Hiking in the Drakensberg: Yeukai’s answer to balancing big-city life

Originally from Zimbabwe, Yeukai Martina Gukwa now lives in Johannesburg (South Africa) and works in the hospitality industry, which means long hours and lots of pressure. Her go-to way of recharging her batteries is to turn to hiking alongside her children and friends over the weekends. In this #adventureshare Yeukai talks about how hiking has become an important part of her life.  We particularly loved how Yeukai views hiking as a way of hearing herself think away from the city.  Over to Yeukai…

Melville Koppies

Yeukai enjoying the peace of nature.

Where I hike…

I initially started out with 5km hikes, but now it’s up to 10km. I love it so much that I hike at any given opportunity. Some of my favourite hiking spots are around Johannesburg, including Shelter Rock, Klipsrivier, Groenkloof, Hennops Trail, Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, Melville Koppies and Emmarentia Dam. For me, the ultimate hiking destination however, has got to be the Drakensberg. There are so many incredible trails to explore – I like to call it my new playground.

Drakensberg hiking

Why I hike

I find Johannesburg (where I live) very fast paced. This is why I need to hike as often as possible to hear myself think and reconnect with self, nature and my loved ones.

How hiking helps me to unwind & recharge…

When my children and I go hiking with my friends and their children, we laugh, sweat and talk about anything under the sun. It’s very therapeutic and helps each and every one of us to carry on with life the next day, feeling revitalised and recharged.

Hiking

Yeukai in her happy place.

My friends and I started hiking with the children when they were as young as five.  At first we were worried that they wouldn’t cope, but children are very resilient, and even at that age, they were always a kilometre or two ahead of us!  I know that it may sound weird, but I feel safest and the most free when I am hiking. Sadly, I don’t feel like that in Johannesburg.

What I love most about hiking in South Africa..

South Africa is really beautiful.  The landscape is amazing with its different rock types, plants and water features.  I should have been a geologist as the terrain fascinates me. Sedimentation and rocks make me feel calm.

Kids hiking

Kids having a ball on the trails.

Most challenging part of hiking …

Hiking

Yeukai on a weekend adventure.

The best time to hike is in winter actually with temperatures hovering around 16 degrees. In summer if you don’t hike early enough the sun is a challenge and those flies that stick to your skin are the worst.  But it is all worth it, as it is part of the experience.  I find the last kilometre on a long hike the worst as you have to reach deep when all your muscles are screaming for relief.

My greatest memory so far hiking…

The Drakensberg is my hiking delight and I make a point of going as often as possible (it’s only a 3.5-hour drive from Johannesburg). Even though many of the hikes are very challenging, the views are amazing.

A particular standout memory was when we drove  to ‘Drakies’ in the middle of winter with three adults and four young children. We somehow missed a turn and got to our final destimation after lunchtime. As a result, we had to opt for the rather steep Sugar Loaf trail, which is one of the shortest routes around. Luckily for all of us, we had so much fun on this trail and even came face-to-face with a troop of baboons.

Drakensberg

Drakensberg fun.

 

 

Greatest lessons learnt from hiking…

The lessons I learn when hiking are always applicable to my everyday life. What may seem hard is not impossible.  I’ve often looked at a steep hill wondering how on earth I’d get to the top. But then, when I actually get to the top and look down, I’m filled with a great sense of pride and accomplishment.  The same happens in life too.  Hiking is also a good reminder that it’s important to make the effort to take time out and reconnect with the people you love.

Tips for other women who’d like to hike more…

Ladies, I can confidently say that hiking is great, low-impact exercise. It’s also a wonderful way to de-stress and to connect with friends and form close bonds with your children. It’s the best way to take both kids and adults away from our tech-crazy world.

Enjoyed this article? Read our other #AdventureShare by Shirley Redman who walked the 800km Camino de Santiago in Spain with her 9-year-old daughter here.

 

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