It’s a short drive out of town to St Fort Country House – the first stop on the newly launched Clarens San-Traverse. Conceived by Julia Invernizzi of Spekboom Tours, the 41km trail will take us from St Fort through the landscapes of the Rooiberg and back to Clarens, the arty town at the foothills of those “red mountains”.
“My focus was initially on guided cycling, hiking and nature tours in the KZN Midlands, where I’m based,” says Julia as we gather for the evening braai. “But I always loved the magnificent scenery of this part of the Free State. Golden Gate is nearby, with its famous Ribbok Hiking Trail, but that’s a self-guided trail where you have to carry everything and stay in a basic hut. I saw a gap in the market: Clarens has so many comfortable guesthouses but there was no guided slackpacking trail in the area. Along with Adrian Clarke from Alien Adventures here in town, we explored various trail options and finally settled on an interpretative trail that combines three days of moderate hiking with visits to rock art sites and other cultural attractions.”