Swimming in the river at Mountain Sanctuary Park
The best way to appreciate nature is to get out there and experience it. This may seem obvious, but it’s very easy to get caught up in the daily grind and suddenly you realise that you haven’t been out of the city for so long you can’t remember when you last smelt fresh air or woke up to the racket birds make in the morning.
My husband and I work mostly from home and, although there are many benefits, like not having to sit in traffic for hours every day, one of the few disadvantages is that the work day never ends. It’s not like you can leave your work at the office, it’s there all the time, seven days a week. It’s hard to stop yourself from quickly checking your email.
So we’ve decided that we need to try to get away once a month and our mission is to find nice places to stay that are within 200km of the city. We’ve also opted for camping because it’s cheaper and, with no TV or laptops, we can fully appreciate the joys of nature.
Our first trip was to Mountain Sanctuary Park in the Magaliesburg, about 120km from Jozi. It’s one of those places I’ve been hearing about for years, but never got round to visiting. I’m sorry now that I took so long to “discover” it because it’s lovely for a weekend break.
The campsite is big with lots of shade trees and grass and you can book a site with electricity if you struggle without an electric kettle. There are braais and clean bathrooms, a gorgeous pool with a view and a small shop that stocks a few basics. It has quite strict rules about noise and cars, which means you won’t be kept awake till all hours by somebody else’s loud music.
You might be kept awake be somebody else’s children though. It seems to be a favourite weekend spot for families with young children.
You can burn off pent up energy walking in the mountains. You’ll encounter lots of groups wearing sensible shoes and hats and carrying walking sticks. It seems to be popular with mountain bikers as well. My favourite excursions are short and end at one of the two rivers that run through the park. One has easily accesssible shallow pools with natural rock slides that are fun for kids to swim in or for adults to wallow in. The water is crystal clear and tastes delicious – as only a mountain stream can.
The other river is less child friendly, edged mostly by steep cliffs. It’s very pretty and great fun to explore, and there are pools you can bathe in. But tread carefully, the rocks can be very slippery.
We only camped for one night, but next time – which I have no doubt will be soon – we’ll stay for two. Camping has a way of forcing you to slow down and a weekend of mountain air and exercise charges your batteries.
If you don’t like camping, you have the option to stay in a chalet.
A view down a footpath to the campsite among the trees