Lockdown diary: My first hiking experience during the lockdown was stressful

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Joy Mphande, YOU journalist. (Photo: Supplied)
Joy Mphande, YOU journalist. (Photo: Supplied)

When the lockdown regulations eased to level three at the start of June and hiking was allowed, it seems it became everyone’s favourite escape from cabin fever.

During levels four and five of the lockdown, the only trips I made were for essential shopping. As an extrovert, the months spent indoors eventually got to me and I craved a visit to new places to meet new people.

So when my best friend Naledi pitched the idea of a hike to me and her cousin Katlego, I had to take her up on the offer.

I’m one daring person. I constantly chase new adventures and although I’ve hiked before, I’ve obviously never done it during a global pandemic. This was bound to be an interesting experience.

On the morning of our hike, the weather was a chilly 6°C but nothing – not even icy conditions – could put a damper on my excitement.

I took a stroll to my friend’s house as a warm-up before the three of us made our way to Pretoria’s Groenkloof Nature Reserve

We decided on Groenkloof because it was the closest trail, but we also assumed it wouldn’t be as busy as popular trails like the Hennops Hiking Trail and Kings Kloof.

Katlego, Naledia and Joy
Katlego, Naledia and Joy hiking at Pretoria’s Groenkloof Nature Reserve. (Photo: Supplied)

But when we arrived it was jam-packed! It went from being thrilling to a little nerve-wracking at that point. I instinctively squirted more sanitiser on my hands and made sure my mask was securely on my mouth and nose.

Everyone's temperatures were checked and our hands were sanitised before being allowed onto the premises.

Besides the odd worry here and there whenever someone removed their mask while walking, it was an overall enjoyable experience.

We laughed with a couple of strangers from a distance as they got lost and stopped a few times to interact with zebras and ostriches.

Joy Mphande spots a Zebra
Joy Mphande spots a Zebra while hiking Pretoria’s Groenkloof Nature Reserve. (Photo: Supplied)

The cold morning turned into a gorgeous sunny afternoon and made for a perfect day.

I would’ve loved to hike all the way to the top of the mountain but we settled for a good 10km (my best friend will probably think I’m downplaying this as she found the hike quite intense).

But in the end we all agreed that we’d do it all over again, perhaps with just a little more preparation next time.

To the first-time hikers, here are a few tips:
  • Social distancing rules still apply

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said those doing vigorous exercise are permitted not to wear a mask as it could weaken the lungs and cause collapse. However, keep a distance of 1,5m from the next person on your hike. 

  • Hiking essentials

Have enough water (hydration is essential), wear a hat and sunscreen.

Comfortable shoes are important otherwise you’ll be in dire need of a foot massage.

  •  Stick with your hiking squad

Although the thought of seeing new people instead of the usual faces you’ve been stuck with during the lockdown might be exciting, stick with your group.

My best friend and I had to help a little girl find her family again after she’d ventured off ahead of them.

It was quite stressful!

  • Check your map and pay attention to ideograms

Getting lost in an unknown location where there’s little more than gravel and trees is easy.

But if you have a map and pay attention to the signs that are there to help you, you should be just fine.

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