On Valentine’s Day Stu decided that we should go for a proper walk, that is over and above all this cycling we have been doing recently. I think the idea was planted in his head after he read the SANPark’s “newspaper” we were given on the day we arranged our new wildcard, and like good citizens, our mountain bike trail passes. There are quite a few parts of the forest around the garden route that fall under the protection of the SA national parks (good thing in my opinion) and as a result there are several official walking and biking trails – marked out here and there. And when I say “marked out” I use this term very loosely..certainly some of the signage leaves much to be desired.
Anyway on Valentine’s Day we (yes the royal we!) decided that a drive up to the Goudveld park and a walk was in our future. In the end we only got there in the afternoon, and so with a few hours of daylight left and not a whole lot of enthusiasm on my side, we limited ourselves to a walk around the site of an old gold-mining town called Millwood.
Yes I did say gold. The town developed after 1885 when gold was discovered, and people flocked to the area assuming there was a whole lot more to be had. Sadly this was proved not to be true. But a small settlement grew and flourished for a few years, supporting up to 1000 miners and their families in the area. In its heyday the town boasted 75 wood and iron cottages, 6 hotels, 4 boarding houses, a hospital, a Methodist Church, a number of general dealers, bakers, butchers, banks, a music hall and 3 newspapers. Of course as was the norm in those days a good few of these intrepid folk died in the years it took for the seam to run out and the town to be abandoned (well actually it was dismantled and moved in reality as the buildings were all made out of metal sheets and so could be packed onto a wagon and relocated fairly easily). By 1893 there were only 7 people left! Thanks to the temporary nature of most of the buildings there was not much left for us to see except some old headstones, and sad mounds of earth indicating long-forgotten graves in the cemetery. The only remaining building now houses the museum and a tea-house of sorts, although we saw no one serving anything on the day we went. From the museum you can also walk up to the site of the original town, and the old mine a little further away. It is a beautiful walk, but also a little sad in a way, you can imagine how lonely it must have been out there.
One of the headstones in the cemetery belonged to one of the town’s founders…a man called Charles Osborne, originally from London. My Gran’s maiden name was Osborne…I did wonder if he could be a long lost relative? Will have to investigate.
The following day we returned to the park to ride the Homtini mountain bike route. Listed as a moderate ride of 18 km with some single track it didn’t sound to bad. Haha I have since decided that the person who grades the SANParks MTB routes is an extremely fit sadist….whilst the route wasn’t too bad technically (except for an almost vertical single track downhill section which I walked for the most part) it was quite challenging from an endurance and fitness point of view. I certainly don’t yet consider a 4km uphill climb as moderate. To make it even more exciting (or shall we just say awful and just be honest) it had rained a lot of the night before, and continued to rain for most of the 2 hours we were out on the route. Muddy, slippery and downright terrifying in places. I managed to fall going uphill at a stage, which resulted in a lovely long purple bruise on my leg later that week. I was very happy when it was over I must say.
There are some other lovely walks in this forest reserve, some picnic spots down by Jubilee creek look well worth a return visit. There is also a plunge pool there you can swim in – looked a little chilly for my liking though! Despite all my moaning I do feel very blessed to have all this lovely nature to enjoy.
This weekend we are off to Ladismith to a lovely looking spot called MyMering – a working wine farm with great sounding food and mountain bike trails – for our tenth wedding anniversary. Looks amazing – will let you know.
*featured image: view over the forest from “church” road