water still dripping from my clothes. It was exactly 4pm. My body was tired and my perceptions were challenged, but I didn’t regret it, because I knew that I had just experienced something that not many people have yet, and that in itself is a privilege.
What I learned from doing the Waking Giant:
-When you think you can’t go any more, you can! Sometimes the only way out is through, because turning back is just as hard!
– Our fears change relative to our circumstances
- Wear good shoes with grip, and hiking socks, gloves will also help
- This is not a trail, it’s a physical and mental challenge
- Pack water for the first half, and something to snack on for energy
- Travel light
- Waterproof pouch
- Embrace the unique aspects of every phase of the challenge
By Niki Louw