As promised, here is a brief report-back and a few pics from f the Impofu Hiking Trail in the Mountain Zebra National Park. Some of you may remember that I made a big fuss when it appeared that at the last moment our booking would be cancelled (or that the hiking huts would not be available), but I am delighted that arrangements were made and we were able to hike despite the huts not being 100% completed.
In summary, the hike was spectacular – it more than lived up to what I expected. I was particularly impressed by the safety presentation given at the start, and at the quality of the hiking map and brochure.
Never having been to the park before, I cannot comment on whether it’s dryer than normal for this time of the year, but I was a little disappointed that we did not see as many animals as I thought we may. I was really hoping to “run into” (so to speak) the rhino, buffalo and cheetah mentioned in presentation, but they remained elusive.
But where our animal sighting were lacking, the scenery easily made up for it. Most of the hike is at quite high altitudes, which means absolutely spectacular views all round. Although I am a fairly experienced hiker (having hiked over 1200km on “official trails”) I was caught a bit by surprise at the difficulty. It was not a difficult hike as such, but the daily distances of 10-12km kept us busy the full day, allowing for lots of rest and photo stops. We had to travel to and from PE on the 1st and last day of the hike, but despite this we managed the distances without problems. It would be ideal to plan to spend the night before and after the hike in the park, however...
I’d highly recommend this hike to any hiking enthusiast, and would not hesitate to do it again.
Having said that, I’ve left what I hope will be taken as a few constructive criticisms to last. These are really minor, and as explained, did not detract from our thorough enjoyment of the hike. As someone once famously (sort of) said “We’ll be back”.
The trail markings need a bit of maintenance. There are a confusing variety of different markings (yellow, white, spoor, blobs, arrows, etc) many of which are faded or missing. At times we wondered if we had got mixed up with the day walks, and whether we may be on the 2nd (instead of the 1st) days route, etc. We got (mildly) lost a few times, especially on the last day close back to camp.
The GPS coordinates of the huts appear to be transposed. What is listed as the 1st overnight hut is actually the 2nd, and vice versa.
The 2nd hut ran out of water after the 1st person had showered (the hot “donkey” showers are MOST appreciated). Fortunately we had the sense to fill our water bottles as soon as we realised water pressure was dropping, because shortly after that there was NO water at all. Not being able to shower is a minor inconvenience, but not having drinking water could have been disastrous.
Finally, the renovations being done to the huts received mixed receptions from our party members. When finished, the hiking huts will be transformed into full-on National Parks quality accommodation – i.e. the “huts” will be on the same level as normal chalets complete with tiled floors, painted walls, beds, linen and even electricity. Some people will love this, but others (the majority in our party) felt that this was “over kill” for hikers who prefer a more “rustic” experience. We understand the reason for the upgrade (i.e. that the huts, when not booked for hiking, can be used for additional accommodation, especially for the 4x4ers), but somehow it does detract a little from the wilderness experience that (most) hikers have come to appreciate.
Anyway, as mentioned, all in all a great hike – I can’t wait to be back.
PS – I have a few pics I’d like to share, if someone can explain how to (easily) upload them...