The Oldest Form of Redemption
Words and Photos By Shane Quinnell
In recent years there have been countless studies on the positive benefits of being in nature. From stress reduction to health benefits and even the reduction of serious diseases. Scientists are slowly proving what many have long known. Justify the reasoning behind this phenomena whichever way you understand; through science, through energy flows or purely through time to relax. Ultimately today there is little arguing; nature is good for you. Time in nature is redemption for the mind, body and soul.
You may be saying “nice to know but I live in a city.” If so you would be like many people in the world; 54% of the world’s population according to the UN. Many people in cities seem to believe nature is this strange hard to reach thing which only crazy people, people like us, find and post pictures about on Instagram and Facebook.
I would like to challenge that assumption. My belief, which arises from personal experience not scientific investigation, is that there are gateways to beautiful natural places within 1-2 hours of almost all urban centers in the world. The only challenge is to find the gates. The desire to do so is the key.
Take our current place of residence, the infamous Johannesburg (Joburg), South Africa, for example. According to the stories that are generally told and heard in the world outside of Africa’s borders; Joburg is a warzone, a place where violence is king and life is cheap. It is a concrete jungle of hate where no access to the sea or nature exists and most definitely not a place to find sanctuary or refuge in nature.
While I believe that the accounts of violence are greatly exaggerated, and that one can live perfectly happily here as we do, they are unfortunately not completely false. However, even in Joburg, redemption is not far away.
In fact, within approximately one hour from the metropolis of Joburg, redemption can be found in numerous forms. There are many examples of where; from the Hartebeesport and Vaal Dams to the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens and the Kgaswane, previously Rustenburg, Nature reserve. My personal favourite, however, is the oldest form of redemption. The Magaliesberg mountain range.
The reality is that incredible, healing, natural places exist everywhere and are always near enough to access no matter where in the world you are if you truly want to find them.
One of the oldest mountain ranges on Earth, the Magaliesberg, lies just an hour from the bustling metropolis of Sandton, Joburg; the business centre of South Africa and arguably Africa. To me and the others who know it, the Magaliesberg is a semi-secret paradise, a diamond in the rough and Joburg’s redeeming feature.
From the outside the Magaliesberg may not look like overly much; being relatively small in height and generally dry in and brown in character. However, looks can be deceiving.
For a start the bush is more lush and interesting than expected and the rocks absolutely fascinating. Scattered throughout the range lie many rocks which portray the same wavy pattern as beach sand which has been moulded by the retreating tide. A remnant of a time when the Magaliesberg was actually a seafloor. The most striking example of this I saw eighty meters up the side of a cliff while climbing. There is also the birds and wildlife that can be seen in its folds.
To me, far more incredible than this though are the intermittent kloofs (canyons) which cut the mountain range along its North South axis. From above they look like little more than vegetated depressions but from within are a hidden paradise.
Perennial streams of perfectly clear cool mountain water run in most of the kloofs, at least the ones
I have experienced. The sweetwater is perfect for drinking and probably cleaner than most you will find unless deep in the wilderness. The water, the giver of life, has over the years nurtured large old trees and bushes and created a micro-climate of temperate forest in the valleys. In turn this forest acts like an insulating blanket and regulates the temperature in the canyons meaning within the trees the air is always a few degrees cooler than the often baking ground above. The sound of running water within the kloofs hypnotises the senses.To me they are places which enforce relaxation.
Moreover, the kloofs are a playground. A place where incredible climbing, mostly of the traditional variety, can be found. Hiking and kloofing (canyoning) opportunities are endless and wanderlust is instinctively invoked. Theyare places close in proximity to the city, which could not be further away. In the year I have been in Joburg, along with good friends, I have enjoyed many incredible adventures in the kloofs of the Magaliesberg and look forward to many more.
The truth is that while incredible, the Magaliesberg is not overly unique. In each and every place I have lived, and I have lived in quite a few, places of natural wonder like the Magaliesberg existed nearby. In Brisbane, Australia the example was Mt Cootha; in Cape Town, Table Mountain; in Middlemount, a mining town in far North Australia, Blackdown Tablelands; Calgary, Kananaskis and Banff and the list continues…
The reality is that incredible, healing, natural places exist everywhere and are always near enough to access no matter where in the world you are if you truly want to find them. With this in mind I challenge you open yourself to the benefits of nature and attempt to find your nearby place of redemption. Wherever it is you are.
Accessing Magaliesberg; the Oldest Form of Redemption;
The Magaliesberg is quite a big area and as such there are many ways to access its different areas each with their own unique opportunities and experiences. In the case that you are interested you can look through the information below as a start… I hope you love it as much as I do.
Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA): The MCSA is the best way to access the Magaliesberg properly. It offers opportunities to see private areas which are owned by the club and cannot be accessed otherwise and hosts many members who have spent their lifetimes in the Kloofs and love showing new members around. You can even learn to climb with the club on their orientation meets. Details: http://mcsajohannesburg.org/, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain Sanctuary Park: This is another great way to access the mountains. Many of the photos in the blog were taken in Tonquani Kloof, MCSA property which is next door to Mountain Sanctuary. It is a great place with good facilities for overnight or day visitors and lots of great hikes and nature to explore. Details: http://www.mountain-sanctuary.co.za/, Email: email@example.com.
Kgaswane Nature Reserve: The Kgaswane Nature reserve lies just South of Rustenburg not far from Joburg. It is a great place to see wildlife and for 1-2 days. Details; http://www.rustenberg-reserve.co.za/ and http://www.tourismnorthwest.co.za/kgaswane-mountain-reserve/#tab=tab-1