Countdown to Kili: The Test Hike

We picked the date. We paid the deposit. We learned that we need to pack a garden trowel, for you know what. In fact, thanks to a reader who left a comment, I now have the “event” completely visualized, what with boulders to cover ‘it” up, and matches to set light to the toilet paper. That last part will actually be welcome news to Zax, who is even more disgusted by the toilet situation than me, but absolutely loves to play with fire.  Do you now have it completely visualized too? And scentualized? You are welcome.

hiking in groenkloof nature reserve near Pretoria south africa

So we figured it was time to go on a test hike. To get the shoes broken in. And, in the words of our friend Mike, to “toughen up” in preparation for the real thing. Which he suggested we best did by putting 15 kg worth of bricks into our backpacks. But we figured it was cruel enough to have us show up at 6:00 am at Groenkloof Nature Reserve, so our family politely declined on the brick option. Though I’m not sure what’s harder: Carrying 15 kg worth of bricks, or pronouncing “Groenkloof.”

hiking in groenkloof nature reserve near Pretoria south africa
Gathering in the car park at Groenkloof Nature Reserve

Groenkloof is right next to Pretoria and, in the nature department, probably as far removed from Mount Kilimanjaro as you can get. The city is all around you and initially it seemed like we couldn’t even have a conversation because there was so  much traffic noise. Not that I could have had  much of a conversation with all that huffing and puffing I was doing to keep up. We shouldn’t have let the 15-year olds take the lead, I think.

view of Pretoria from Groenkloof nature reserve
The Pretoria skyline as seen from our Groenkloof hiking trail
The Voortrekker Monument in all its ugly bombast

But we had barely rounded the first bend when we were treated to an entirely different sight. That’s what I love about living in Africa. You can always rely on some cool animal sightings.

hiking in groenkloof nature reserve near Pretoria south africa

giraffes in groenkloof nature reserve near Pretoria south africa

So Noisette was sauntering ahead – if you’ll remember, he’s the one who actually ISN’T planning to climb Kili – and I had trouble keeping up with his long strides. We were deep in conversation when something made us stop and turn around:

hiking in groenkloof nature reserve near Pretoria south africa

Oops, wrong turn. I made a mental note to not stray so far from our guides when scaling Kili. I am terrible at directions.

It’s fun hiking in a group, because you can realign yourself with different people every once in a while to switch conversation. And to see what kind of candy they brought. I’m notorious in my family for never bringing any cool food. I can barely be bothered to prepare some water bottles. I simply hate packing, and the packing of food specifically. Some in our Kili group are already scheming to see what kind of snacks to bring and still stay within the 15 kg limit, but I could care less. Whatever it is those guides are toting up the mountain for us, I will happily eat. Or not. Just as long as I don’t have to do any food planning for a week. That’s possibly the one thing I get most excited about regarding our Kili climb.

But I’m sure I will appreciate if something like this awaits us at the end of the day:

hiking in groenkloof nature reserve near Pretoria south africa

So what was the outcome of the test hike, you might ask? Well. I think I will enjoy the real thing, especially without the Voortrekker Monument in the background. I know I’ll be utterly exhausted, if a mere four hours without bricks is anything to judge by. I will enjoy the views and I will enjoy taking pictures. Taken with a small camera, I’m afraid, because lugging that big thing uphill was no picnic, I can tell you that.

Oh, and I never got to check out the toilet situation, which I still can’t get my mind off of. Especially the female toilet situation. Maybe I should invest in one of these things:


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