Gorging on adrenaline

For those with a passing interest in how it feels to stare death in the face—not once, but five or six times in a morning—the Magaliesburg ­Canopy Tour is not to be missed.

It all starts quite seriously. ­It’s sobering. You sign a form saying it’s a “high-risk activity taking place plus-minus 30m above the kloof floor”.
The equipment has been “approved by a registered civil engineer” and “rock falls are an inherent danger”. You also agree to bear the costs of your rescue should ­something go horribly wrong.

You’re then issued with a harness and a little crash helmet. You step into the loops of the harness and pull the straps over your shoulders. The harness now encircles your inner thighs in what could perhaps be described as a comforting grip.

Whizzing down a thin steel cable, your pulley whining inches above your head, the rock face looms in front of you, way too fast to stop. This is the point at which you’re certain it is all going to end in a bloody mess with crushed legs, your head dashed on the rocks and massive concussion and internal bleeding.

The Magaliesburg range is among the oldest montains in the world and was formed about 2?300-million years ago. There are still large sheets of quartzite upon which you can clearly make out ripples from the fossilised shoreline. It’s a rugged range, the colour of rust, with bizarre outcrops of rocks and well-hidden lush gorges.

The gorges suit the canopy tours. High-tension cables are strung from side to side, like the stitches of a wound, and you slide down the 10 cables on your way to the bottom of the kloof.

Giant prehistoric euphorbias and ancient ysterhout (iron wood) trees have wedged themselves into crevices on the sides of the kloof and you sail over wild figs and boekenhout trees.

No walk in the park

This is more for thrill-seekers than serious fans of nature. You’re hustled down the slides in short order and there’s not enough time to watch for birds, or stop and admire the ­scenery. Dani Phuthu and Jack Nyodi, the guides who shepherded our small group down the slides, were constantly cracking jokes, probably meant to lighten the mood and keep you relaxed, but after the umpteenth crack about falling into the ravine, their schoolboy humour did begin to pall.

However, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else on the other end of the wire as I approached the end of the slide at high speed. Your pulley then snags another one, which acts as a brake, immediately slowing your descent to a crawl. You’re then hauled on to the small wooden platform at the end of the slides.

The outing costs R450 a person, but they’ll also try to sell you a video of yourself for R145 as you sail down the cable, clinging to your harness for dear life. There are T-shirts, bandannas and fridge magnets. Perhaps the video may take care of the bragging rights, but it doesn’t convey the speed and thrill of the thing. You merely look foolish.

It’s an event better described in breathless tones, like skydiving or bungee jumping, than in recorded replay.

Magaliesburg Canopy Tour. Telephone: 014 535 0150. Email: [email protected] co.za