I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same old complaints: “Joburg is boring, man. What do you do here if you don’t want to party any more?”
The truth is, this is a universal statement that can be applied to any major metropolis in the world. After you’ve done all the touristy stuff, shopped and been to all the restaurants, what do you do? The answer is simple. Strap on that pair of sneakers, haul out your active wear and find yourself a hiking trail.
“But what about the snakes?” some people would ask. Chances of you seeing any of them are slim. So don’t worry about them, they aren’t thinking about you!
Whenever I travel, I like to make a point of taking in a hike or two. It offers you a different perspective, the chance to have a moment to yourself and to get in tune with nature. I’m no New Age purveyor of beliefs but there is something calming about being on a trail in the middle of nowhere. I’ve visited many countries but none is as obsessed with hiking and mountaineering as South Korea. I was taken aback by the sheer number of hiking and mountaineering-related shops throughout the country.
So much so that they love to wear their colourful hiking gear even as they go about their daily business. Although I’m not really sure why you would need a fluorescent-coloured outfit to skulk about the city.
Korea is peppered with hills and mountains and it’s a national pastime to get your gear on and go for a hike, no matter which part of the country you’re in. Then again, if you have the gear on, you’re dressed for the occasion already.
I did a few of these hikes and had a combination of horror and admiration to find permanent exercise equipment on the top of most mountains. More exercise!
Further afield in Bali I had the opportunity to do a nighttime hike up a volcano. There is something absurd but satisfying in heading up a mountain with only a torch to light your way, all to take in the astounding sunrise.
In Italy, I did a unique day hike, which saw me going from Italy into France and then back. Thank you, Eurozone! It felt like I was in The Sound of Music. All that was missing was someone breaking into song.
Visiting Greece, I did the same for Mount Olympus, all the while imagining Zeus swooping down and throwing a thunderbolt at me (Thanks Disney!).
You can go to any country and find a beautiful hike. But none are as beautiful as those at home. The somewhat easy hike up Lion’s Head in Cape Town is one of the best I’ve ever done. Seeing the Mother City as the sun sets and watching it light up as the night creeps in is an experience that can’t be emulated anywhere.
As a Joburger you don’t even have to go far. Go to Melville Koppies for an escorted hike, because, eish, crime. Go to Kloofendal, take in the West Rand and have a picnic. The options are endless. So instead of saying Joburg is boring, maybe it’s time to move away from that DStv and shopping mall and just go outside already.
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