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Submitted by Rory Boon

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"Adventure calls to those who seek it, and sometimes, the most exhilarating experiences are born out of the unexpected. Recently, I embarked on a journey through the second half of a route recce for the Jonkershoek Traverse, a 20-kilometre route that was supposed to be a 4-5 hour adventure according to a friend. Little did I know that this hike would take us on an 8-hour journey of endurance, challenges, and breathtaking scenery. I was invited last minute to join Wade, Thinus, Mike, and Ria on this route recce.

As we set out on the trail, the five of us were filled with enthusiasm and the anticipation of a remarkable day outdoors. The route started on a jeep track, offering a gentle uphill route that I assumed would be the easiest part and warm up before the start of the climb. However, Mother Nature had a different plan for us.

The wind proved itself to be a formidable opponent as we made our way towards the base of the first ascent. The gusts were relentless, turning what was supposed to be an easy warmup jog into a higher heart rate and more pumpy legs mission. Nevertheless, we pressed on, embracing the wind as part of the adventure.

Our first major challenge was an ascent up Swartboskloof that took us from the valley floor to the heights of the mountain, climbing approximately 1000 meters over the course of roughly 6 kilometres. The ascent was a bit of a test of my legs, but the panoramic views that unfolded before us were a reminder that nature's rewards are well worth the effort.

Leaving the marked trail, we ventured off the beaten path, embarking on a "bundu bashing" adventure just below the ridge line (following Thinus’ guidance along a route he “saw”). This section was an exploration of hidden rocks below tufts of wilderness, trying to not roll my already strapped ankles, and progress was slow. We took breaks, waiting for each other and embracing the spirit of adventure that comes with exploring semi-unchartered terrain.

As we reached the halfway point, we paused for a "lunch" break. Two of our team members decided to descend due to one not feeling their best, and the rest of us continued the journey. This brief respite allowed us to properly rest before the second half of the adventure.

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Three of us pushed ahead, determined to conquer the next ascent. This beautiful but tough climb led us to Haelkop Peak, standing at an altitude of 1384 meters. There was much scrambling and one or two spots of exposure to long drop-offs to one side. The feeling of accomplishment, a little adrenaline, and the breathtaking vistas were a reward for our determination and teamwork.

Instead of continuing on to Stellenboschberg, we made the decision to descend due to the amount of time we'd already been out and our diminishing provisions. The descent was also an attempt to find some sort of actual trail, taking close to two more hours to navigate.

Throughout the adventure, we discovered that much of the route involved finding our own way. While there are cairns along the route, particularly in rocky or scramble-prone sections, having someone's GPX route (or a guide) proved invaluable in guiding us through this adventurous terrain.

Our day on the Jonkershoek Traverse was an incredible adventure shared with friends. However, it was a stark reminder of the importance of proper provisions. More calories and water would have made the journey more comfortable for me, especially as there isn't much available between the first ascent and the trail's end.

The Jonkershoek mission, though filled with some challenges, delivered an unforgettable adventure and some of the most incredible views one could hope for. Our experience was a testament to the rewards for hard work being the wonders of nature. It reminded us that the most rewarding journeys are often the ones that defy our expectations and test our limits.

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MicroAdventure time in total, out and back:
Plan for 6 hours without stopping

Getting to the start:
Started at the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve Gate

Best time to go:
Day... definitely. Spring or Autumn are probably best because of the exposure to the sun and heat.

Cost (per person):
R0 - R250 per person

Special permissions / permits:
Nope.

A quick note about safety:
Phone signal is intermittent and scrambles can be a bit sketchy, so always a good idea to go with someone but it is doable for a solo mission for the confident and proficient.

Pro tips:
Take more water than you think you need. If you don't drink it, it's weight training for future adventures.(& Don't trust when friends say it's a "short" hike.)

Has the mountain bug bitten? Get geared!

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