#HikeSA, Week 6: Ixopo Natural Heritage Site

The Buddhist Retreat Centre (BRC) in the KZN province of South Africa offers a really amazing self retreat walking trail through the Ixopo mountains. This privately owned 300 acre property offers picturesque views of the rolling valleys beneath it. Walk through the many indigenous forests and then downhill towards the Umkomaas river that runs through the land.

With the abundance of bird life and indigenous biodiversity its no surprise that former President Nelson Mandela, declared this a Natural Heritage Site. More than 160 bird species have been recorded here, specifically the rare Blue Swallow of which the Endangered Wildlife Trust has appointed the Buddhist Retreat Centre a custodian.

Pine trees mark a path to a little dam where you can enjoy a sundowner or take some time to relax before continuing on your hike. It is said that the early Voortrekkers passed through this route, so you will have an opportunity to experience life during that era.

I walked for a good couple of hours over the 3 days of my visit. The walks are fit for beginner hikers with only a small amount of step climbs. The way down to the river is the easiest. The way up - however is a different story. I had to stop multiple times to catch my breath. The humidity of KZN is what makes it the most difficult. Workers from the BRC effortlessly walk this route home on a daily basis.

Since the land is privately owned, you will need to contact them should you be interested in hiking here. They allow day visitors on the odd occasion and when the centre is quite. Weekend meditation and yoga retreats are common, so it may be worth your while looking into spending a few nights here to take part in this. There is something for just about everyone!