Rietvlei : A day of soul revival
After my two month stint in the wild - Limpopo, to Mozambique, finishing with a month in Zambia - being in the city for a week was a bit to much for me. I was already feeling tired, not physically tired, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually tired. The kind that I find only comes from being in a city. I needed a bush break. A hit from nature. A day to revive.
The first thing I thought of doing was planning a weekend away with a friend, or group of friends. As travelling alone as a single woman in South Africa is considered dangerous. The headlines on the morning news are enough to make anyone never want to leave their house ever again. However, even though I have a very small group of friends, they are all ridiculously busy slaying in the corporate world. Organizing even a lunch date with them is difficult. Never mind an entire weekend. So i quickly decided to scrap that idea, and found myself in an even more miserable mood than before.
I am sure many people can relate. As a single person I often find myself not doing things I really want to do, due to not having someone to do it with. Especially travel related activities. On top of just the single element, as women we are raised to be wary of doing anything alone due safety concerns. So I tend to find myself home-bound while trying to organize a group of people. For it to all fall through, and not happen anyway. Or get scaled down to an unrecognizable point. Meaning that even though I am doing something, it is not 100% what I want to do. Needless to say long have I envied the strong, solo, female traveler.
This time however, enough was truly enough. I mean I travel into the middle of no where alone for work, why am I house bound in my own country? Also, I needed at least a day in the bush. Come hell or high water I was going to get it.
Luckily Gauteng has so many nature reserves open to the public in close proximity to both Pretoria and Johannesburg. So, I put my concerns and news induced fears aside. I decided to go do what I needed to do to be happy! I packed my picnic basket and took myself off to Rietvlei Nature Reserve for the day.
Less than an hours drive in morning traffic, Rietvlei Nature Reserve is situated on the outskirts of Irene, Centurion. A R60 entrance fee got me into this 3 800 hectares of bushveld on the banks of the Rietvlei dam.
Completely accessible to little city cars, me and my mini were in heaven. I spent the whole day driving through the reserve. With each minute passing I could feel my soul reviving.
I soon discovered this reserve is teeming zebra, black wildebeest, ostriches, eland as well as some more elusive species of buck. And, whilst I saw evidence of the rhinos (i.e: a huge pile of rhino dung) I wasn't fortunate enough to see the rare creatures. It will always amaze me how such big animals can almost completely disappear in the bush.
I stopped at all the hides and look out points. Best of all because I was on my ace, I could stop for as long as I wanted. There was no one nagging to get a move on because there wasn't something to see at a hide. I am one of those people can can sit in silence staring into the bush forever, perfectly happy animals or no animals.
The best hide in my opinion is Finfoot Hide on Hartebees Road. The wooden hide is above a small dam with a flowing weir. The surrounding willows keep it wonderfully cool, and add to its serenity. Here I saw the buffalos on my first stop. I liked it so much I returned there to have my picnic. A super delicious pasta salad jar in case you were wondering.
Second up on my list of must stop hides is the Island View Hide. The hide overlooks a dam. The view is stunning, and there was an abundance of birds.
According to the signs in the reserve there are hippos in the dam. However, I did not see any. The lovely couple that joined me for a drink in the hide - South Africans are super friendly like that - said that they have been going to the reserve for years and have never seen them. So maybe the signs are lying, or you just have to be extremely lucky. Let me know if you see one there!
There are two main picnic areas with braai facilities on the reserve as well as a main lapa that can be booked for private events. Which of course I am more than happy to help you cook for ;) . One picnic area is by the Rietvlei Coffee Shop, this is also where the Lion Camp tours depart from; booking is essential. The tours are the only way to see the lions on Rietvlei as you cannot self drive through the lion camp which is a bit disappointing.
The second picnic area is on Marias Dam. I did stop there with full intention of having my own picnic as the hides do not have tables in or around them - also a bit of a let down. Bit, due the behavior of a group hanging out there, I did not feel comfortable staying there alone. So I simply hopped back into my car and went back to Finfoot hide. If there had been more people present, either the lovely couple I met or maybe a family or two, I definitely would have remained at the picnic spot. As it is well looked after, and boasts a great view. But rule one of solo travel if you're not comfortable - leave.
That was the only time that I felt uncomfortable while I was there. The rest of the day was absolutely perfect. I left Rietvlei before the traffic started, around 15:00, but you can stay in the reserve until the gate closes at 19:00. I got home my soul revived and ready to face the concrete jungle again. Not to bad for a Tuesday.
My conclusions from my baby bush break. First of all, I love this country! Where else on earth can you disappear into the bush less than 30 minutes from a city centre? We are so blessed as South Africans.
Secondly, I am never going to wait for people to do things ever again. Yes, you got to be smart about jolling alone. But with the right mindset, you can do so safely and have an incredible time.
Third. You do not need a large budget, a 4x4 and a few days to have a bush break. Just a little day break can be enough to reap the benefits of bush.
Lastly. Rietvlei Nature Reserve is a stunning place. The Friends of Rietvlei have done an amazing job maintaining the reserve. I just wish the super clean and toilet paper supplied bathrooms had doors. If you need also need a soul revival day, or just hankering to be in nature, this is definitely a place to visit.